• FFAR Seeks Nominations for 2019 New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award

    WASHINGTON (January 16, 2019) – The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) today begins accepting nominations for the 2019 New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award. This award supports early-career scientists pursuing research that sustainably enhances agricultural production or improves health through food. FFAR will grant as many as 10 awards, and each awardee may receive up to $600,000 (including matching funds), over three years. “The future of agriculture will be defined by an innovative scientific workforce that aims to modernize how food is grown, processed and distributed,” said FFAR Executive Director Sally Rockey. “The New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award is a unique opportunity to support the emerging superstars in agriculture and food research. We are excited to bring their ideas to the table, and ultimately take their research to fruition through this program.” The New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award provides early-career scientists the investment needed to launch successful scientific careers in food and agriculture. By investing in scientists and faculty members at the onset of their careers, this award allows them to pursue research uninhibited by the pressure of identifying the next grant. The New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award is reserved for highly creative, promising scientists whose ground-breaking research has the potential to address major challenges facing food and agriculture. Institutions of higher education, nonprofit research institutions and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are encouraged to nominate up to two candidates for the Award who hold tenure-track or equivalent positions and meet the eligibility criteria specified in the Call for Nominations. Applications from eligible nominees will be evaluated on their research program proposals as well as a demonstrated commitment to mentoring future generations of agricultural and food scientists. The deadline for submitting nominations is February 28, 2019 at 3pm EST. In December 2018, the nine recipients of the 2018 New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award were granted a total of $4.67 million from FFAR and matching funders. ### 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. Learn more: www.foundationfar.org  Connect: @FoundationFAR


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  • Scientists engineer shortcut for photosynthetic glitch, boost crop growth by 40 percent

    RIPE Cassava SoyFACE Field TrialsURBANA (January 3, 2019) – Plants convert sunlight into energy through photosynthesis; however, most crops on the planet are plagued by a photosynthetic glitch, and to deal with it, evolved an energy-expensive process called photorespiration that drastically suppresses their yield potential. Today, researchers from the University of Illinois and U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service report in the journal Science that crops engineered with a photorespiratory shortcut are 40 percent more productive in real-world agronomic conditions. “We could feed up to 200 million additional people with the calories lost to photorespiration in the Midwestern U.S. each year,” said principal investigator Donald Ort, the Robert Emerson Professor of Plant Science and Crop Sciences at Illinois’ Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology. “Reclaiming even a portion of these calories across the world would go a long way to meeting the 21st Century’s rapidly expanding food demands—driven by population growth and more affluent high-calorie diets.” This landmark study is part of Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE), an international research project that is engineering crops to photosynthesize more efficiently to sustainably increase worldwide food productivity with support 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). Photosynthesis uses the enzyme Rubisco—the planet’s most abundant protein—and sunlight energy to turn carbon dioxide and water into sugars that fuel plant growth and yield. Over millennia, Rubisco has become a victim of its own success, creating an oxygen-rich atmosphere. Unable to reliably distinguish between the two molecules, Rubisco grabs oxygen instead of carbon dioxide about 20 percent of the time, resulting in a plant-toxic compound that must be recycled through the process of photorespiration. “Photorespiration is anti-photosynthesis,” said lead author Paul South, a research molecular biologist with the Agricultural Research Service, who works on the RIPE project at Illinois. “It costs the plant precious energy and resources that it could have invested in photosynthesis to produce more growth and yield.” Photorespiration normally takes a complicated route through three compartments in the plant cell. Scientists engineered alternate pathways to reroute the process, drastically shortening the trip and saving enough resources to boost plant growth by 40 percent. This is the first time that an engineered photorespiration fix has been tested in real-world agronomic conditions. “Much like the Panama Canal was a feat of engineering that increased the efficiency of trade, these photorespiratory shortcuts are a feat of plant engineering that prove a unique means to greatly increase the efficiency of photosynthesis,” said RIPE Director Stephen Long, the Ikenberry Endowed University Chair of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology at Illinois. The team engineered three alternate routes to replace the circuitous native pathway. To optimize the new routes, they designed genetic constructs using different sets of promoters and genes, essentially creating a suite of unique roadmaps. They stress tested these roadmaps in 1,700 plants to winnow down the top performers. Over two years of replicated field studies, they found that these engineered plants developed faster, grew taller, and produced about 40 percent more biomass, most of which was found in 50-percent-larger stems. The team tested their hypotheses in tobacco: an ideal model plant for crop research because it is easier to modify and test than food crops, yet unlike alternative plant models, it develops a leaf canopy and can be tested in the field. Now, the team is translating these findings to boost the yield of soybean, cowpea, rice, potato, tomato, and eggplant. “Rubisco has even more trouble picking out carbon dioxide from oxygen as it gets hotter, causing more photorespiration,” said co-author Amanda Cavanagh, an Illinois postdoctoral researcher working on the RIPE project. “Our goal is to build better plants that can take the heat today and in the future, to help equip farmers with the technology they need to feed the world.” While it will likely take more than a decade for this technology to be translated into food crops and achieve regulatory approval, RIPE and its sponsors are committed to ensuring that smallholder farmers, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, will have royalty-free access to all of the project’s breakthroughs. This image slider demonstrates the difference in size between modified and unmodified plants.###   Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) is engineering staple food crops to more efficiently turn the sun’s energy into yield to sustainably increase worldwide food productivity, with support 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). 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.   Editor’s notes: More information, including a copy of the paper, can be found online at the Science press package webpage at http://www.eurekalert.org/jrnls/sci. You will need your user ID and password to access this information. Otherwise, contact the Science press team at +1-202-326-6440 or scipak@aaas.org. Pictures related to this work are available online. B-roll and other multimedia are available upon request. Media Contact: Claire Benjamin RIPE Communications Coordinator claire@illinois.edu 217-244-0941


