ACIAR, in partnership with Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), is looking for new concept ideas to address the challenge of reducing food loss in developing country value chains.
The Food Futures Research program is an initiative funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) to support strategic agricultural research that will have a transformative impact on food security into the foreseeable future.
ACIAR considers food loss and food waste to be a symptom of larger inefficiencies in food systems. Food loss can lower incomes for smallholder farmers, increase climate change impacts, and lower the resilience of food systems to shocks. Research is required to both understand the problem within varying contexts and develop interventions to reduce food loss. They are seeking ideas from teams to develop projects that understand the drivers of food loss in the broader food system perspective, and test interventions that may address this problem.
Whilst there has been a large amount of research documenting post-harvest losses, interventions that work in a developing country context are insufficient. The Future of Food Research Program is seeking ideas from research teams wishing to address this important issue from a food system perspective. The causes of food loss are diverse and range from value chain inefficiencies and poor communication systems at the local level to structural inefficiencies at the regional level. They are seeking ideas from teams using a clearly defined two-step process.
Projects must contain the following elements:
- An examination of the food systems at a provincial or local level for one to several agricultural value chains in a minimum of two focal countries. One of the two focal countries must come from the country list provided at the end of this document, and the lead organization must be based in that country. The second focal country may be any country in which ACIAR currently works (see country list). This may involve mapping the current stakeholders (including smallholder farmers and private agri-businesses) from harvest/slaughter through to the consumers and documenting the types and amounts of food loss that occur along the chain. This will involve collecting new primary data (both quantitative data and qualitative data from interviews with stakeholders) and synthesizing existing data if available. Please explain why you have chosen certain value chains over others in your target countries. If relevant for the value chain(s) under examination, an exercise to gather data on food loss during global shock events such as the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic could also be included.
- A foresight exercise to explore how these value chains are likely to change given future trends (up to 2040-2050) in farm labor (and gender dynamics), technology and mechanization, climate change, urban and rural population density, and food nutritional requirements. The team will assess what impact these changes may have on total food loss from the value chain. The foresight exercise should highlight large-scale structural changes and institutional reforms that may need to take place to build resilience in the food system to decrease future losses (especially from global shocks).
- The team should assess what interventions (knowledge, tools, technologies) are currently being successfully used to reduce food loss in each country (even at a pilot-scale). These technologies may be appropriate at any stage from harvest/slaughter to selling to consumers. For the transfer of innovations to be useful they suggest research on the same value chains in the two countries at different stages of development. It may be that successful interventions at one point in the supply chain could have beneficial consequences along the entire supply chain.
- An assessment of the factors that enable or prevent the transferring of interventions from one location to another to provide practical solutions for reducing food loss in the value chain. This may involve social/political/economic research on how likely the intervention is to be integrated into the new value chain successfully, and/or some pilot testing of hard technological solutions in new locations.
- Throughout the design and implementation of the project, the team must seek to engage private agri-businesses and input suppliers along the value chain to firstly documenting the food loss situation they are experiencing, and then secondly to explore models for how innovations to reduce food loss can be sustained long-term. Noting that to reduce food loss at one point in the value chain may involve interventions at other points along the chain (including change of practice by smallholder farmers).
- The project team must consist of a diversity of researchers from a minimum of two focal countries (see country list at the end of this document). The goal is to contrast food loss in the same value chain in multiple countries and identify where interventions might provide the most benefits. Another aim of the program is to facilitate south-south collaboration in the transfer and adaptation of technologies for smallholder food systems. They encourage involvement by researchers from developed countries, like Australia and Canada, but this is not a requirement for this program.
- ACIAR encourages the involvement of people who have not worked with ACIAR in the past and ask teams to include members from a diversity of backgrounds and qualifications, both to aid in understanding the food system in its entirety and to generate novel ideas for interventions to address food loss.
To be eligible the team must confirm the following:
- The team must involve a minimum of two organizations from two or more focal countries (in which the focal value chains are located). One of the focal countries must be from the list of the countries.
- The lead organization must be willing and able to enter into a contract agreement with ACIAR, should their idea be selected to move to stage 2. There is a significant amount of work to develop a full proposal so please bear this in mind when submitting your ideas.
- There must be demonstrated diversity in the team members according to the ACIAR gender guidelines. They will use the 40:40:20 rule as a guide to assessing this. That means teams should aim for a minimum of 40% of female team members and 40% of male team members. They will count people who are making a significant time contribution to the project (>15% full-time equivalent).
- The project leader must have submitted a completed application form (i.e. all required fields filled in and submitted on time). They will be unable to accept applications after the end date or by any other means than the online application form.
- The activities outlined in the application form must be focussed on research for development. To be considered research there must be some evidence that the team can conduct a systematic investigation, with defined methods to establish facts and draw conclusions. There may be some development or capacity-building activities, and they encourage the use of participatory research approaches.
The project ideas will be assessed by the assessment team according to these selection criteria:
- The idea
- Will the research questions and objectives deliver new knowledge to help address the problem of food loss?
- Is there a compelling rationale for the value chain(s) chosen and has this been adequately been explained?
- What is the likelihood that the project will facilitate the transfer of interventions to reduce food loss (knowledge/tools/innovations) between and within the countries involved?
- Has gender been adequately considered in the proposed research activities?
- What is the likelihood that the new knowledge generated through this project will contribute significantly to reducing food loss in the selected value chains through the impact pathway described?
- The team
- Does the team consist of a group of inter-disciplinary or trans-disciplinary people with skills in a diversity of disciplines?
- Do the skills/experience/position/location of the people on the team match the needs of the activities proposed?
- Is there a high level of predicted engagement with private agri-businesses along the value chain?
- Is the scale and scope of the proposed project (and potential impact) appropriate to justify the size of the budget?
- Has the budget been clearly articulated and justified in the application?
- Has the stage 1 application been written to a high standard in terms of answerable research questions and clarity of thoughts and ideas?
For more information, visit https://aciar.gov.au/funding/research-projects/submit-your-concept