2021 Seeding Solutions Request for Applications

Open Opportunity

Grants Management Team


Apply Now

The application period is now closed.

Pre-Application Open: January 27, 2021 at 12:00 p.m. ET

Pre-Applications Due: March 17, 2021 5:00 p.m. ET

NOTE: An approved pre-application with an invitation to submit a full application is required for submission.

Full Application Invitation: May 5, 2021

Full Applications Due: July 7, 2021 5:00 p.m ET

Award Notification: Fall 2021

Anticipated Project Start Date: Early 2022

Download the 2021 RFA

About Seeding Solutions

Seeding Solutions encourages the development of unique partnerships that support innovative and transformative research focused on our Challenge Areas. FFAR will award a total of up to $10 million in grants through the 2021 Seeding Solutions program. Individual awards will range from $300,000 to $1 million for up to ten awards.

FFAR is placing priority on projects that demonstrate strong partnerships and significant agricultural advancements through innovation.

To be considered, applications must address and provide solutions to an intractable problem and/or accelerate innovation within FFAR’s Challenge Areas.

Applications Guidelines

What are the requirements to apply?

FFAR seeks projects that foster innovation with the potential for transformative impact within FFAR’s Challenge Areas. Applications that address the following will receive preference:

  1. Contribute to the goal of sustainable food and agriculture, defined as practices that “satisfy human food and fiber needs; enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends; make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls; sustain the economic viability of farm operation; and enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.” (Food and Agriculture, Conservation and Trade Act of 1990, Public Law 101-624, Title XVI, Subtitle A, Section 1603).
  2. Accelerate innovation within FFAR’s Challenge Areas. For this request for applications (RFA), FFAR defines innovation as follows:
    • Radical Innovation: Development of new technologies, software, algorithms, methodology, or products with the potential to transform agricultural systems.
    • Applied Innovation: Application and validation of new or emerging technologies, processes or management strategies to address significant challenges in food and agriculture systems.
    • Re-imagined Innovation: Adaptation of existing technologies, processes or management strategies for entirely new agricultural applications.
  3. Address an aspect of the following Challenge Area priorities. Additional information is available through the Challenge Area links provided. We encourage applicants to reach out to the Scientific Program Director of the appropriate Challenge Area of interest to hone ideas before submitting a pre-application (see Application Assistance below).
    • Soil Health: Advanced understanding of what soil health is, how it is measured and how to manage and optimize the sustainable delivery of the ecosystem services which soils provide
    • Sustainable Water Management: Interdisciplinary, model-based research related to near-surface hydrology and designed to advance precision agriculture and water management
    • Next Generation Crops:  Advanced breeding methods and development of biotic and abiotic stress tolerance for crops grown in organic and conventional cropping systems to increase farmer profitability and environmental resilience
    • Advanced Animal Systems: Improved animal health, welfare and productivity, antibiotic stewardship and the environment through innovative partnershipp
    • Urban Food Systems: Elucidation of connections between urban food systems and the urban environment, in addition to the connections between rural and urban communities to improve food and nutritional security, human health outcomes, economic opportunities and food system resiliency through transdisciplinary partnerships
    • Health- Agriculture Nexus: Systems-level approaches (both technological and non-technological) aimed at reducing food and nutritional insecurity and improving human health in the United States and worldwide
  4. Demonstrate fully integrated partnerships with different sectors (private, non-government organizations (NGO), governments, academia and other stakeholders) such that research outcomes may be scalable and applicable to food and agriculture systems. The development of public-private partnerships is central to FFAR’s vision and core mission: Building unique partnerships to support innovative science addressing today’s food and agriculture challenges. External matching funds (i.e., contributions provided by partners outside of an applicant’s home institution) will strengthen the application’s standing. These partners may include but are not limited to private and public corporations, non-profits, foundations, commodity and trade groups, and state and local governments. Unique partnerships including organizations that may not typically work in agriculture, are strongly encouraged.
  5. Serve the public good by making data open and accessible to the public, creating unique economic development opportunities, or contributing to food and agriculture workforce development.

FFAR, as a part of its mission, seeks “not only brilliant minds but also fresh perspectives tackling today’s challenges in food and agriculture. We embrace diversity and promote inclusiveness in all we do, from the teams we build to the grantees we support.” FFAR also understands that the outside-the-box thinking needed to drive innovation occurs when researchers with different skillsets and experience collaborate. With that spirit of diversity and inclusiveness in mind, cross-disciplinary research teams, especially those that include disciplines not traditionally associated with food or agriculture science, to develop innovative solutions to address current agricultural challenges are strongly encouraged to apply to the Seeding Solutions program.

