Long arm of tractor sprays fertilizer on. Rows of young corn. Long arm of tractor sprays fertilizer on. Rows of young corn.

FFAR-OCP Disruptive Fertilizer Technology Fellowship Program

Open Opportunity


Dr. LaKisha Odom

Grants Team

Applications are under review

About the FFAR-OCP Disruptive Fertilizer Technology Fellowship

Fertilizers are an essential input to produce healthy, high-yielding crops; however, plants may not absorb all the fertilizer applied, and excess fertilizer can produce harmful environmental consequences. Farmers need improved fertilizer technologies and guidance to improve soil and plant health, crop productivity and environmental resilience.

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) and OCP North America (OCPNA), a subsidiary of the global plant-nutrition company OCP Group, created the FFAR-OCP Disruptive Fertilizer Technology Fellowship (FFAR-OCP Fellowship) to provide early-career scientists with opportunities to advance research on precision fertilizer application methods, nutrient recommendation methods and guidance on land applications of animal waste to customize and enhance fertilizer efficiency. Ultimately, the FFAR-OCP Fellowship intends to deliver new innovations in fertilizer products that are safe, effective, commercially scalable and easily understood by farmers. The FFAR-OCP Fellowship is a two-year program supported by $250,000 from both FFAR and OCP North America for a total program fund of $500,000.

Each awardee may receive up to $75,000 in funding, and applicants are not required to secure additional funds. FFAR and OCP are hosting a webinar about the request for applications at 1 p.m. ET on June 28, 2023; preregistration for the webinar is required.

Application Guidelines

Who can apply?

The fellowship provides support for up to three early career scientists who are within up to 10 years of receiving a Ph.D. to conduct research in fertilizer efficiency development.

Are matching funds required?

Matching funds are not required for this program.

What type of projects are applicable?

We are seeking projects in fertilizer efficiency research and technology development that have already demonstrated promise in a first phase of research and would clearly benefit from a catalytic push to achieve proof of concept or early product development to progress to a second phase.

The fellowship will not support brand new research proposals without any prior history of research progress.

When does the application window close?

The FFAR-OCP Fellowship is accepting applications for the 2023 cohort until 5 p.m. ET on August 9, 2023.

What research topics are supported?

The FFAR-OCP Fellows program will support research in the following areas:

  • Gene editing/RNAi/Protein degradation approaches to enhance fertilizer use efficiency by plants.
  • Decarbonizing fertilizer production: A “greener” ammonia for “greener” fertilizer
  • Organic Fertilizers: Fertilizers qualified for organic certification with NPK macronutrients and/or organominerals.
  • Intelligent Fertilizers: Nanofertilizers and “smart” fertilizers that supply specific plant nutrient needs in real time (based on chemical formulations, coating, etc.)
  • Enhanced Efficiency Fertilizers: Slow-release and control-release fertilizers; stabilized fertilizers with a demonstrated limited nutrient loss at field-scale; combined chemical and organic compounds to improve efficiency.
  • Biofertilizers: Chemical or biologicals that include highly agronomically efficient microbes such as phosphorus solubilizing bacteria, nitrogen-fixing bacteria, PGPRs, fungi and others and/or coating technology to improve long-lasting viability of microbes and feasibility of industrial production of biofertilizers.
  • Biostimulants: Biostimulants that control and/or boost development and/or are effective in alleviating biotic and abiotic stress.
  • Specialty products: Highly soluble fertilizers; highly efficient fertilizers for drip irrigation applications, foliar spray, and for specialty crops.
What does the fellowship provide awardees?

Awardees will receive a maximum of $75,000 that will cover 12 to 24 months of research. The awardees will also receive a certificate and be named as OCP/FFAR disruptive fertilizer technology fellows. Fellows may be extended the opportunity to partner with OCP and the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Morocco to co-develop novel fertilizer products that could be highly efficient both for high production and low input agriculture following the completion of the project.

How do I apply?

Applications must be submitted through FFAR’s online Grant Management System. Applications not submitted through this portal will not be considered eligible for evaluation. To be fair to all our applicants, FFAR will not grant an extension to applicants who missed the deadlines posted in the Key Dates section.

To start a new application, please click here. If you are a new user, register for an account by clicking the “Create Account” button located under the email address field on the left side of the home page. Once you log in, you may begin working on your application. Please be sure to save your work often by clicking on “Save and Finish Later”. To access a saved application, please do so through your Grant Management Account.

How are proposals reviewed?

Submitted full proposals will undergo a two-stage peer review process: (1) External Peer Review, and (2) FFAR/OCP Selection Committee Review. In the first stage, applications will be evaluated by an independent, external peer review panel of scientific experts using the proposal review criteria posted in this RFA. In the second stage, applications judged to be most meritorious by external peer review panel will be evaluated and recommended for funding by the selection committee based on comparisons with applications from the same cohort and FFAR’s program priorities. All reviewers are required to read and acknowledge acceptance of FFAR’s Conflict of Interest Policy and Non-Disclosure Agreement. We make reasonable efforts to ensure that proposals are not assigned to reviewers with a real or apparent conflict with the applicant or project personnel. Reviewers with a conflict of interests are recused from evaluating or participating in the discussions of proposals with which they have a conflict. Each stage of the review is conducted confidentially.

