Research and Extension Systems

Driving change: promoting agricultural transformation via FAO’s Innovation Fund and Incubator

17 Mar 2023

FAO has awarded funding to eight innovation proposals under a pioneering new scheme named the “Innovation Fund Incubator,” which aims to enhance FAO’s culture of continuous innovation by nurturing the development, and piloting of innovative ideas, as well as learning from their implementation and impact.

The selected proposals range from working with larvae for sustainable protein production, utilizing drones to prevent the spread of pandemics in remote areas to establishing indicators to accelerate policies to narrow the gender gap.

The project pitches are all interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary and teams are composed of members of four FAO regions and seven technical divisions.

The Office of Innovation (OIN) launched an open call for new concepts last year, inviting colleagues from across the Organization to contribute plans designed to meet the Strategic Framework 2022-31 and support the transformation of global agrifood systems.

“The open call was the first of its kind in that it offered the opportunity for FAO employees to leverage their potential by conceiving innovative solutions to positively impact rural populations around the world,” said Vincent Martin, Director of the Office of Innovation.                             

A total of 117 ideas from different countries, regions and technical divisions were submitted, including 61 from decentralized offices.

A panel of experts made up of FAO Regional Coordinators and Deputy Directors, and one expert from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) short-listed the best concepts. 

The selection process examined the ideas prioritizing innovation, feasibility, usefulness, the participatory approach, and diversely built teams including gender balance and transferable expertise from across FAO offices.

Over the next ten months, the incubator projects will be implemented to form part of a rich portfolio of initiatives operating to safeguard inclusive and multi-disciplinary approaches in research and innovation so that a diverse range of technologies become affordable and accessible to all.

The successful set of innovation proposals are:

  • Developing a global index to narrow the gender gap in agrifood systems;
  • Food waste reduction through awareness and behavioral change along the food supply and consumption chain;
  • Food safety monitoring using neural networks in a street food setting in India;
  • Novel sampling using drone technology to respond to outbreaks and prevent the next pandemic originating from animals;
  • Preserving the integrity of avocado seedling nurseries in Tanzania with DNA sequencing – barcode hybrid labelling and identification systems;
  • Simulation games for anticipatory climate governance and climate-resilient agrifood system transformation in the RAP region;
  • Spurring rural innovation through lean, youth-powered, technical cooperatives;
  • The biocircular economy in Abidjan with black soldier flies’ larvae: from food waste to fork.

Through the new Fund, the Organization endorses the strategic investments that are needed to sustainably improve agrifood systems and value chains in innovations, technologies, and business models to pave the way towards a more sustainable future in line with the UN’s 2030 Agenda.