Am I eligible to apply?

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research welcomes applications from all domestic and international higher education institutions, non-profit and for-profit organizations, and U.S. government-affiliated research agencies.

Any individual(s) with the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to carry out the proposed research as Program Director(s)/Principal Investigator(s) may apply to the Seeding Solutions program through their home institution or organization.

What do I need to know about this opportunity?

At FFAR’s discretion, we will award a total of up to $10 million in grants through the 2021 Seeding Solution program. Individual awards will range from $300,000 to $1 million for up to ten awards. All projects must have planned durations ranging between 12 and 60 months. Successful projects will receive annual disbursements.

Key budget considerations are noted below, and additional budgetary guidelines can be found on our website. Applicants are encouraged to contact FFAR’s Grant Team to discuss any concerns related to the matching requirements (see Matching Guidelines).

    • All grants require matching contributions equal to or greater than the FFAR funding request. Matching funds must come from a non-U.S. Federal entity.  Excess match will not influence the potential success of an application.
    • Matching funds cannot supplement or supplant preexisting funds for the project. Matching funds must correspond to line items in the full application budget. At least 50 percent of matching funds must be a cash match per FFAR’s definition of cash. The remainder may be an in-kind match per FFAR’s definition of in-kind.
    • A maximum of 10 percent of the total award may be used for indirect costs. FFAR’s indirect cost allotment is not an indirect cost rate applied to the total modified direct costs; instead, it is an overall allotment from the Total Funds Request, also known as the Total Project Costs. This requirement means 90 percent of the total funds requested must go directly to the proposed research.
    • Reasonable budgets work in favor of the applicant. Budgets that are not commensurate with proposed work or poorly justified likely will negatively affect the overall evaluation of the application.
  • How do I apply?
    • All proposals must be submitted through FFAR’s online application Grant Management System. If the applicant is a new user, they must register for an account by clicking the green “Register” button at the top right corner of FFAR’s Grants Management System home page. Once a user is registered and a confirmation email is received, the user can activate the account, and once logged in, click on the Seeding Solutions program link to start the application.
    • Only applications submitted by the deadline through FFAR’s Grant Management System will be accepted and considered eligible for evaluation. To be fair to all our applicants, FFAR will not grant extensions to applicants who missed the deadlines posted in the Key Dates section.
    What are the evaluation criteria?

    All proposals will be screened for relevance, accuracy, completeness, and compliance with FFAR policies. Pre-proposal applications must demonstrate the potential to meet the evaluation criteria. Full proposals then will be evaluated on the following criteria:

    Novelty, Innovation and Originality (30%)

    • Does the proposed project innovatively address a challenge related to our food supply or sustainable agriculture?
    • Does the proposal align with FFAR’s Challenge Area priorities?
    • Does the proposal challenge an existing paradigm(s) in food and agriculture science?

    Technical Merit and Feasibility (30%)

    • Does the proposal clearly outline the aims and objectives?
    • Does the proposal include appropriately thorough, tractable and feasible methods?
    • Has the principal investigator assembled a qualified research team with access to the appropriate field and laboratory facilities?
    • Does the proposal present a tractable timeline and budget?
    • Does the proposal include adequate risk evaluation and a mitigation plan?
    • Does the proposal include an adequate data management plan with a commitment to public access?

    Impacts and Outcomes (25%)

    • Does the proposal adequately describe the potential impact and applied relevance of the research?
    • Does the proposal identify how FFAR is uniquely positioned to fund this project?
    • Does the proposal emphasize scalability and present a plan for disseminating the project outcomes?
    • Does the proposed project provide training for the next generation of scientists?

    Partnerships (15%)

    • Does the proposal include and description of the partnership?
    • Does the project present a compelling and novel partnership opportunity?
    • Does the proposal include adequate confirmation of partner commitment(s)?
    What are the application components?