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  • FFAR Applauds President Trump and Congressional Leaders on Passage of 2018 Farm Bill

    WASHINGTON (December 20, 2018) – The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) applauds Congressional leaders today on the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. The bipartisan bill includes $185 million for agricultural research through FFAR’s unique public-private partnerships. “I’m proud that FFAR has support on Capitol Hill and the confidence of our elected leaders,” said FFAR Executive Director Sally Rockey. “FFAR’s successful public-private partnership model will double the 2018 Farm Bill investment, providing at least $370 million in new agriculture research funding that benefits farmers, consumers and taxpayers.” FFAR was created in the 2014 Farm Bill to build public-private partnerships that support innovative science addressing food and agriculture’s most intractable issues. Since then, FFAR has partnered with industry, nonprofit and academic institutions to fund research that benefits agricultural producers and consumers. Every dollar of FFAR’s funding is matched by non-federal funds. “The FFAR model has realized Congress’ original intent to leverage federal investment in agricultural research through public-private partnerships. FFAR is generating approximately $1.3 dollars for every tax dollar Congress allocates,” noted Rockey. Mississippi State University President and Chair of the FFAR Board of Directors Dr. Mark Keenum also added, “On behalf of the FFAR Board of Directors, we are thankful to have the federal government’s continued support for FFAR in the 2018 Farm Bill. We look forward to building on FFAR’s extraordinary progress to ensure that America remains the global leader in agriculture research.” Since its creation, FFAR has awarded numerous grants to research efforts supporting various agriculture fields, including animal systems, health and nutrition, local food systems, next generation crops, soil health and water scarcity. Including FFAR in the Farm Bill will allow the organization to continue funding research that helps produce nutritious food, grown on thriving, profitable farms in an environmentally sustainable manner. ### About the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a 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 and includes ex officio representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation. Learn more: www.foundationfar.org Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking


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  • Syngenta Joins FFAR’s Crops of the Future Consortium

