New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award

Meeting and sustaining the growing global demand for food will require a scientific workforce committed to innovating the way food is grown, processed, and distributed. Funding early career faculty is one important way to cultivate a creative workforce who will train, encourage, and inspire future generations of agricultural and food scientists.

The New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award is designed to provide the early investment needed to launch new faculty members into successful scientific careers in food and agriculture. Investing a substantial amount in faculty members within the first three years of their careers will allow them to pursue innovative and transformational ideas uninhibited by the pressure of identifying their next grant. The New Innovator Award seeks to promote career advancement of highly creative and promising new scientists who intend to make a long-term career commitment to research in food and agriculture and bring innovative, ground-breaking research initiatives and thinking to bear on problems facing food and agriculture.

Key Dates

The nomination period for the 2019 New Innovator Award is closed. FFAR is reviewing submitted nominations and nominees who meet eligibility criteria will be invited to submit full proposals.

Nomination Period Open
January 16, 2019 at 10:00 am ET

Nominations Due
February 28, 2019 at 3:00 pm ET
Nominations must be made by the nominee’s institution. Up to two nominations per institution. Self-nominations are not accepted.

Nominees invited to submit full proposals
March 11, 2019 at 12:00 pm ET
Open only to individuals nominated by their institutions

Full Applications Due
April 24, 2019 at 3:00 pm ET

2018 New Innovators in Food and Agriculture Research

Amanda Ashworth, Ph.D.
United States Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service
Sustainable Agriculture Production
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, Ph.D.
Arizona State University
Sustainable Agriculture Production
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, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin - Madison
Advanced Animal Agriculture
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 R. Khot, Ph.D.
Washington State University
Health-Agriculture Nexus
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, Ph.D.
North Carolina State University
Health-Agriculture Nexus
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, Ph.D.
Auburn University
Sustainable Agriculture Production
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, Ph.D.
University of Maryland, College Park
Next Gen Crops
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, Ph.D.
University of Georgia
Next Gen Crops
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, Ph.D.
Utah State University
Sustainable Water Management
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.

2017 New Innovators in Food and Agriculture Research

Sotirios Archontoulis, Ph.D.
Iowa State University
Optimizing Agricultural Water Use

Dr. Archontoulis' research will enhance our understanding of groundwater impacts on soil-crop-atmospheric processes, improve simulation models, and thus our capacity to predict impacts and design mitigation strategies that will lead to improved water quality, soil health, and productivity. Outcomes of this work will reach stakeholders via an easy-to-use web-tool that will provide real-time forecasts.

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Steven Culman, Ph.D.
The Ohio State University
Transforming Soil Health

This research project will investigate promising tests of the rapidly cycled and biologically-active pool of organic matter to see how these tests reflect nutrient cycling and nutrient supply to crops. The project will build on a statewide, on-farm effort to revise fertilizer recommendations by pairing these results with active organic matter tests. The goal will be to reveal the ability of these tests to inform nutrient management decisions.

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Hannah Holscher, Ph.D.
University of Illinois
Nutrition and Healthful Food Choices

Dr. Holscher's research will include laboratory and computer experiments to further our understanding of how foods impact the gut microbiota and health outcomes. The results will provide information that will help consumers to make healthful food choices. It will also inform dietary guidance given by registered dietitians, health care providers, and extension specialists.

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Jonas King, Ph.D.
Mississippi State University
Spurring Food System Innovation

Dr. King's research will combine existing technologies with novel data analysis pipelines and refine their use in detecting diverse plant pathogens and insects of importance in row crop, orchard, and forestry settings. This research will impact consumers and producers as it will help identify novel means of pathogen detection in agricultural settings.

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Markita Landry, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley
Improving Plant Efficiency

Dr. Landry's goals are to develop tools to enable broad-scale production of transgenic plants, which can mitigate the increasingly urgent need for sustainable and high-yielding crops. The study of nanomaterial biodistribution in plant systems, and leveraging their use to create mature plant genetic transformants will enable a synthetic method to create robust crops to meet our growing food and energy needs.

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Kranthi Mandadi, Ph.D.
Texas A&M University
Improving Plant Efficiency

Dr. Mandadi test a method of screening for antimicrobial genes and chemicals effective against pathogens causing citrus greening and potato zebra chip diseases. The research findings can be translated into disease management strategies in the field that will help growers and the industry to combat the billions of dollars of annual losses.

