WASHINGTON, July 13, 2016 – The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) today announced its first major initiative – and it’s a doozy: a $100,000 prize to be awarded annually to a mid-career scientist.

FFAR, which was created by the 2014 farm bill, says the National Academy of Sciences prize will recognize “an extraordinary contribution to agriculture or to the understanding of the biology of a species fundamentally important to agriculture or food production.”

Nominations are being accepted through Oct. 3 for the prize, which is endowed by FFAR and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The prize, which will be awarded for the first time next year, may also be shared by one or more individuals for a collaborative accomplishment.

In a release, FFAR said establishing the NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences is part of its efforts to elevate food and agriculture research in the scientific arena and highlight the critical need for scientists working toward more productive, sustainable agriculture and better health through nutritious food.

“Scientific discovery has the power to transform how we live through the food we eat,” said Sally Rockey, FFAR’s executive director. She said FFAR is proud to partner with the Gates Foundation “to establish this important prize at the National Academy of Sciences recognizing food and agricultural scientists for research achievements leading to cutting edge technologies and practices that impact how we produce and deliver nutritious food. I look forward to the first honoree and those that follow as they continue making breakthroughs that feed the world.”

The inaugural prize will be the first award dedicated to food and agriculture research to be conferred by NAS, a nonprofit organization of elected members including 500 Nobel Prize winners.

“Endless discovery and innovation is essential in the quest to improve the quality of nutrition for all humans while recognizing inherent limitations in land, fresh water, and environmentally safe levels of fertilizer application,” said NAS President Marcia McNutt. “This new prize allows the National Academy of Sciences to recognize and support scientists whose research has the potential to improve our global food system.”

Mid-career researchers at U.S. institutions may be nominated. For the purposes of the prize, areas of science with applications to agriculture include plant and animal sciences, microbiology, nutrition and food science, soil science, entomology, veterinary medicine and agricultural economics.

FFAR said the foundation and its partners aim to complement the visibility brought to the food system by the World Food Prize, which recognizes individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. 

Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize, said the man who created that prize, biologist Norman Borlaug, believed it was “critical that we recognize and inspire those global breakthrough achievements that will be needed to feed the burgeoning world population in the 21st century." And he added that Borlaug, a Nobel laureate known as the “father of the green revolution,” would “strongly support and welcome” the NAS prize.

In an earlier interview with Agri-Pulse, Rockey, who came to FFAR from the National Institutes of Health, says she’s very excited about the project and its ability to elevate the importance of agricultural research within the scientific community.

“I think agricultural science is very sophisticated and cutting-edge, but it oftentimes is lost in the science world because of all the biomedical and physical science work.” 

For more about the NAS prize and the nominating process, click here.