• The RIPE project receives additional $13 million to accelerate progress in redesigning photosynthesis

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation increases RIPE project investment to complement support from FFAR and DFID to improve yields for farmers worldwide The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announces additional $13 million in support of RIPE, an international research project led by Director Stephen Long (right) and Deputy Director Donald Ort (left) to enhance the photosynthetic productivity and yield of key food crops including rice, cassava, cowpea, and soybeans (pictured) to benefit farmers worldwide. This week, families across the U.S. will gather around Thanksgiving tables in a traditional celebration of the season’s bounty. By improving how key crops transform sunlight into yield, Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) will one day help farmers put food on more tables worldwide, especially where it is needed most. In 2017, a $45 million, five-year reinvestment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), and the U.K. Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) ensured the international research project could continue to address the global food challenge. Today, the Gates Foundation contributed an additional $13 million to add resources and personnel that will help accelerate the transfer of the RIPE project’s successes into key food crops: soybeans, rice, cassava, and cowpea. “Time is of the essence—especially as we look to a future filled with more people and a dramatically different climate,” said RIPE Director Stephen Long, Ikenberry Endowed University Chair of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology at the University of Illinois and Distinguished Professor in Crop Sciences at Lancaster University. “We must future-proof our food supply today to ensure that these technologies are available when we need them.” A key aim of the RIPE project is to provide farmers, particularly those in some of the world’s poorest countries, with seed that will yield substantially more without requiring more inputs. However, it takes at least 15 years for any breakthroughs to journey from scientists’ lab benches to farmers’ fields at scale, cautioned RIPE Deputy Director Donald Ort, the Robert Emerson Professor of Plant Biology and Crop Sciences at Illinois. Likely, RIPE’s technologies will not be in farmers’ fields until 2030 when the world’s population will have grown by more than a billion people. To expedite progress, RIPE has modeled photosynthesis to virtually tweak the photosynthetic process and pinpoint the best opportunities for improvements that would increase crop productivity. The supplement’s support will be used to test the model’s predictions in model crops and translate yield-boosting technologies to food crops more quickly. “Our rich knowledge from a half-century of photosynthesis research coupled with modeling has enabled our team to make blueprints to re-engineer this complex process in staple food crops,” Long said, who leads the project at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology. “Our models predict that by combining several strategies we could achieve a 50 percent yield increase, which will go a long way to meeting the demands of this century.” Already, these computer simulations guided promising real-world results, including a 20 percent boost in productivity published in Science, and an even greater increase published in Plant Biotechnology Journal. Several other strategies have shown similar yield improvements through preliminary greenhouse experiments and field trials. Other work has demonstrated in field trials that the up-regulation of a single gene protects soybean yield in futuristic climate conditions with elevated temperatures and carbon dioxide levels, as published in the Journal of Experimental Botany. In Nature Communications, the team showed how to significantly increase crop water-use efficiency. “We are committed to ensuring that the literal fruits of our labor are globally available and royalty-free for smallholder farmers, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, to help meet the huge challenge of feeding the future,” Long said. “While no single strategy will overcome the hurdles facing the industry—our recent success in RIPE and our sponsors’ continued support give me hope that the future of agriculture is bright.” Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) is an international research project that is producing staple food crops that more efficiently convert the sun’s energy into food to sustainably increase productivity using fewer inputs. This project is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, and U.K. Government’s Department for International Development. RIPE is led by the University of Illinois in partnership with the Australian National University; Chinese Academy of Sciences; Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; Lancaster University; Louisiana State University; University of California, Berkeley; University of Essex; and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.


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  • USAID Announces Winners of the Feed the Future Fall Armyworm Tech Prize