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Diwakar Shukla, Ph.D.
University of Illinois
Improving Plant Efficiency

This project will utilize an ensemble of techniques to address a key agricultural challenge of low nitrogen use efficiency in plants and provide a unique platform to demonstrate the need, feasibility and impact of computational biophysics in understanding fundamental questions in plant biology.

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Maya Vadiveloo, Ph.D.
University of Rhode Island
Nutrition and Healthful Food Choices

Dr. Vadiveloo's research aims to understand whether targeting can increase the adoption of healthier food patterns and consider whether such approaches can be adopted on a population-scale to help people make healthier food decisions.

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2016 New Innovators in Food and Agriculture Research

Geoffrey Fisher, Ph.D.
Cornell University
New Innovator in Nutrition and Healthy Food Choices
Dr. Fisher's research will include a series of laboratory and field experiments that use a variety of eye tracking techniques to further our understanding of how attention to food attributes such as healthiness, tastiness, calories and packaging, might affect food purchasing decisions. The results of this project will inform new ways to promote healthier food choices by highlighting certain attributes of food choices.
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Amélie Gaudin, Ph.D.
University of California, Davis
New Innovator in Soil Health
Dr. Gaudin’s research will explore the relationship between root systems, soil health promoting practices, and crop productivity in order to shed light on how breeders and producers can grow more productive and resilient crops using sustainable practices at a large scale.
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Anjali Iyer-Pascuzzi, Ph.D.
Purdue University
New Innovator in Plant Efficiency
Dr. Iyer-Pascuzzi seeks to improve plant disease mitigation by investigating which genes are associated with root-mediated resistance, how diseases changes root architecture, and whether roots and shoots signal each other to suppress disease symptoms
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Mary Jamieson, Ph.D.
Oakland University
New Innovator in Plant Efficiency
Dr. Jamieson will investigate beneficial insects and the ecosystem services they provide, such as pollination and pest control, in urban agriculture. She will explore the composition of the insect community, evaluate strategies for enhancing ecosystem services provided by beneficial insects, and characterize the role that plant chemical compounds play in defending against insect pests and in attracting plant pollinators.  
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Isaya Kisekka, Ph.D.
Kansas State University
New Innovator in Water Use
Dr. Kisekka's research will integrate data related to agricultural water use from a number of sources including soils, weather, and plant-based measurements to develop methods and tools for optimizing water use in agriculture. If successful, this research will lead to more farmers adopting proven irrigation techniques and provide tools for optimizing water use in agriculture across a variety of crops.
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Crystal Levesque, Ph.D.
South Dakota State University
New Innovator in Sustainable Farm Animal Productivity, Resilience, and Health
Dr. Levesque aims to increase protein production from pigs, while reducing inputs and environmental impacts. Focusing on dietary requirements during sow pregnancy, Dr. Levesque’s research will provide a basis for precision feeding formulations for sows to optimize reproductive performance.
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Benjamin Reading, Ph.D.
North Carolina State University
New Innovator in Sustainable Farm Animal Productivity, Resilience, and Health
Dr. Reading will use artificial intelligence to determine the genetic factors responsible for heterosis, or instances of offspring performing better than their parents, in hybrid striped bass. If successful, this research will not only help transform fish production/breeding, but could also impact agriculture more broadly.
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Mary Anne Roshni Amalaradjou, Ph.D.
University of Connecticut
New Innovator in Nutrition and Healthy Food Choices
Dr. Amalaradjou will investigate the effect of dairy foods on gut health using a mouse model. This research will provide a comprehensive and deeper understanding of the molecular interactions that promote the health benefits associated with dairy consumption. Advancing this nutritional knowledge will empower consumers to make science-based healthful food choices.
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Lisa Tiemann, Ph.D.
Michigan State University
New Innovator in Soil Health
Dr. Tiemann’s research will focus on the interactions between crop diversity, soil microorganisms and soil organic matter, and how they may be managed to enhance soil services and sustainably increase crop yields.
More about this Innovator

Join the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research in supporting the next generation of food and agriculture scientists. 

If you or your organization is interested in becoming a sponsoring partner in this effort, please email Renée Bullion, Director of Development.