WASHINGTON — The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a nonprofit organization established through bipartisan congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, today joined with Bayer, Biogemma, KWS, FAPESP, Precision PlantSciences, Rijk Zwaan and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) to launch the Crops of the Future Collaborative, a new consortium that will accelerate crop breeding to meet global food demand 20-50 years in the future. FFAR’s initial $10 million commitment is expected to leverage significant additional investment from partners.
With the world population projected to reach 9.8 billion people by 2050, the Crops of the Future Collaborative will accelerate crop breeding through an innovative public-private model that pools proprietary knowledge, financial resources, and technology to carry out crop-specific research initially focusing on maize, leafy greens and wheat and small grains. The consortium will hone in on how a crop’s genetic information can yield traits needed to meet global nutritional demands in a changing environment. Participants will see their investments multiplied by a “one-to-many” matching model.
“The new Crops of the Future Collaborative brings together the resources of leading agriculture companies and research organizations to meet future food system challenges,” said Sally Rockey, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. “We enthusiastically welcome the initial Crops of the Future Collaborative partners who share the Foundation’s vision for increasing public-private collaboration and global investment in food and agriculture sciences.”
This collaboration will accelerate discoveries in ways not possible in the past by building on recent advances that have greatly enhanced scientists’ ability to study and improve specific crop traits. Recent progress includes advances in gene editing, crop genome sequencing and phenomics, or the study of the relationship between a plant’s genetic makeup, its environment, and its performance.
“This collaborative research with public and private partners will build on investments already made in agriculture research so that farmers like me see the return on those investments through improved plants in our fields,” said Pam Johnson, past president of the National Corn Growers Association and member of the FFAR board.
The new consortium will increase capacity to breed crops with specific traits, leading to plants that are adapted to different environments. Target crop characteristics might include enhanced nutritional qualities or ability to withstand environmental challenges such as drought, heat, or flooding. Ultimately, knowledge generated by the Collaborative will be publicly available through scientific publications and informational platforms, benefiting public and private crop breeding efforts.
“Rijk Zwaan is keen to actively contribute to the world’s food supply and stimulate vegetable consumption. Joining the Crops of the Future Collaborative, with leafy vegetables as one of the focus crops, can help us achieve this mission,” said Kees Reinink, Ph.D., Managing Director of Rijk Zwaan. “Combining our strengths with partners in R&D is an important part of our strategy. Together, we can accelerate the further development of better vegetables.”
“As a Founding Partner, Precision PlantSciences is particularly pleased to begin working with our fellow Crops of the Future Collaborative organizations,” said Fayaz Khazi, Ph.D., president of Precision PlantSciences. “Together, we will solve problems like how to pair new ideas with the most relevant technologies, and this will help us all create products that are not just better, but game changing — even life changing. Through participation in the Crops of the Future Collaborative, Precision further solidifies its commitment to this community and to translating scientific knowledge into products that improve the health of our planet and all its inhabitants.”
“At FAPESP we are happy to be part of the Crops for the Future initiative, to foster research in agricultural topics of great relevance for Brazil, and the world, said Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz , Ph.D., FAPESP Scientific Director. “Working together with outstanding partners such as FFAR and other agencies we expect to advance the pace of discovery.”
“Joining the Crops of the Future Collaborative is a great opportunity to increase our collective knowledge of traits and genes function to greatly accelerate development of crops in a sustainable way,” said Alain Toppan, Ph.D., CEO of Biogemma. “Understanding traits is a major target in Biogemma and its shareholders’ global strategy to develop efficient crop solutions.”
“Solving the challenges farmers face worldwide in growing healthy, abundant crops in a sustainable manner will require commitment and collaboration from experts around the world,” said Catherine Feuillet, senior vice president, Crop Science, a division of Bayer. “With the Crops of the Future Collaborative, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research provides a unique framework to develop public-private collaborations for accelerating innovation that can propel the next green revolution for major crops, and Bayer is proud to support it.”
Organizations interested in joining the Crops of the Future Collaborative are encouraged to contact the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research.