    FFAR and partners award $450,000 to top digital solutions to combat an invasive agricultural pest in Africa Photo Credit: DIA CAPE TOWN (Nov. 14, 2018) – The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Land O’Lakes International Development, and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) announced the six winners of the Feed the Future Fall Armyworm Tech Prize at the AfricaCom conference in South Africa today. The prize, launched in March 2018, sought digital innovations that could help farmers manage the recent spread of fall armyworm -- a damaging pest that attacks over 80 different plant species. Fall armyworm has the potential to cause an estimated $2-6 billion (USD) in maize losses alone over three years. Following a competitive co-creation, an evaluation process and the field-testing of prototypes, USAID and its partners awarded prizes worth $450,000 to six organizations with digital solutions that will provide information to smallholder farmers, and those who support them, to identify, treat and track the incidence of fall armyworm. USAID and its partners awarded A grand prize of $150,000 to ink, a Nairobi-based start-up that has integrated a Fall Armyworm Virtual Advisor into its Africa Farmers Club mobile service. This online group and chatbot already provides more than 150,000 farmers across Africa with farming information. The new virtual advisory feature will provide specific information on how to identify and treat fall armyworm. $75,000 each to Akorion, a Ugandan agricultural technology company, for an enhanced fall armyworm diagnostic in its EzyAgric app; and to AfriFARM, an app by Project Concern International and Dimagi, a social enterprise based in Massachusetts. $50,000 each to Farmerline and Henson Geodata Technologies, both Ghana-based, and the Nigerian-based eHealth Africa, to further develop early-stage mobile applications that will provide tailored information for combatting fall armyworm. “These projects have the potential to combat a voracious agricultural pest, which will help smallholder farmers produce enough food to feed their families and communities,” said Sally Rockey, executive director of FFAR. “The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research is excited to be part of this Fall Armyworm Tech Prize and congratulates today’s winners on their innovate solutions.” The prize received 228 entries from organizations around the world, 80 percent of which were based in Africa. A diverse panel of global experts working in agriculture, technology entrepreneurship, and impact investment judged the entries and made final selections. The winning entries are working with smallholder farmers in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, and Nigeria, with the potential to scale solutions to other countries. The prize is part of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, a global effort led by USAID to address the root causes of hunger and poverty in developing countries. About The Winners Grand prize of $150,000 to the most viable solution Team name: Farm.ink, Solution name: Fall Armyworm Virtual Advisor The Fall Armyworm Virtual Advisor is an interactive solution that provides knowledge on how to identify, scout and treat fall armyworm to its users. The tool is integrated into Farm.ink’s award-winning mobile service, Africa Farmers Club, an online group and chatbot that enables more than 150,000 farmers across Africa to find information about farming. Through the Facebook Messenger platform, the solution gamifies learning and after completing trainings, allows farmers to access the FAW Scouter, a progressive web app that guides farmers through the scouting process. It then provides farmers with personalized recommendations for how to treat fall armyworm on their farms. Two runner-up awards of $75,000 to the most promising solutions Team name: Akorion, Solution name: EzyAgric, Country of Operation: Uganda The EzyArmyWorm (EAW), an enhancement of the pest and disease diagnostic in the EzyAgric app, aims to assist farmers, extension workers, and agribusinesses in Uganda with early detection and accurate diagnosis of FAW. It uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to allow farmers to easily detect the pest across possible affected crops at any stage of the production cycle. With SMS and smart alert notifications, EAW provides farmers with constant reminders and real-time information on how to detect, manage, and address fall armyworm. Team name: Project Concern International and Dimagi, Solution name: AfriFARM (Africa Fall Armyworm Response Mechanism), Countries of Operation: Malawi and Tanzania Built on CommCare, an existing digital platform designed for low-resource settings, AfriFARM provides accessible and actionable information about FAW to smallholders, lead farmers, and agricultural extension agents in Africa. The app provides learning modules tailored to user needs and capabilities on topics including management; identification; scouting; treatment options and safety considerations; and incidence reporting. Three frontier innovation awards of $50,000 to early-stage solutions Team name: Farmerline, Solution name: Crop Disease Prediction & Advisory Services, Country of Operation: Ghana Crop Disease Prediction & Advisory Services (CdPAS) by Farmerline is a digital solution that allows end-users to access information on fall armyworm, engage experts on the pest, make incidence reports, and request inputs/services. CdPAS will leverage the audio-visual learning capabilities of local farmers by providing the simplified information via two channels: 1) An Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, which allows users to access content in their preferred local language and on any mobile phone; and 2) an android application that has media-rich content (photos, videos, infographics) on the pest. Team name: Henson Geodata Technologies, Solution name: Igeza, Country of Operation: Ghana Igeza is a cloud-based mobile application that enables early detection and instant interaction with a control center. Igeza integrates location and audio-visual services used by the smallholder maize farmer to scout, scan and identify fall armyworm as well as map their farms. The call center connects all notifications to a pool of experts including entomologists, plant pathologists, agronomists, and extension workers who can analyze the evidence presented and recommend appropriate management responses, where needed. Team name: eHealth Africa, Solution name: CornBot, Country of Operation: Nigeria CornBot is an audio-visual mobile application that interacts with farmers in their local language, talking them through a process that helps them identify, control, and manage fall armyworm. It uses an image-based Q&A mechanism to engage farmers and empower them with information needed to combat fall armyworm. CornBot also aggregates data on the prevalence of fall armyworm, providing stakeholders with real-time data necessary for formulating evidence-based policies and intervention on the pest. About The Partners Feed the Future: Feed the Future, America’s global hunger and food security initiative, aims to transform lives toward a world where people no longer face extreme poverty, undernutrition and hunger. To achieve this, Feed the Future works hand-in-hand with partner countries to develop their agriculture sectors and break the cycle of poverty and hunger. Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research: The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization established by bipartisan congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, builds unique partnerships to support innovative and actionable science addressing today’s food and agriculture challenges.  FFAR leverages public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships critical to enhancing sustainable production of nutritious food for a growing global population. The FFAR Board of Directors is chaired by Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum, Ph.D., and includes ex officio representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation. Land O’Lakes International Development: Land O'Lakes International Development is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that leverages the farm-to-fork expertise of Land O'Lakes, Inc. to unlock the potential of agriculture to empower the developing world. Since 1981, Land O'Lakes International Development has implemented over 300 dairy, livestock and crops development programs in nearly 80 countries.  


