TL,DR: This guide will give you all the tools you need to be successful in your pursuit of grant funding from The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR). It will outline best practices for accessing opportunities, engaging agencies, and developing your proposal. 


  • Organization Overview
  • Mission
  • How Much Funding Is Available


  • Step 1: Deciding on a Funding Mechanism
    • FFAR Request for Application
    • Prizes
    • Direct Funds
    • Consortia
  • Step 2: Getting Registered
  • Step 3: Responding To The Opportunity
  • Step 4: Contracting & Accounting
    • Contracting
    • Accounting


  • Helpful Links
  • Templates & Examples


Organization Overview

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) was established by the Agricultural Act of 2014, known as the Farm Bill. The premise of FFAR’s formation was that increased investment in cutting edge research and development, through public-private partnerships, would be critical to nourishing a growing global population. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research was created to support food and agriculture research, foster collaboration, and advance and complement the mission of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

After the Farm Bill was signed into law, Secretary Vilsack and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) began building the Foundation from the ground up. On July 15, 2014, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research was officially incorporated.

FFAR builds unique partnerships to support innovative science addressing today’s food and agriculture challenges. They believe that a vibrant research community of nonprofits, foundations, governments, individual researchers and producers, colleges and universities, and companies can support and implement the science we need to meet our common goal: to grow enough food, in an economically, environmentally, and sustainable way, to nourish the growing US and global population that are food insecure.  Part of our role in this collaborative effort is to convene individuals and groups who can pool creative ideas, expertise and resources so that we can make a difference, together.


With 9.7 billion people projected to populate the world by 2050, our food system must evolve. Sustainably nourishing the growing global community demands transformative discoveries from the best and brightest scientists. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research brings together leading experts to identify and investigate the researchable questions whose answers have the potential to enhance the economic and environmental resilience of our food supply.

Food and agriculture systems are complex–comprised of many interconnected factors. FFAR focused on several challenge areas including healthy soil, sustainable water management, next generation crops, advanced animal systems, urban food systems and health and ag nexus. FFAR’s work in each of the Challenge Area’s aims to solve large-scale agricultural problems, while understanding broad implications and impacts. FFAR envisions a world in which innovative and collaborative science provides every person access to nutritious, affordable food grown on thriving farms. It is only by working together, through an interdisciplinary approach, that we can achieve this vision.

How Much Funding Is Available

FFAR awards vary in size. FFAR builds public-private partnerships to fund innovative food and agriculture science that transforms food systems to benefit farmers, consumers and the environment. They engage stakeholders across academia, public sector and private companies to identify pressing research ideas with potential to fill critical knowledge gaps and advance science.

While an independent nonprofit, the Foundation complements and advances the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) mission and builds programs that are of mutual interest to USDA and the agricultural community at-large. The FFAR funds only the most innovative, actionable science with the potential for positive impact in the United States and around the world.

Key Points to Consider

  • FFAR requires 1-1 match funding. 
  • FFAR issues awards in the following formats
    • Requests for Applications
    • Prizes
    • Direct Funds
    • Consortia

We encourage you to reach out and explore this unique funding agency. You can visit them at You can also search a comprehensive database of grants including FFAR opportunities on OpenGrants. Create a free account here.

FFAR builds scientific programs to advance agriculture research on specific topics and funds innovative projects through those programs. The stages of FFAR’s research program development includes Concept Development, Concept Clearance and Program Approval. After a research program is established, FFAR announces the program publicly and funds innovative projects through those programs. 

FFAR typically evaluates and scores program proposals based on four categories of weighted review criteria:

  • Novelty, Innovation and Originality (30%)
  • Impact and Outcome (25%)
  • Technical Merit and Feasibility (30%)
  • Partnerships (15%)

At times, FFAR customizes review criteria and/or changes the weighting based on the program priorities.



Step 1: Deciding on a Funding Mechanism

You are going to want to pick a specific method for engaging FFAR. With the variety of funding options available to you, its best to get very clear on your approach. 

FFAR Request for Application 

FFAR issues a Request for Application (RFA) to solicit ideas from the broadest group of researchers. Some of FFAR’s programs issue RFAs annually and others are a one-time opportunity. The highest quality proposals in terms of technical merit and impact are selected for funding through a rigorous scientific review process. This is a great avenue to pursue if you find that your technology is a great fit for the request. 