    BASEL and WASHINGTON (December 19, 2018) – Syngenta has joined the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research’s (FFAR) Crops of the Future Collaborative as an executive committee participant. The executive committee includes nine Crops of the Future Collaborative participants that work with FFAR to govern the consortium, assist with funding allocations, and determine the direction of consortium research. Syngenta’s involvement furthers the consortium’s ambitious goals, while underscoring the company’s commitment to seed research and development, and sustainable agriculture. The Crops of the Future Collaborative is a consortium for industry partners to jointly contribute to large-scale pre-competitive research projects, fostering a comprehensive approach to address some of agriculture’s most complex challenges. The consortium is pursuing research into how a crop’s genetic information encodes important characteristics such as nutrition, disease resistance, productivity and environmental efficiency. Ultimately, the resulting breakthroughs will create more sustainable food systems benefitting all stakeholders across the value chain, from producers to consumers. The collaboration builds upon Syngenta’s participation in the consortium’s Leafy Greens Program, a joint effort with researchers at the University of California, Davis. Over the past seven years, Syngenta has supported the university’s research into lettuce genome sequencing to improve nutrition, enhance disease resistance, and reduce inputs. This research aims to reduce crop losses and improve farm profitability. In addition to leafy greens, Crops of the Future also will pursue research for corn, cereals and the development of cross crop tools and technologies. “Syngenta is inherently aligned with the mission of Crops of the Future – to accelerate the industry’s ability to develop crops that benefit humanity,” said Michiel van Lookeren Campagne, Ph.D., head of global seeds research, Syngenta. “Global food security is going to require the efforts of more than one company. If we, as an industry, can work together to turn precompetitive research into actionable innovation, we can maximize our impact and develop crop technologies that promote sustainable food production.” Making crops more efficient is one of the essential pillars of The Good Growth Plan, the global Syngenta initiative dedicated to improving the sustainability of agriculture. “Having a global leader like Syngenta as part of this public-private consortium will bolster our efforts to develop more sustainable crops that meet the needs of a growing population,” said Sally Rockey, Ph.D., FFAR executive director. “This investment provides Syngenta with the opportunity to leverage their R&D resources with FFAR and a host of other key seed and technology companies to address critical agriculture challenges.” ### About the Crops of the Future Collaborative The Crops of the Future Collaborative is a public-private, multi-participant consortium convened by Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research.  The Collaborative brings together companies and leading research organizations to accelerate the development of new crop varieties that address challenges in food and agriculture.  The Collaborative will leverage the knowledge, capabilities, and financial resources of participants to expand the scientific understanding of characteristics giving rise to complex traits that crops will need to adapt to changing environments. Learn more: www.foundationfar.org/cotf/ CONTACT: Sarah Goldberg, FFAR, 202-624-0704, SGoldberg@foundationFAR.org About Syngenta Syngenta is a leading agriculture company helping to improve global food security by enabling millions of farmers to make better use of available resources. Through world class science and innovative crop solutions, our 28,000 people in over 90 countries are working to transform how crops are grown. We are committed to rescuing land from degradation, enhancing biodiversity and revitalizing rural communities. To learn more visit www.syngenta.com and www.goodgrowthplan.com. Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Syngenta and www.twitter.com/SyngentaUS. CONTACT: Chris Tutino, Syngenta, 919-226-7238, Chris.Tutino@Syngenta.com


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  • FFAR Announces Recipients of the 2018 New Innovator Award

    This $2.3 Million Award Supports Innovative Food and Agriculture Research ProjectsWASHINGTON, (December 17, 2018) – The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) today announced nine early-career faculty members as recipients of the 2018 New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award. The New Innovator Award provides the early investment needed to successfully launch a scientific career in food and agriculture. The award recipients were selected on a number of criteria including scientific merit, innovation and a demonstrated commitment to mentoring other young scientists. The recipients will receive a total of $2,332,051 over three years, with matching funds from each recipients’ respective institutions to double FFAR’s investment for a total of $4,675,795. "These important grants will allow early-career faculty members to spend less time applying for grants and more time on creative research that has an impact on agriculture," said Sally Rockey, FFAR executive director. "FFAR New Innovators also are terrific mentors for the next generation of food and agriculture scientists who will follow them." FFAR’s New Innovator program invests in the next generation of scientists committed to changing the way food is grown, processed and distributed. Investing in new university faculty, their creative and potentially transformative research projects is critical to addressing the current challenges facing agriculture. The following individuals are the 2018 New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award recipients: Amanda Ashworth United States Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service Ashworth’s research will provide information that advances sustainable agriculture production and technology-use on Tribal Lands. Ultimately, this New Innovator Award will integrate functional soil maps for culturally important agro-ecological systems that realize optimum returns and accomplish conservation goals. Arianne Cease, Arizona State University Cease’s project will explore connections between land-use practices and locust outbreaks, and identify and address barriers to sustainable locust management. The project will collaborate with stakeholders to increase capacity to institutionalize knowledge and integrate research and management by working across regions, sectors, and disciplines. Tu-Anh Huynh, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Huynh’s research will examine the interactions of Listeria monocytogenes with cattle gastrointestinal tract microbiota. Although clinical listeriosis is rare, L. monocytogenes is frequently shed by dairy cattle, reflecting a high prevalence of infection and carriage. Lav Khot, Washington State University Khot’s research aims to develop and scientifically evaluate alternative pest management technologies that can aid conventional and organic growers in reducing their reliance on broad spectrum pesticides that result in residues on foods and in environmental contamination. Manuel Kleiner, North Carolina State University Kleiner’s research will link dietary components to the microbes in the intestinal tract of humans and animals that consume and convert them. Knowing which dietary components impact which microbes will help design diets that foster health-promoting microbes and deplete disease-causing microbes of their food source. Amit Morey, Auburn University Morey’s research will reduce food waste in the food supply chain. The project will develop a product termed “Functional Ice” for storage and transportation of raw poultry and seafood. The research team will develop a “First-Expire-First-Out” (FEFO) concept to replace the customary “First-In-First-Out” (FIFO) in food supply chains to help grocery stores reduce food waste. Yiping Qi, the University of Maryland-College Park Qi will develop CRISPR-Cas12a based plant genome editing systems with broadened targeting range and improved editing activity and specificity. If successful, these new gene editing tools will promote accelerated plant breeding for generating crops of high productivity and stress resistance under climate change and global warming. Jason Wallace, the University of Georgia Wallace will study how crops are affected by the microbes that live inside them, and how the environment impacts this relationship. This work will help understand how microbes affect crop production and how to harness them to improve agriculture. Matt Yost, Utah State University Yost’s research will identify the combined effectiveness of several methods of water optimization in agriculture – more efficient water application and management and, advanced crop genetics. Winning combinations that surface will guide the way for stakeholders to invest in water conservation.


