–by Jen Wagner-Lahr, Senior Director of Innovation & Commercialization
The 2014 Farm Bill authorized the creation of an independent foundation designed to catalyze innovation to solve pressing challenges in food and agriculture. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) was created in part because there has been a steady decline of dollars invested globally into agriculture research.
When announcing the creation of the FFAR, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said “Studies have shown that every dollar invested in agriculture research creates $20 in economic activity. Investments in innovation made over the past several decades have developed new products and new procedures that have been critical to the growth of American agriculture.”
The Foundation will fund cutting-edge research and development; create public-private partnerships; convene stakeholders and thought leaders to foster collaboration; and build human capacity to advance innovation. The FFAR is a public-private partnership that will fund research into issues such as plant and animal health; food safety, nutrition and health; renewable energy, natural resources and environment; agricultural and food security; and agricultural systems and technology.
If the principles behind FFAR sound familiar, they should. More than 25 years ago AURI was created by the Minnesota legislature to foster long-term economic benefit for Minnesota through value-added agricultural products. AURI’s mission and that of the FFAR are very complementary.
AURI leadership has met with FFAR staff on several occasions to discuss opportunities for collaboration, to provide feedback and to offer support. In October, AURI board chair
Ron Obermoller addressed the FFAR board of directors at their first public session about the link between research, entrepreneurship and economic development.
“Research is the beginning,” Obermoller said. “We need great ideas coming out of our nation’s research institutions and we need those innovations to be successfully applied by businesses to capture their economic impact. Providing creative mechanisms to entice businesses and entrepreneurs to assume risks associated with innovation is vitally important. The Foundation’s support of businesses and entrepreneurs as they endeavor to commercialize new technologies could be an important component of catalyzing innovation to solve pressing challenges in food and agriculture.”
The FFAR has announced their first programs. The first is a New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award in which FFAR will support up to 10 early-career scientists with up to $200,000 per year. The award is designed to give recipients three years of financial support to pursue highly innovative research in one or more of FFAR’s focus areas and to act as mentors to the next generation of standout scientists in food and agriculture.
The second program is the establishment of a Rapid Response Program that will identify critical issue areas where research needs to be done quickly.
We are very excited about FFAR because it recognizes the value and the importance of applied research as a way to generate economic growth, something that has been an AURI focus for many years. Having a renewed commitment to research on a nationwide level can only help spur agricultural innovation in the future.
Learn more about FFAR at foundationfar.org