Seeding the Future banner logo
Seeding the Future FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Thanks for your interest in applying! This guide answers common questions about the Challenge, eligibility, prizes, application process, and more.

Why is IFT involved in this Challenge?
IFT is partnering with the Seeding The Future Foundation who has provided funding for IFT to conduct the Seeding The Future Global Food System Challenge. The goal of the Challenge is to inspire and support passionate, diverse, and multidisciplinary teams to create game-changing innovations that will help transform the food system to be more sustainable, make healthier diets more accessible, and empower consumers to make choices benefitting both personal and planetary health. IFT’s mission is to advance the science of food and its applications across the global food system. As almost 690 million people in the world are undernourished, 60 million more than in 2014, food security has declined as a result of economic slowdowns inhibiting access to food for the poor (FAO 2020). In addition, continuing population growth, urbanization, unhealthy consumption pattern, limited arable land and dramatic post-harvest food losses and food waste are challenging our food system and its ability to sustainably provide nutritious food for everyone. Furthermore, COVID 19 and global conflict has amplified the issues and laid bare the lack of resilience of current food systems. As stewards of our food system, we hold a great responsibility to lead, inspire, and advocate for change. The Challenge is a great first step in the right direction. IFT and the Seeding The Future Foundation share the belief that the biggest challenges facing our food system can be addressed when inspired innovators, scientists and engineers across multiple disciplines collaborate to help transform our food systems to sustainably provide equitable access to safe, nutritious, affordable and trusted food for everyone.

Is there a fee to enter the Challenge?
There is no fee to apply

Application Timeline

  • June 1st – Applications Open
  • August 1st – Applications Close 
  • September – IFT notifies and announces Seed Grant awardees
  • October – Growth Grant and Seeding The Future Grand Prize finalists announced; Interviews held with Selection Committee
  • January – IFT notifies and announces Growth Grant recipients and Grand Prize winners

Contact Information
Additional questions may be directed to [email protected]

For those interested in learning more about the Challenge, there will be two one-hour webinars to provide an overview of the program and to answer questions on the following dates and times:

  • Check back in June 2023 for webinar dates

Follow the Challenge conversation on our website and Twitter @IFT; Hashtag: #STFChallenge. When in conflict, the Competition Rules and Award Agreement supersede any statements on our website or on Twitter.

Who should apply?
The following organizations are eligible to compete in the Challenge:

  • Non-profits located in any country
  • Academic or research institutions located in any country
  • Early-stage or emerging North American or European based for-profit companies (‘small companies’)

Individuals are not eligible to apply. Please note, however, that teams of students or researchers may participate as part of an organization’s submission. Organizations are encouraged to form teams to compete in the Challenge. If two or more organizations form a team to compete, they should choose one of the organizations to serve as the applicant.

What are the criteria?
View the Selection Criteria.

The Global Food System Challenge is intended to support innovations that bring a significant benefit to at least one, but ideally several of the intersecting domains (see Innovation Focus Area in the diagram at left) and that have the potential for transformational impact at scale and over time.

What will not be funded (additional information see also Sample Award Agreement):

- Projects that have a negative effect on either the safety or healthfulness of food, the sustainability of the food supply chain or, that are unlikely to be accepted by the end-user or consumer  
- Theoretical concepts or ideas without any experiments or a reduction to practice 
- Individual persons
- Projects where funds will be used to support large commercial entities in their commercial activities such as R&D, Innovation, Manufacturing or Sales/Marketing.    
- Local, community-based initiatives which are not scale-able beyond the initial project scope and limited projected impact over time.
- Projects associated with political campaigns or lobbying
- Capital campaigns  
- For Profit entities with significant financial assets or which passed Series A financing round

I have an initial idea. Am I too early to apply?
The Challenge is intended for initiatives where at least some experiments already have been conducted to develop prototypes or have shown initial proof of concept, demonstrating feasibility. We strongly recommend applicants have made some progress on their concept development to increase their chances of being selected for an award.

I have already raised some capital, are there any restrictions for applying?
For non-profit entities, there are no restrictions on the amount of capital raised and we encourage everyone to apply. For-profit entity candidates should be early stage and pre-Series A financing with financial assets not exceeding $10MM. For-profit entities applying for the Seeding The Future Grand Prize should have a business plan including future and/or additional financing needs.

