At the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, we believe in harnessing science and technology for the betterment of the food and agriculture system and consequently improving quality of life for citizens of the U.S. and around the world.

Thus we seek innovative research ideas with potential to fill critical knowledge gaps and reveal yet unexplored research areas that advance science and provide results that are applicable directly to the food and agriculture system.  We listen and learn from the community to identify pressing issues where our funding can: make a difference, propel science into application, and have the greatest impact.  We consider the potential of the ideas to advance the mission of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). We examine ideas to determine the potential to generate public-private partnerships and joint funding.   Once we commit to a research area, we define how we will achieve results, usually through a competitive grants process or through direct contracts to organizations and individuals who will conduct critical research and, importantly, deliver generated research results for real-world application.  The Foundation staff constantly monitors our supported programs for relevance and effectiveness in providing solutions to challenges faced by the agriculture and food system, and adjusts when necessary to achieve our goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Concepts Does the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research Consider?


The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) evaluates potential concepts based on the following criteria.

Concepts for potential FFAR programs must include:

» Strategic Alignment: Fulfills a component of FFAR’s mission and falls within one or more of FFAR’s seven Challenge Areas.

» Partnership: Addresses challenges that are ripe for public private partnership because of shared goals.

» Match: Demonstrates ability to draw matching funds.

Other important factors:

» Impact: Actionable outcomes could fill critical gaps affecting the food and agriculture industry.

» Innovation: Distinct concept, approach, or operating model.

» Complementarity:  Complementary and not duplicative of USDA research.

With these criteria, FFAR research programs are often multifaceted and complex.  Progress in these areas demands a collective effort by the private and public sectors along with the communities and individuals impacted by the research outcomes.

The FFAR website features a portal for interested parties to offer research program area concepts that FFAR might consider. Research concepts from the community that fall within the Foundation’s current Challenge Areas will be considered to help define, develop and launch these areas through convening events, RFPs, and Prizes. Research concepts submitted to the FFAR website that do not fall within its current Challenge Areas will not result in FFAR programming except in extraordinary circumstances. Fully developed proposals should only be submitted in response to a FFAR Request for Proposal.

How Does a Concept Become a Program?

FFAR issues grants and contracts to partners who will push for new solutions through the research they conduct.  All programming is developed through the standard process outlined below. The duration of each phase depends on the complexity of the project, the time needed to generate matching funds and the mechanism used to solicit proposals.

1. Concept Identification/Development

FFAR’s Scientific Program Directors work to identify ideas that support the Foundation’s strategic priorities, in close consultation with colleagues, researchers, policymakers, USDA and other partners in the field.  Ideas may come through the FFAR website; meetings with various organizations, societies or other groups; through our Board or Advisory Councils; directly from the USDA; or through FFAR outreach. This phase concludes with an internal decision by the FFAR Executive Director that a concept is aligned with our goals and mission as described above, and it has potential for generating a match.  From there an idea proceeds to the concept clearance process

2. Concept Clearance

FFAR’s seven Advisory Councils are composed of scientists, practitioners, and stakeholders who provide expertise for development of research directions among other duties.  These councils review concepts that have come before FFAR for alignment with the organization’s goals and mission and to determine if they are uniquely suited for FFAR funding using the criteria described above.  Concept clearance means that a project can be further refined through consensus conferences, convening events or other means to gain perspectives from others on the potential program areas and help shape the proposed body of work.

3. Program Approval

Once a concept is further formulated to the satisfaction of the FFAR program team, it is presented to the Board for a final vote. If approved by the Board, an idea becomes a FFAR program area. Matching funds are sought/secured and the program is announced.


How are Proposals Solicited?

Depending upon the program, FFAR awards grants or contracts in one of the following ways:

  • Request for Proposals (RFP)

This is the most common way FFAR works. When it is determined that a program requires multiple organizations to conduct the research and would benefit from a broad solicitation of expertise, FFAR will issue an RFP to solicit grant proposals.  Proposals received through an RFP are merit reviewed by FFAR Advisory Councils, often via a specialized review panel constituted to field a particular RFP.  Those deemed highest quality and aligned most closely with the goals and objective of the program and/or FFAR are recommended to the Executive Director for funding.  The FFAR Board of Directors makes the final decision about whether to fund the proposed grant or contract. Public RFPs are posted on foundationfar.org and announced through our email distribution list.

  • Challenge Prize

In the case of a particular information or technological need, FFAR may design a challenge prize competition in which one or several applicants are awarded funding based on a developed concept or technology. Those concepts or technologies deemed most effective and promising for further development and deployment in the food and agriculture sector win a cash prize. Challenge prize applications are recommended to the Executive Director for funding through our Advisory Councils, and specialized review panels may be constituted for a particular challenge. The FFAR Board of Directors makes the final decision about whether to fund the applicant. Challenge prizes are posted on our website and promoted publicly.

  • Direct solicitation

When the FFAR Board of Directors, staff, and Advisory Councils determine that an organization is well-suited to perform a given scope of work and this alignment will most quickly produce the desired outcome, FFAR directly solicits a proposal from that organization and funds the work accordingly.


At What Level are Projects Funded?

Funding for projects and prizes varies depending on scope and objectives.

Applicants will propose budget levels commensurate with the work. If a concept is approved for program development, FFAR will negotiate a final funding level based on refinement of overall objectives and the availability of matching funds.

All programs and projects are subject to final Board review and approval prior to issuance of an award. 

View additional frequently asked questions and answers for potential and current grant applicants here.