Innovation That Matters

The Earthshot Prize: Protect and restore nature

Springwise Earthshot

From modular greenhouses to orangutan passagewats discover the Earthshot Prize finalists supporting nature

Biodiversity is declining faster than at any time in human history, and more than 41,000 species are threatened with extinction, including 21 per cent of reptiles and 27 per cent of mammals. This loss of species threatens our human livelihoods. Three-quarters of our crops depend on pollinators, and many species of pollinating insect are in decline. Our global food system is the primary driver of biodiversity loss, so it is essential that we find new ways to feed our growing population.

Thankfully, the 2022 finalists of The Earthshot Prize are showing how nature and food production can co-exist.


When China’s Han Emperors sat on the throne between 202 BCE and 8 CE, the Ulan Buh Desert was a fertile land. Today, the region in Inner Mongolia is notorious for its sandstorms. This dramatic transformation is just one example of ‘desertification’ – a process whereby land in dry areas is degraded. How can we prevent the livelihoods of billions from being destroyed? A team of researchers from Chongqing Jiaotong University, led by Professor Yi Zhijian, has developed Desert Agricultural Transformation – a technology solution that turns desert sand into soil. Read more


India is home to 100 million farming families managing small plots of land. For them, extreme weather can be disastrous. And as the climate heats up, the costs associated with mitigating the effects of the elements are increasing. All this means that smallholders have little control over their incomes and are particularly vulnerable to climate change. What can be done to help these families achieve a dependable income in the midst of a climate crisis? The answer may come in the shape of a ‘Greenhouse-in-a- Box’. Created by startup Kheyti, the modular greenhouse design is just half the cost of a regular greenhouse, and takes up only a small fraction of a farmer’s land. Read more


Having once occupied vast swathes of South China and Southeast Asia, orangutans are now found only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. And even here their numbers are under threat. What can we do to protect these magnificent creatures? While it was long thought that orangutans need pristine forests to survive, research by conservation group Hutan shows that orangutans can live in degraded forests – adapting how they eat, move through the landscape, and even find a mate. The organisation has therefore established the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Programme (or KOCP) to create ‘passageways’ for animals to pass through fragmented forests safely. Read more

Written by: Matthew Hempstead

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