Applications recommended for funding by FFAR/OCP fellowship selection committee will go to the FFAR’s Scientific Program Director and Executive Director to consider program priorities set by the Soil Health Advisory Board, portfolio balance across programs, and available funding. FFAR/OCP Fellowship selection committee will vote to approve each grant award recommendation made by the Science Program Director and the Executive Director.

What are the review criteria?

Full proposals are evaluated based on scored primary review criteria and unscored secondary review criteria. The bullets under each criterion may serve as a guideline to applicants when writing their proposals, and as a guideline to reviewers on what to consider when judging proposals. The bullets are illustrative and not intended to be comprehensive. Reviewers will evaluate and score each primary criterion and subsequently assign a global score that reflects an overall assessment of the application. The overall assessment will not be an average score of the individual criterions; rather, it will reflect the reviewers’ overall impression of the application. Evaluation of the scientific merit of each application is within the sole discretion of the peer reviewers and they may raise additional factors to consider that are not covered in the bullets for each criterion.

All proposals will be screened for relevance, accuracy, completeness, and compliance with FFAR policies. Applications must demonstrate the potential to meet the evaluation criteria.

Primary Review Criteria
Novelty, Innovation, and Originality (45%)

  • Does the proposed project innovatively address a challenge related to our food supply or sustainable agriculture via improvement of soil health and responsible plant nutrition?
  • Does the proposal challenge an existing paradigm(s) leading to a step-change in next-gen fertilizer science and technology?

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 cutting-edge 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 under high production or low input agriculture environments?
  • 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 by potential leveraging of OCP group’s massive R&D and manufacturing infrastructure?
  • Does the proposed project provide training for the next generation of scientists?

Secondary Review Criteria
Secondary criteria contribute to the global score assigned to the application. Concerns with these criteria potentially question the feasibility of the proposed research. Examples of secondary review criteria are, Budget, Duration of the project, Research Environment, Scalability and Dissemination, Protections for Human and Animal Subjects, and Previous Project Performance.

How is the award administered?

Selection Notice
Following the full proposal review, the principal investigator and the authorized organization representative listed on the project will be officially notified by email whether (1) the proposal has been selected for funding pending contract negotiations, or (2) the proposal has not been selected funding. If a proposal is selected for funding, the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research reserves the right to request additional or clarifying information for any reason deemed necessary, including, but not limited to, matching funds if applicable, or other budget information. Potential grantees are free to accept or reject the Grant Agreement as offered.

Award Notice
FFAR notifies applicants of whether they are selected for funding through email. The notice does not constitute an award or obligate funding from FFAR until there is a fully executed Grant Agreement.

Grant Period(s)
Upon receipt of the Grant Agreement, the potential grantee should note the Start Date and the End Date. Grantees may only use FFAR funds on project expenditures on or after the Start Date of the Grant. Charging expenditures to the grant prior to the effective date is strictly prohibited. Likewise, grantees may not use FFAR funds after the End Date except to satisfy obligations to pay allowable project costs committed on or before that date.

What are the post award management requirements?

Reporting Requirements
Annual Reporting Requirements: After FFAR confers a grant, the grantee must provide annual scientific and financial progress reports. The report should include 1) activities carried out under the grant relative to the anticipated timeline presented in the grant application, 2) planned vs. actual budget expenditures, and 3) match verification. The report also should highlight project accomplishments. Additional reporting of the level of adaptation practice adoption may be requested on a sub annual timeframe. Awardees will be provided with access to the required online forms.

Final Report Requirements
Within 90 days of completing the project, the grantee shall provide a final project report. This report should address the project objectives outlined in the original grant application, describe any modifications to the project objectives and scope, present the results and interpretation, describe the final project accomplishments, and include a final project accounting of all grant funds.

Scientific Integrity
FFAR’s ability to pursue its mission to build unique partnerships to support innovative science addressing today’s food and agriculture challenges depends on the integrity of the science on which it relies. A fundamental purpose of FFAR is to facilitate the advancement of knowledge and the application of the science to address challenges relevant to the FFAR’s mission. All FFAR grants must be conducted with the highest standards of scientific integrity.

Grant Terms and Conditions
The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research expects applicants to have reviewed the sample Grant Agreement prior to applying to ensure that the applicants are aware of the applicable terms under which the grant is offered. FFAR will only entertain potential modifications to the Grant Agreement under the most exceptional circumstances. Successful applicants are strongly encouraged to sign the Grant Agreement as presented.

What if I have questions?

FFAR and OCP are hosting an informational webinar about the request for applications at 1 p.m. ET on June 28 , 2023; preregistration for the webinar is required. This webinar is intended to answer applicant questions

If you have additional questions, FFAR only accepts scientific, 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 we receive and the complexity of the questions asked. Please note that we do not monitor this mailbox on evenings, weekends, or federal holidays. All Scientific and Grants Questions Contact should be emailed to grants@foundationfar.org.