    Pre-Application Components

    • Project title (up to 250 characters)
    • Key project personnel – name(s), affiliation, expertise, project role
    • Project description
      • What challenge or existing paradigm is the project addressing? (up to 500 words)
      • How will the project address the stated challenge and advance understanding of an understudied research topic or information gap? (up to 500 words)
      • What innovative outcomes will the project generate? Describe how the project will solve challenges to food supply or sustainable agriculture. (up to 500 words)
      • Why is FFAR ideally positioned to fund this project? (up to 500 words)
    • Project timeline
      • Proposed project start date
      • Proposed project duration (in calendar months)
    • Budget
      • Total FFAR funding request
      • Total matching funds (at least 50% of match must be cash per FFAR matching guidelines)
      • Total proposed budget (FFAR funds + matching funds)
    • Funding partners: List any committed or potential funding partners, describe why they are an appropriate source of matching funds, and any prior contact you have had or relationship you have developed with them about this project.

    Applications that demonstrate strong partnerships by way of matching from external sources outside the applicant institutions are encouraged. These partners may include but are not limited to the private sector, non-profits, commodity and trade groups, state governments, and others that do not traditionally work in agriculture.

    Full Application Components

    Required components

    • Project title (up to 250 characters)
    • Key project personnel – name(s), affiliation, expertise, project role
    • Locations of performance
    • Project abstract (up to 500 words)
    • Why is FFAR ideally positioned to fund this project? (up to 500 words)
    • Goals and objectives (up to 500 words)
    • Project description and approach (up to 5000 words)
    • Anticipated outcomes or outputs (up to 1000 words)
    • Data management plan (up to 500 words)
    • Barriers to adoption of the research outcome(s) (Note: FFAR strongly encourages applicants to address social and economic factors in the project design, evaluation processes, and outcomes, where applicable.) (up to 500 words)
    • Organization Assurances
    • Proposed budget
      • Total FFAR funding request
      • Total matching funds (at least 50% of match must be cash per FFAR matching guidelines)
      • Total proposed budget (FFAR funds + matching funds)
      • Budget narrative: Provide a brief overview of the budget by task or objective, in parallel to the approach outlined in the project’s description. Address costs related to personnel, equipment, and facilities, and analytics. (up to 1000 words)
      • Budget justification by year (up to 1000 words)
      • Current and Pending Support Form: complete for everyone listed as P.I. or Key personnel on the project

    Required Attachments: Failure to provide these attachments will result in the application’s disqualification.

      • Project Description and References Cited: This should be identical to the Project Description written out in the Full Proposal Application form, but may include graphics, figures, equations, and tables. Please also include up to five pages of references cited, which will not count toward the word limit. (up to 5000 words)
      • Budget Form
      • P.I. and Key Personnel Biosketch: three-page limit per individual listed as P.I. or key personnel in the project
      • Project timeline (by year)
      • Matching Fund Verification Letter(s)

    Optional attachments: Applicants can upload any of the following as a single PDF document.

      • Five (5)-slide summary or description of the project
      • Letters of Support: Applicants can provide letters support for the proposed project, especially from matching funders.
      • Graphics, Figures, Equations, and Tables not included in the Project Description: Applicants may upload a PDF document with graphics, figures, tables, or a list of equations to support the research program plan. Five-page limit.
    Who should I contact for assistance?

    Technical Help Contact

    Mon–Fri: 8 AM EST – 8 PM EST, Weekends: 10 AM EST – 6 PM EST

    Phone support upon request Mon–Fri: 9 AM EST – 7 PM EST

    Email: support@smapply.com

    For questions related to the online submission system, please contact FFAR’s Grant Management team at grants@foundationfar.org.

    For questions related to the Seeding Solutions grant program, please contact FFAR’s Grant Team at grants@foundationfar.org.

    For questions related to the Challenge Area or Programmatic Questions, please contact the appropriate Scientific Program Director:

    Challenge Area:

    Scientific Program Director (Email Contact):

    Soil Health LaKisha Odom (lodom@foundationfar.org)

    Sustainable Water Management Kathleen Boomer (kboomer@foundationfar.org)

    Next Generation Crops Jeff Rosichan (jrosichan@foundationfar.org)

    Advanced Animal Systems Tim Kurt (tkurt@foundationfar.org)

    Health and Agriculture Nexus Lucyna Kurtyka (lkurtyka@foundationfar.org)

    Urban Food Systems John Reich (jreich@foundationfar.org)

    We only accept scientific or programmatic and grants inquiries by email. We strive to respond to inquiries within two business days, but our response time depends on the volume of questions received and the complexity of the questions asked. Please note that we do not monitor this mailbox on evenings, weekends, or federal holidays.

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