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  • Iowa State University to Lead Research to Increase Pig Survivability

    AMES, Iowa (December 6, 2018) — A research project led by the Iowa Pork Industry Center at Iowa State University seeks to increase pork producers’ profits by improving the survivability of their animals. Jason Ross, the Lloyd L Anderson Professor and director of the Iowa Pork Industry Center at Iowa State, will lead the project that includes scientists from Iowa State, Kansas State University and Purdue University. The National Pork Board and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) are providing nearly $2 million for the five-year study. “This project is a great example of industry leadership coming together to address emerging issues through university and industry research partnerships,” Ross said. Across the pork industry, an estimated 30 to 35 percent of pigs born die before reaching the market, creating significant economic losses for farmers. Research indicates that mortality rates across all phases of production have been increasing, presenting a major challenge to animal wellbeing and sustainability. “The members of the animal science and welfare committees of the National Pork Board recognize improving pig health, welfare and productivity are keys in extending pig survivability,” said Chris Hostetler, director of animal science for the National Pork Board. “While this project is slated to last five years, it is the vision of the committees that this effort will fundamentally shape the way pigs are raised to provide safe, wholesome pork far into the future.” An interdisciplinary team of nutritionists, physiologists, veterinarians, well-being and behavior experts, geneticists, toxicologists, extension specialists and economists will examine the causes of mortality occurring on commercial swine farms. “We know that improving survivability will increase the efficiency and environmental sustainability of the whole industry,” said Tim Kurt, FFAR’s scientific program director, “but solutions need to be economically feasible.” “Increasing sow and piglet survivability is one of the most intractable issues facing the pork industry. While this is a clear animal welfare problem, it is also one of the most important productivity and economic issue for producers,” said Sally Rockey, FFAR’s executive director. “FFAR is pleased to be part of this important research that unquestionably will have a multitude of positive impacts.” The project seeks a full understanding of the biological mechanisms that limit pig and sow survivability, how they interact and how they can be effectively improved. The project’s overarching goal, through effective research and extension activities, is to improve swine survivability by 1 percent or more each year. Increasing the wean-to-finish survival of animals by 1 percent would represent an estimated gain in productivity of approximately 1.2 million pigs a year for the nation’s swine industry. The research team objectives include:Evaluate producers’ management attitudes and economics associated with improving survivability in U.S. swine production Identify the causes of mortality on U.S. sow farms to support development and implementation of targeted strategies to maximize survivability Define factors that influence wean-to-finish survivability and implement management strategies based on production-based research Develop national extension, outreach and education resources and strategies to encourage adoption and implementation of management practices to improve survivability in pork production.Another aspect of the project is the significant effort placed on training future industry leaders. This includes graduate students and staff, but is also expected to employ many undergraduate and veterinary students through internship programs. Additional information on the project team, specific efforts and progress can be followed on the project website www.piglivability.org. About the National Pork Board The National Pork Board has responsibility for checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, science and technology, swine health, pork safety and sustainability and environmental management. For information on checkoff-funded programs, pork producers can call the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-7675 or check the internet at pork.org. About the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a 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 and includes ex officio representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation. Learn more: www.foundationfar.org ## Contacts: Jason Ross, Animal Science, Iowa Pork Industry Center, 515-294-8647, jwross@iastate.edu Ed Adcock, Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications Service, 515-294-2314, edadcock@iastate.edu On the Web: This and all other Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences news releases and related photos are available at http://www.cals.iastate.edu/news/.