FFAR offers prize competitions to inspire excellence in food and agriculture science or to solve an imminent problem. Prizes are awarded to individuals or organizations who meet the prize criteria and solve the food and agriculture challenge. Once again this is a great fit if you happen to be working on something they are offering a prize for.

Direct Funds

When FFAR knows of a specific individual or organization that is well- suited to conduct the necessary research, a research proposal may be directly solicited from that organization. The proposal is subject to the same rigorous scientific review process and matching funding requirement as other proposals. This is a great opportunity for startups who may not fit into any specific funding category. 


Food and agriculture research can be financially risky. FFAR establishes precompetitive consortia to address common problems recognized across the industry, where solutions are beneficial to all. Consortia participants jointly determine research priorities, pool resources and knowledge, and share research results, which also become public. This can be a great fit for startups with a heavy tech or research debt. However, it can get complicated when it comes to IP issues.

Step 2: Getting Registered 

If you plan on submitting a proposal to FFAR you will need to create an account in their SurveyMonkey Apply portal. FFAR accepts applications from all U.S. nonprofit and for-profit organizations, U.S. government affiliated researchers, and international organizations. 

If you are a new applicant, you can create an account for free: FFAR SM Portal

Step 3: Responding To The Opportunity

Getting started you will submit a pre-proposal. The pre-proposal is an awesome feature of the platform because it allows you to get feedback before doing an exhaustive amount of work. 

Submitted pre-proposal applications will go through an internal review process to ensure that the proposed project is relevant to the RFA and suitable to FFAR’s mission. Only the most innovative and cutting-edge projects with significant potential for advancing agricultural research will be invited to submit a full proposal application. Applicants should expect to be notified of whether they are invited or not invited to submit a full proposal no later than three weeks of the pre-proposal submission deadline. The pre-proposal is binding, therefore, only applicants who submitted a pre-proposal and were invited can submit a full proposal application.

FFAR typically evaluates and scores program proposals based on four categories of weighted review criteria:

  • Novelty, Innovation and Originality (30%)
  • Impact and Outcome (25%)
  • Technical Merit and Feasibility (30%)
  • Partnerships (15%)

Submitted full proposals will undergo further review using a two-stage peer review process: (1) External Peer Review, and (2) FFAR Advisory Council review. In the first stage, applications will be evaluated by an independent, external peer review panel of scientific experts. In the second stage, proposals judged to be most meritorious by external peer review panels will be evaluated and recommended for funding by the FFAR Advisory Council.

Step 4: Contracting & Accounting 


Your grant will ultimately be a contractual relationship with you and the FFAR foundation. The only advice we will give here is: Have your attorney review your contract! 

We are not attorneys, and this is not legal advice. Consult with your attorney about every aspect of contracting, accounting and audits. 


In general, once a funder has informed you that you will receive a grant, the revenue is immediately recognized in the same fiscal year – whether or not you’ve actually received the money yet. This complies with an accounting principle referred to as the “matching principle.” This principle states that revenue is recognized in the period that reasonable assurance exists that it will be received. In other words, as soon as you’re sure that you will receive a grant, you should go ahead and recognize it.

For nonprofits, this means revenue may be recognized in a different period than when the check arrives. For example, you may be notified of an award in December, but the check doesn’t come until January. If the money does not change hands within the same fiscal year, to conform with GAAP you must book a receivable (meaning that you haven’t received the cash yet). That will ensure the funds are recognized in the proper fiscal year.

A caveat to this statement is the fact that the grant may be given with specific conditions attached. If these conditions create barriers or stipulations requiring action of the grantee, it can be considered a conditional grant. If this is the case, these donor-imposed conditions must be met before the organization recognizes the revenue.

Revenue recognition can be tricky, particularly for nonprofits. If your organization has additional questions relating to grant revenue recognition, refer to ASU 2018-08


Helpful Links

A quick list of curated resources

Get Involved

OpenGrants is on a mission to deploy modern financial infrastructure to support efficient, equitable, and transparent grant funding processes. We believe this work is imperative to strengthen democracy, but we can’t achieve this mission alone.

We’ve always planned on including our community as financial partners in this venture. For that reason, contractors on our platform have access to earn $GRANT and can receive equity in the company. Accredited investors can purchase $GRANT as well.

We hope you consider joining our journey and invest in OpenGrants.