Grant aims to build global food security and research international produce.
A new $18.75 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development will boost international fruit and vegetable research led by the University of California, Davis.
The award extends for five more years a research program established at UC Davis in 2009 as the Horticulture Collaborative Research Support Program. Recently, the program was renamed the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Horticulture.
“We believe this new, larger investment validates the work we’ve done with the Horticulture Innovation Lab and recognizes the pivotal role that fruits and vegetables play in people’s lives, both in improving health and increasing rural incomes,” said Elizabeth Mitcham, program director and a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences.
New tools for farmers around the world
In its first four years, the Horticulture Innovation Lab trained nearly 32,000 individuals in more than 30 countries, including more than 9,800 farmers who have improved their farming practices. The program also established regional centers in Thailand, Honduras and Kenya as hubs to circulate the program’s research findings.
Through collaborative research, the program has successfully adapted more than 500 new tools, management practices and seed varieties to aid farmers who grow fruits and vegetables in different countries.
One such tool is called the CoolBot, a temperature control system developed by an American farmer as an inexpensive way to cool his farm’s produce. The system was later marketed to other small-scale farmers in the United States to reduce losses of fruits and vegetables after harvest.
The Horticulture Innovation Lab has tested the CoolBot with farmers in Honduras, Uganda, Kenya, Cambodia, Bangladesh, and elsewhere — including at the UC Davis Student Farm.
Similarly, the program has successfully adapted:
- zeolite-based drying beads made by a private company to dry and store high-quality seeds for better germination in tropical climates;
- agricultural nets that keep pests away from crops with products made by a local mosquito bed net company in Tanzania; and
- an inexpensive solar dryer design with a chimney, designed by UC Davis scientists to more efficiently dry and preserve fresh fruits and vegetables even on cloudy days.
The Horticulture Innovation Lab tests and adapts these innovations through grant-funded research projects led by U.S. universities with international partners including entrepreneurs, foreign scientists, farm extension agents, government representatives and other.
“This award underscores our university’s renewed emphasis on international agriculture. It also emphasizes our partnerships with other land-grant universities to solve global problems by pooling our expertise,” said Jim Hill, associate dean of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
“These kinds of programs foster not only solutions to agricultural problems, but also leadership skills and long-term relationships that turn our partners into unofficial U.S. ambassadors in the long run,” he said.
Global food security on behalf of the American people
The Horticulture Innovation Lab is one of 24 innovation labs that leverage U.S. university research to advance agricultural science and reduce poverty in developing countries. The labs are part of Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. UC Davis leads five of the Feed the Future Innovation Labs with USAID funding, more than any other university.
Currently, the program is selecting new research projects that focus on ways to reduce postharvest losses in fruits and vegetables, ways to improve nutritional deficiencies through horticulture, and address gender equity in agriculture.
About Feed the Future
Feed the Future is the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. With an emphasis on smallholder farmers — particularly women — Feed the Future supports a country-led approach to reduce hunger, poverty and undernutrition by promoting growth in the agriculture sector.
About the U.S. Agency for International Development
The U.S. Agency for International Development administers the U.S. foreign assistance program providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide. The agency leads the U.S. government's efforts to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies.