Proposal submission is now closed. 

Read the full Request for Application (RFA)

About the Program

The Sustainable American Aquaculture program from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) is intended to advance innovative research in sustainable fish and shellfish production. Aquaculture has the potential to provide millions of Americans with nutritious foods while contributing to the economic health of communities across the country. Scientific research in this area has typically been funded at low levels compared to other agricultural commodities, however as the industry grows, research will play a critical role in understanding the biology and marketability of a variety of fish and shellfish species and in developing environmentally-friendly practices that sustain production.

The Sustainable American Aquaculture program will bring together major stakeholders from the public and private sectors to support the aquaculture industry.



The objective of this RFA is to stimulate innovative research in farmed production of fish and shellfish, providing economic opportunities to U.S. farmers and increasing the supply of domestically-produced, nutritious foods to meet growing consumer demand. There is a major need to understand the biological and technological barriers, and market potential for a diverse range of aquatic species. In addition, research focused on understanding and minimizing potential environmental impacts of aquaculture production will be key to public acceptance of farmed fish and shellfish products, an important consideration for long-term industry success.


About one billion people worldwide rely on fish and shellfish as their primary source of animal protein, and these foods contain all the essential amino acids and are rich in vitamins A, B12 and D, minerals such as calcium and iodine, the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids crucial for brain health (FAO, 2016; Hibbeln et al., 2007; Thilsted, 2016). It is clear that fish products play an important role in food security and improving human nutritional outcomes (FAO, 2016; Thilsted, 2016). However, the demand for fish continues to outstrip supply: it is projected that by 2030 the world will need to produce an additional 30 million metric tons of fish (FAO, 2016; OECD/FAO, 2015). Producing fish and shellfish sustainably to meet projected demand presents a challenge that will require appropriately-managed aquaculture in addition to wild-capture fishing (FAO, 2011; FAO, 2016; Lowther and Liddel, 2015; OECD/FAO, 2015). The exciting potential of fish and shellfish farming is evident in the variety of species and cultivation systems used globally, and scientific advancement in this area plays an important role in supporting sustainable protein production for a growing population.

Aquaculture is the fastest-growing food-producing sector worldwide (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization), however the U.S. ranks 15th in production at ~$1.3 billion annually (Lowther and Liddel, 2015). In fact, approximately half of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is produced by aquaculture, conducted primarily in Asia (Kite-Powell, 2013; Lowther and Liddel, 2015). Domestically, aquaculture is conducted in states ranging from Mississippi and Arkansas to Washington and Maine (USDA-NASS, 2013). Research supported by FFAR will contribute to important economic opportunities for farmers in these states and others.

Aquaculture Webinar

FFAR held a webinar to discuss this funding opportunity on July 12, 2017. See below for a recording of the webinar and slides from the presentation.


Key Dates

Funding Opportunity Announcement
June 9, 2017

Pre-Proposal Submissions Open
July 10, 2017 at 12:00 PM ET
Read the full RFA

Pre-Proposal Submission Deadline
August 9, 2017 at 4:59:59 PM ET

Invited Applicants Notified
August 30, 2017 at 4:59:59 PM ET
Full proposals open to invited applicants on this date. 

Full Proposals Deadline 
October 11, 2017 at 4:59:59 PM ET

Award Announcement 
December 2017

Anticipated Funded Projects Start 
January 2018


Program Priorities

Applicants to the Sustainable American Aquaculture Program must address at least one of the following program priorities, and that connection must be explicit in the application along with metrics to measure success of the research program:

The overarching goal of this RFA is to support innovative research necessary for further development of sustainable aquaculture in the United States.

FFAR is committed to supporting research on the following topics:

1) Genomics and breeding of less-commonly studied shellfish species (e.g. mussels, clams, scallops) for improved performance parameters. Farmed shellfish such as mussels have high feed conversion efficiency, reproduce quickly and can be grown and harvested with minimal environmental impact. Shellfish may also provide important ecosystem services such as water filtration and increased biodiversity around cultivation beds. Investigating shellfish genetics and breeding for improved performance has the potential to yield substantial gains in the production of sustainable and nutritious protein sources.