Is the Challenge for U.S.-based organizations only?
No, all non-profit organizations, such as Universities, Research Institutions and other non-for-profit organizations, regardless of their location or country are eligible for consideration. However, for-profit organizations must be based in North America or Europe due to tax laws and potential barriers to transferring funds to an international company. If an international team includes a small for-profit entity as team member, the team needs to designate a non-profit partner as the fiduciary representative of the group. Award funds cannot be used to sponsor activities which directly benefit larger for-profit corporations who would be in a position to make separate financial contributions to the project.

When do applications open?
Applications open on June 1.

When is the application deadline?
Applications are due on August 1.

What information will be required to apply?
All applications will require the following information:

  • Basic information about the team/organization (name, organization type, background)
  • Financial documents (Tax status, most recent financial statement)
  • Vision and Mission of your organization
  • Short and concise summary description of the innovation, what is new and why it is important
  • Project title, scope, an itemized budget for the project, including expenses and potential income, and proposed use of the award funds. A simple budget and timeline template will be provided and needs to be completed. Please note that the maximum amount of indirect costs that can be allocated to award funds is 6%
  • Description of the development stage or maturity of the innovation, i.e., what had been done so far such as early studies, experiments, pilot scale tests, consumer studies, etc.
  • Multidisciplinary nature of project and a DEI perspective (diversity, equity, inclusion) Please include short bios (not to exceed 1 page per individual) for your core team members and/or advisory board. If possible, limit to no more than 5 individuals.
  • Description of how the innovation benefits one or more of the intersecting domains of health and nutritious food, diets, sustainable practices, and empowering or enabling conscious consumer choices), including a perspective on food policy aspects.
  • Description of the size of projected impact over time and at scale
  • Description of the projected economic feasibility at scale
  • Description of how the benefits of the innovation would compellingly be communicated to consumers
  • Description of challenges and risks
  • Description of how the innovation aligns with Seeding The Future’s mission and vision

View Application Questions    Budget Template

Will I receive a notification that my application has been received?
Yes, you will receive a confirmation email.

How will applications be vetted?
There are two initial screening phases before committee selection rounds – the eligibility screen and the content screen.

  • Eligibility Screen: This is a preliminary application vetting to ensure that each application meets the basic organizational and financial eligibility requirements for the Challenge. This vetting will include a review of the complete application, applicant eligibility, applicant award level, and required organizational and financial documentation. Each applicant will receive a pass or fail. Applications that do not pass the eligibility screening will not advance.
  • Initial Content Screen: During this screen, independent reviewers will assess the initial quality of applications. Questions are focused on clear premise, budget and timeline, multi-disciplinary approach, and impact in the intersection of nutrition, sustainability, and consumer acceptance.

Who will be evaluating my application?
The application review committee will consist of three groups:

  • Independent Reviewers: IFT will recruit a pool of subject matter experts and food system experts who will independently review and score applications in the Initial Content Screen round. These reviewers will not participate in discussions as a group. Instead, IFT will aggregate their individual scores.  
  • Selection Committee: The Selection Committees for each, the Growth Grant award and the Seeding The Future Grand Prize will consist of approximately 10 globally recognized national and international food system and domain experts who will select the finalists and winners for the Challenge.
  • IFT Team Members: IFT will have final discretion in following the Selection Committee’s recommendations and the disbursement of funds.

How will finalists be chosen?

The committee will use a rubric (see Selection Criteria) with specific criteria to judge applications in the two initial screening phases. Following these initial screens, applications will be routed to a Selection Committee, who will be responsible for selecting the finalists and awardees. 

  • Seed Grants: Seed Grants will require one round of reviews. Upon completion of application reviews, scoring and voting by IFT’s subject matter and food system experts, Seed Grant awardees will be determined.
  • Growth Grant and Seeding The Future Grand Prizes: These awards will go through two rounds of committee reviews and an interview portion. Following the finalist interviews, the Selection Committee will vote and recommend Growth Grant and Seeding The Future Grand Prize awardees to IFT. 