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  • Meet One of The Fall Armyworm Tech Prize Partners

    Fall armyworm is a damaging pest that attacks over 80 different plant species. Agriculture experts estimate this pest could cause between $2.4 and $6.2 billion in losses for maize, a staple crop in Africa. Crops like sorghum, rice and sugarcane are also at risk. Unchecked, fall armyworm is a threat to the livelihoods of farmers as well as food security across Africa. Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, along with the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and Land O’Lakes International Development, launched the Fall Armyworm Tech Prize. The prize offers to fund up to $450,000 in digital solutions that aim to help stop the spread of fall armyworm in Africa. Check out this video to learn more about FFAR and fall armyworm:    


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  • FFAR Sponsors Feeding the Next Billion Challenge at XPRIZE Visioneering 2018

    Teams compete for chance to change the world PALOS VERDES (Oct. 17, 2018) –This week, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and The Tony Robbins Foundation will take part in XPRIZE Visioneering 2018 for the chance to launch global competition aimed at feeding a growing global population. During Visioneering, two teams designing competitions for the “Feeding the Next Billion” Grand Challenge will compete against eight other prize designs that hope to solve humanity’s most significant challenges. FFAR and The Tony Robbins Foundation are sponsoring the Feeding the Next Billion Grand Challenge, which would ensure that people across the globe have access to nutritious and sustainable food. The No Soil Challenge and See No Weevil Challenges comprise the two Feeding the Next Billion prize concepts. Other Grand Challenges in the running include Saving Coral Reefs, Lifting Farmers Out of Poverty, Natural Disaster Prediction and Off-Grid Energy Access. “Providing all people –now and in the future –healthy food produced in ways that preserve the planet’s natural resources is not only an urgent test for agriculture but for humanity itself,” said FFAR Executive Director Dr. Sally Rockey. “FFAR is thrilled to partner with The Tony Robbins Foundation and XPRIZE to bring new perspectives and innovations to the world’s table.” At Visioneering, prize designs compete against each other for support and funding, and could one day launch as a global XPRIZE competition. The event gathers a selective crowd including CEOs, world leaders, philanthropists, influencers and thought leaders who will vote on the prize concepts to determine the Grand Prize Winner on October 19, 2018. “I grew up in a food-insecure household and at the age of 11, a total stranger showed up at my door with a Thanksgiving meal,” said Tony Robbins. “This moment changed my life and I decided I was going to find a way, somehow, someday, to give back and pay it forward. With the projected global population to reach ten billion people by the year 2050, we are facing one of the biggest social issues of our time. I’m honored to partner with FFAR in this competition to help solve one of humanity’s most significant social issues.” ### The Tony Robbins Foundation Founded in 1991, The Tony Robbins Foundation is a nonprofit organization created to empower individuals and organizations to make a significant difference in the quality of life of people often forgotten. Through global programs and initiatives, The Tony Robbins Foundation is dedicated to creating positive changes in the lives of youth, seniors, the hungry, homeless and the imprisoned population. The Foundation helps provide millions of meals globally each year, has awarded over 2,000 grants and other resources to health and human services organizations, implemented curriculum in 1,600 plus correctional facilities and gathered thousands of young leaders from around the world with its teen programs. For more information, visit www.thetonyrobbinsfoundation.org.