2) Hatchery research including broodstock development and best early life-cycle production practices. Establishing a reliable and sufficient supply of high-quality eggs and larvae is critical for successful aquaculture production. Many biological and environmental factors such as nutrition, photoperiod, water conditions and timing of sexual maturation influence egg quality and time of spawning. Similarly, survival of larvae is impacted by environmental conditions, complex feeding protocols, stocking densities and other factors. Better understanding of early life-cycle stages will be important for ensuring a robust supply of animals for commercial stocking.

3) Market-based analyses for new species and/or production systems. One of the barriers to production of new species is comprehensive assessment of the potential costs and market demand, yields, substitutability and other factors that influence commercial feasibility and decision-making. FFAR intends to fund socio-economic and market-based research for new species and production systems, and will use best efforts to support topics not currently supported by other federal agencies.

Research topics NOT covered by this initiative:
  • Molecular mechanisms of pathogen transmission, pathogenicity, disease resistance, breeding for disease resistance or evaluation of therapeutics (e.g. pre- and pro-biotics, feed additives or drugs).
  • Food-safety related research, traceability and seafood fraud
  • Oyster genetics and breeding


2017 Funding Opportunity Announcement

The official Request for Applications (RFA) is now open. Learn more.

Pre-Proposal Deadline: August 9, 2017 at 4:59:59 PM Eastern Time

Anticipated Funding: FFAR anticipates awarding up to $5 million to projects within this program. Each project may be funded for $250,000 to $1 million. Applicants are advised not to interpret the maximum allowable time and funding under this award as a suggestion that they should expand their anticipated work and budget to this level. The budget must be reasonable and commensurate with the proposed work.

Duration: Projects of up to 60 months in duration will be considered, although shorter projects of 24-36 months are preferred.

Number of Awards: To be determined. Total number of projects to be funded under this opportunity depends on the quality and budgets of successful applications. FFAR reserves the right to negotiate all or none of the applications received for funding consideration under this opportunity.

Matching Funding: Outside funding (i.e. matching funding) of non-federal funds equivalent to FFAR award amount is required for eligibility.





Mark Keenum, Ph.D.

Image of Dr. Mark Keenum

President, Mississippi State University

“I am very proud to have been part of the startup of this organization from day one and I commend the full board for giving their time and energy to something that is bigger than all of us. I look forward to working with my esteemed colleagues to continue building on the extraordinary progress we have made to create the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research.”

Fayaz Khazi, Ph.D.

Together, we will solve problems like how to pair new ideas with the most relevant technologies, and this will help us all create products that are not just better, but game changing — even life changing.”

Fayaz Khazi, Ph.D.
president of Precision PlantSciences

Pam Johnson

Portrait of Pam Johnson

This collaborative research with public and private partners will build on the investments already made in agriculture research so farmers like me can see the return on those investments through improvements in plants in our fields.”

Pam Johnson
National Corn Growers Association past president, FFAR Board Member

Kees Reinink, Ph.D.

Rijk Zwaan is keen to actively contribute to the world’s food supply and stimulate vegetable consumption. Joining the Crops of the Future Collaborative, with leafy vegetables as one of the focus crops, can help us achieve this mission.”

Kees Reinink, Ph.D.
Managing Director of Rijk Zwaan

-April Carroll, Ph.D., Purdue University College of Agriculture

Interest in the phenotyping event exceeded our highest expectations, which speaks to the critical importance of connecting plants’ DNA information to meaningful traits.”

April Carroll Director of Phenomics Purdue University College of Agriculture

Sally Rockey, Ph.D.

Executive Director, FFAR

The pace of technology is absolutely breathtaking because we have this combination of understanding how things work coupled with new technologies. For agriculture, we want to take advantage of not only the increases to our knowledge base but also this technological pace.”

Excerpt from Heurmann Lecture by Sally Rockey, Ph.D.
seen at left being recognized for her lecture by Ronnie Green, Ph.D., then Chancellor-elect of University of Nebraska-Lincoln