IFT will oversee and facilitate the entire process ensuring a diverse pool of awardees. 

Can I submit my idea to another contest at the same time?
Yes. There is no exclusivity requirement, but the award money needs to be dedicated and spent as described in the application.

Can I enter more than once?
We encourage applicants to share their most compelling and promising idea that has reached proof of concept and demonstrated feasibility at scale and high impact potential to transform the food system. However, an organization can submit two applications provided they have two different projects.

I submitted last year but was not selected, can I apply again?
Yes. Please note that application requirements from last year’s Challenge have been adjusted. We highly encourage applicants to review the new requirements and if their innovation meets those requirements, to submit their application again. 

What will happen if I leave part of the entry form blank by mistake or need to make a change?
To ensure equity and fairness in the review process, applicants must have completed all requested materials and submit them by the indicated deadline. Late or incomplete submissions cannot be considered.

Is it possible to cancel my entry?
Yes, applications can be cancelled. Please email [email protected].

Will I be notified if my application is accepted or denied?
Yes, applicants will be notified if they are accepted or denied.

Will my application be kept confidential?
IFT will not share applicant and application information with the public.

What is a Seed Grant?
Seed Grants ($25,000 each) will be awarded to applicants that are planting and nurturing high-potential, innovative ideas and have developed a prototype and/or initial proof of concept demonstrating feasibility.

What is a Growth Grant?
Growth Grants ($100,000 each) will be awarded to applicants that have demonstrated their initiative is doable and have projected both economic feasibility at scale and high impact potential to transform the food system.

What is a Seeding The Future Grand Prize Award?
Seeding The Future Grand Awards ($250,000 each) will be awarded to applicants with a scalable, economically feasible innovation that is compelling to consumers and have demonstrated major impact potential to transform the food system.

How will I know which grant level my application is being considered for?
Applicants will be required to select which grant level they are applying for. The application process is designed to help applicants determine which level of award they are eligible for and should apply to.

When will finalists be announced?
Seed Grant awardees will be announced in September. Around the same time, finalists for the Growth Grants and Seeding The Future Grand Prize will be notified. IFT will notify each awardee and then publicly announce the list of awardees.

How will award money be distributed to awardees?
It is standard practice to make the grant payments up front rather than tying them to milestone-based payments. However, to ensure that grantees remain true to the spirit of their proposals, IFT can consider including a provision in awardees’ grant agreements that awardees must receive prior written approval from IFT before diverting significantly from their proposed activities or budget.

What are the stipulations for how winners use their awards?
Awards funds may be used for the following costs: personnel, cost for using existing hardware and/or pilot plant or laboratory infrastructure, necessary travel (coach class), supplies, contracted services, sub-grants, and consultants. While Applicants maintain ownership of any and all Intellectual Property previously created (Background IP), Grant funds may not be used to limit third party access to innovations created with the use of Grant funds (Foreground IP), such as work to either obtain or enforce Intellectual Property. Partial or full support for acquiring equipment may be requested subject to the circumstances described below. Please provide budget estimates according to these categories. IFT will provide each awardee with a grant agreement with detailed stipulations.

Aside from the money, are there other benefits provided to the awardees?
In addition to a financial award, all awardees will receive several non-financial benefits and incentives, including the following:

  • Organizational profile posted on the IFT website
  • Features in IFT member communications, including newsletters and social media channels
  • Invitation and recognition at the IFT FIRST: Annual Event and Expo, which provides exposure and access to potential customers, suppliers, mentors, and investors
  • Initiation into the Challenge’s alumni network
  • Seeding The Future Grand Prize awardees will also have access to networking opportunities with potential mentors and investors

If I am selected as an awardee, can I apply again to future Challenges?
Yes. In future years, IFT will encourage past finalists and awardees to apply for a higher-level prize or grant. The intention is that the Challenge could help steward ideas from proof of concept (Seed Grant) to fully scalable and impactful (Seeding The Future Grand Prize).

My question wasn’t answered here. Where can I find more information?
For those interested in learning more about the Challenge, there will be two one-hour webinars held in June to provide an overview of the program and to answer questions.

Additional questions may be directed to [email protected].