Inspiring the Next Generation

As a child I loved animals and everything biology (except, ironically, insects; who would think I would become an entomologist?!).  This love of science was the foundation for my wonderful career leading extramural research programs at the USDA, NIH and now as Director of FFAR, and I am humbled and honored to be part of something so significant.

When thinking about our future, it is critical that those who want careers in science can have them, and we must attract and keep the best and the brightest in our field.  For FFAR and the rest of the ag and food research community, that means attracting and keeping researchers focused on subjects and in disciplines that are critical to our success.  Our very future depends on the next generation of talent who will conduct fundamental and applied research generating solutions to real world problems.

For most university scientists, the availability of research grant funds in large part drives the scientific direction of their research.  In this context, agricultural scientists often must place emphasis on research avenues that will be attractive to the large research agencies like NIH, instead of pursuing lines of research applicable to agricultural issues where funding is more difficult to come by. Quite understandable, as the need for extramural funding to support research programs as well as for professional advancement is acute.

So what can be done to attract and firmly keep early career researchers in the agricultural and food sciences?  Fund them with an award of a size and duration that frees them to pursue exceptionally creative lines of agriculture and food research.   FFAR is going to do just that.  And while we are a small organization and will only be making up to 10 awards next year, it is a step in the right direction.

We plan on awarding around $600,000 (half of which is through a match) for three or more years to enable researchers to pursue a program of research, providing some stability to their funding and giving them flexibility to pursue new research directions as they evolve during the course of the grant.   FFAR intends to fund at least one person in each of its seven scientific topic areas but because these areas intersect and because agriculture and food sciences are convergent, each awardee may cross a number of our areas. To limit the total number of applicants to a pool that FFAR can administratively handle and because we will only be awarding up to 10 people, we are asking institutions to nominate only one exceptionally talented candidate.

While we currently plan to ask applicants to raise the matched 50 percent of the award, FFAR is also looking for altruistic partners who share our interest in inspiring the next generation of food and agriculture scientists and who will join us in securing the future of this award.

Do you have a candidate in mind for FFAR’s New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Award? Learn more and submit a nominations here.

 

Overcoming Water Scarcity

Overcoming Water Scarcity

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Agriculture uses 70 percent of the world’s accessible freshwater. FFAR’s 2016-2018 Overcoming Water Scarcity Challenge Area addressed water use efficiency in agriculture by developing water conservation and reuse technologies, improving crop and livestock breeds, creating improved agronomic practices, increasing the social and economic tractability of conservation practices and enhancing the efficacy of Extension services.

FFAR’s Sustainable Water Management Challenge Area builds on earlier work to increase water availability and water efficiency for agricultural use, reduces agricultural water pollution and develops water reuse technologies.

Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms

Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms

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FFAR’s 2016-2018 Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms Challenge Area increased soil health by building knowledge, fueling innovation, and enabling adoption of existing or new innovative practices that improve soil health.

The Soil Health Challenge Area advances existing research and identifies linkages between farm productivity and soil health, while also addressing barriers to the adoption of soil health practices.

Protein Challenge

Protein Challenge

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FFAR’s 2016-2018 Protein Challenge Area sought to improve the environmental, economic and social sustainability of diverse proteins.

The Advance Animal Systems challenge area supports sustainable animal production through environmentally sound productions practices and advancement in animal health and welfare. Additionally, the Next Generation Crops Challenge Area develops non-traditional crops, including plant-based proteins, and creates new economic opportunities for conventional crops to increase future crop diversity and farm profitability.

Food Waste and Loss

Food Waste and Loss

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About 40 percent of food in the US, or $161 billion each year, is lost or wasted. FFAR’s 2016-2018 Food and Waste Loss Challenge Area addressed the social, economic and environmental impacts from food waste and loss through research that developed of novel uses for agricultural waste, improved storage and distribution, supported tracking and monitoring, minimized spoilage through pre- and post-harvest innovations and changed behaviors to reduce food waste

FFAR’s current Health-Agriculture Nexus Challenge Area addresses food waste and loss and supports innovative, systems-level approaches to reduce food and nutritional insecurity and improve human health in the US and globally.

Forging the Innovation Pathway to Sustainability

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Supporting innovation is necessary for sustainable results. Over the last 50 years, farmers have tripled global food production thanks to agricultural innovations. Forging the Innovation Pathway to Sustainability was a 2016-2018 Challenge Area that focused on understanding the barriers and processes that prevented the adoption of technology and research results into sustainable practices.

Urban Food Systems

Urban Food Systems

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The 2016-2018 Urban Food Systems Challenge Area addressed feeding urban populations through urban and peri-urban agriculture and augmenting the capabilities of our current food system.

The Urban Food Systems Challenge Area continues this work and enhances our ability to feed urban populations.

Making My Plate Your Plate

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FFAR’s 2016-2018 Making My Plate Your Plate Challenge Area focused on helping Americans meet the USDA 2015 Dietary Guideline recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption, including research to both produce and provide access to nutritious fruits and vegetables.

FFAR’s current Health-Agriculture Nexus Challenge Area supports innovative, systems-level approaches to reduce food and nutritional insecurity and improve human health in the US and globally.