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  • FFAR Prize Seeks to Revolutionize Egg Production, Improving Animal Welfare and Saving Billions

    MAUI (Oct. 17, 2018) – The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) today previewed the Egg-Tech Prize at the United Egg Producers’ (UEP) Annual Board Meeting and Executive Conference. FFAR plans to offer up to $6 million in prizes for developing technologies that can accurately and quickly determine the sex of layer chick eggs before they hatch. Skilled workers in the egg industry are only able to identify the sex of the chick after it hatches. For the 6 billion laying hens hatched each year worldwide, a similar number of male chicks are produced that never make it to market. The male chicks, once hatched, are unsuitable for consumption due to poor growth performance and meat quality. As there is no need currently for the male chicks, they are culled, creating major challenges for animal welfare, food waste, farm profitability and energy usage. This practice, known as male chick culling requires the industry to devote significant time and resources to incubating the male eggs only to cull them later. “Male chick culling is a challenge that must be solved. However, promising scientific advancements indicate that it’s possible to develop a scalable technology to determine an egg’s sex before it hatches,” said Sally Rockey, FFAR’s executive director. “Solving this challenge would not only improve animal welfare, but also save egg producers billions while adding eggs to the food supply.” “UEP and our farmer-members commend FFAR for coordinating this valuable incentive to encourage researchers to move swiftly to identify meaningful, scalable solutions to this issue,” said Chad Gregory, UEP president and CEO. “Assuring the health and well-being of animals simply is the right thing to do. As such, we have an obligation to support practices and technologies that improve animal welfare across egg production, and this extends to finding an economically feasible, commercially viable alternative to the practice of male chick culling at hatcheries.” Current approaches to solving this challenge range from gene-editing to measuring an egg’s hormone levels to determine its sex. FFAR is confident that the industry can build on recent advancements in sensor technologies, engineering and biological sciences to develop a technology that both successfully determines an egg’s sex before it hatches and can be integrated into existing production systems. If new technologies allow egg producers to determine the chick’s sex early in incubation, over 6 billion male eggs could be directed into the food supply or vaccine production. Furthermore, if an appropriate technology is developed, the industry stands to save between $1.5 -$2.5 billion each year. FFAR plans to begin accepting Egg-Tech Prize applications in early 2019.


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  • Announcing The Egg-Tech Prize

    New Technologies for In Ovo Sex Determination - A FFAR Initiative Program Summary: In early 2019, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture (FFAR) will launch the Egg-Tech Prize - a $6 million initiative that seeks to revolutionize global egg production. The goal of the prize is to stimulate development of new technologies for accurate, high-speed and early-stage in ovo sex determination of layer chicks. Initial grants will be followed by a final stage that culminates in proof of a working prototype that meets the criteria determined by an expert Steering Committee. What is the Challenge? Several billion layer chicks are hatched each year to supply the world’s eggs, with demand expected to rise in coming years. Male chicks are culled on the day of hatch, as poor growth performance and meat quality makes them unsuitable for consumption. Unnecessary incubation causes the loss of millions of male chicks each year and is a major challenge to animal welfare, food waste, farm profitably and energy consumption. The Search for Solutions: Approaches to solving this challenge have ranged from gene-editing to measurement of egg hormone levels. Use of new technologies to determine the chick's sex early in incubation would allow male eggs to be directed into the food supply or vaccine production. Recent advancements in sensor technologies, engineering and the biological sciences have poised the industry for a breakthrough that could be rapidly integrated into existing production systems. Partnership: The Egg-Tech Prize will foster competition and build momentum to support scientific breakthroughs, from concept to prototype development, to provide practical solutions for the egg industry. PRIZE PROCESS Phase 1: Grants for concept development. Phase 2: Proof-of-concept and prototype demonstration. PRIZE TIMELINE October 2018: Program announced. Early 2019: Phase 1 - Ideation and Concept Development. Late 2019-2022: Phase 2 - Proof-of-Concept / Prototype Demonstration. JOIN FFAR Learn more about the Egg-Tech Prize: Tim Kurt, Scientific Program Director tkurt@foundationfar.org 202.836.9960 FFAR welcomes discussions on this 'moonshot' and how this work can impact your organization. DOWNLOAD PDF


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  • FFAR Investment in Downy Mildew Research Benefits Lettuce Producers and Consumers

      University of California, Davis Receives Inaugural FFAR Award from the Crops of the Future Collaborative for Leafy Greens Research Project


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  • FFAR Awards Grant to Reduce Methane Emissions from Dairy Cattle

    Scientists Add Seaweed to Cattle Diets to Combat Methane “Burps” WASHINGTON, (Oct. 9, 2019) – The Foundation for Food and Agriculture…


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  • FoodShot Global Launches New Investment Platform to Fund Innovators Taking Bold “Moonshots for Better Food”

    Non-profit consortium of food and agriculture leaders will accelerate food system transformation FoodShot Global today announced the launch of…


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  • RIPE Researchers Use Blue-green Algae to Boost Crop Yields

    New Article in Nature Communications Highlights FFAR-funded Research Project Researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence in translational…


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