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  • Pioneering Impact Investment Program Receives Grant from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR)

    Kirchner Food Fellowship announces this year’s program will have a soil health investment focusBirmingham, Alabama & Washington, DC– 28 November 2018 – The Kirchner Food Fellowship, a Kirchner Impact Foundation initiative, today announced a collaboration with the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and North Carolina State University (NCSU) which will provide financial and technical expertise in support of the 2018-2019 Kirchner Food Fellowship program. The collaboration aligns the three organizations’ shared agricultural research priorities of water and soil efficiency. The Kirchner Food Fellows developed the 2018-2019 mandate to invest in a revenue-generating and environmentally restorative enterprise that aims to increase the profitability of smallholder farms through a focus on soil or water. While the amount of “smart” impact investment capital is increasing rapidly, global access to that capital is not. The Kirchner Food Fellowship attempts to rectify that, with a mission to develop and test low-cost, high-impact investment models using dedicated teams of millennial talent. The Kirchner, FFAR, NCSU collaboration is designed to encourage innovation, investment and increases in agricultural productivity by partnering Kirchner Fellows with FFAR Fellows in Agricultural Sciences. This partnership will create an interdisciplinary team that can more effectively identify and evaluate promising early stage innovations in agtech to facilitate smarter investments that both farmers and ultimately investors will benefit and profit from. “This collaboration strengthens public-private partnerships in the Agricultural Sciences. The Kirchner Food Fellowship trains student leaders to engage in investment decisions and fund potentially ground-breaking, sustainable technologies to support global food security. The FFAR Fellowship broadens the future of up and coming Agricultural Sciences leaders by connecting them to investors. A partnership between these organizations allows for knowledge sharing and cross pollination which leads to more well-rounded fellows which is extremely exciting for the future of agriculture” said FFAR Executive Director Sally Rockey, Ph.D. "I am excited to be part of the Kirchner Food Fellowship, which allows me to learn about new disruptive solutions to address global food insecurity and to practice cost-effective and impactful ways to invest in those solutions," said Ambulah Mamey, 2018-2019 Kirchner Food Fellow “This is an exciting step in the continued growth of our unprecedented program,” added Fellowship Director Blair Kirchner. “We firmly believe we have validated our model so that it can be scaled and replicated. We look forward to working closely with FFAR throughout this collaboration” The Kirchner Food Fellowship is made possible through the support of Kirchner Group, a boutique firm that provides advisory, operational and M&A support to small and medium sized businesses as well as asset management services. Kirchner has a three decade history working with agriculture and food companies and is considered one of the leading boutique groups in the agtech sector. The Fellowship is sponsored as part of its ‘returning’ initiatives and capitalizes on Kirchner’s unprecedented track record and network in the sector.    Kirchner Food Fellowship The Kirchner Food Fellowship, a Kirchner Impact Foundation (501 (c) (3)) initiative and a pioneer of the lean focused investment team movement, harnesses the power of millennials to find, fund and assist promising socially responsible agricultural businesses. The program provides unprecedented “real world” capital allocation training for select teams of university students. The Fellowship applies a problem-based learning and solutions approach with the goal of enhancing capital efficiency, lessening capital deployment costs, shortening time frames and increasing the likelihood of investment success.  www.fundthefood.com Steve Dauphin Director Kirchner Impact Foundation 205.602.9845 sdauphin@kirchnerimpact.com   Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit 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. Sarah Goldberg Director of Communications and Legislative Affairs Foundation for Food and Agriculture 202.624-0704 sgoldberg@foundationfar.org   Kirchner Group Kirchner Group was founded in 1985 as a boutique advisory firm and today operates various subsidiaries, providing advisory services (M&A, assessments, diligence) and operational support (interim management, workouts, turnarounds) as well as asset management (dedicated, underperforming funds) – all leveraging a proprietary approach that dovetails domain and process expertise. Throughout the decades Kirchner Group has been internationally recognized for its unique business model centered around creating value while promoting values: “earning while returning”. The firm has also established a reputation for building and rebuilding important business and social paradigms based on its deep entrepreneurial orientation. Kirchner Group's clients and partners include early stage to mid-market companies, venture capital and private equity firms as well as family offices and some of the world’s largest insurance companies, commercial banks and institutional investors. www.kirchnergroup.com Blair Kirchner Managing Director & Co-Head of Impact Activities Kirchner Group 902.817.2405 bgkirchner@kirchnergroup.com


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  • 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 worldwideThe 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 AfricaPhoto Credit: DIACAPE 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 awardedA 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 solutionTeam 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 solutionsTeam 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 solutionsTeam 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 PartnersFeed 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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