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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.

What is the Challenge?
The Seeding The Future Foundation has provided funding to the Institute of Food Technologists to launch and conduct the Seeding The Future Global Food System Challenge, which will be awarding up to $1 million annually.   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.

Why is IFT involved in this Challenge?
At IFT, our 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 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. We believe 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 access to safe, nutritious, and affordable food for everyone.

What are the awards?
The Challenge will provide three levels of awards, totaling up to $1 million annually, to incentivize initiatives at different stages of their maturity, targeting food systems transformations. IFT work with the Selection Committee to finalize the awardees for each level. The Challenge will award up to eight $25,000 grants, up to three $100,000 grants and up to two $250,000 grand prizes.

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

What are the important dates?

  • June 7 – Applications Open 
  • August 16 – Applications Close 
  • October 25 – IFT notifies and announces Seed Grant awardees
  • November – Growth Grant and Seeding The Future Grand Prize finalists announced; Interviews held with Selection Committee
  • January 17 – 24 – IFT notifies and announces Growth Grant and Seeding The Future Grand Prize awardees 

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 U.S. based for-profit 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?
An initiative should focus on at least one or two of the following domains, while not negatively affecting the remaining domains: safe and nutritious food for a healthy diet, food that is sustainably produced (including means to reduce food waste and food loss), and food that is accessible, appealing, affordable, and trusted by consumers.

Awards will be given to applicants that are developing or have already developed initiatives that are scalable, economically feasible, and can demonstrate major impact potential to transform our food system. Special consideration will be given to teams made up of diverse backgrounds or cultures, as well as teams focusing on serving under-resourced populations.

Specific criteria will differ based on the prize level. The Seeding The Future Grand Prize will have the highest requirements, including robust data enabling projection of economic feasibility at scale, and an order of magnitude estimate of impact, i.e. population size that may be positively affected over time.

I have an initial idea. Am I too early to apply?
The Challenge is ideal for initiatives that are already in early prototype development and/or initial proof of concept, demonstrating feasibility. We recommend applicants have made some sort of progress on their concept to increase their chances of being selected for funding.

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. 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 the U.S. due to tax laws and potential barriers to transferring funds to an international company. If an international team includes a for-profit team member, the team needs to designate a non-profit partner as the fiduciary representative of the group.

When do applications open?
Applications open on June 7, 2021. To begin your application process, visit the following URL: [insert IFT application link].

When is the application deadline?
Applications are due on August 16, 2021

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)
  • Executive summary of the project/innovation
  • An itemized budget for the project, including expenses and potential income, and include your proposed use of the award funds. Please note that the maximum amount of indirect costs that can be allocated to award funds is 6%.
  • Bios for your core team members and/or advisory board
  • Project description
  • Description of white space alignment (i.e. the intersection of healthy diets, sustainable practices, and empowering conscious consumer choices)
  • Description of projected impact

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 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 Committee will consist of 10 to 14 food system experts who will be responsible for selecting the finalists and awardees for the Challenge.
  • IFT Team Members: IFT will have final discretion over awardee selection and the disbursement of funds.

How will finalists be chosen?

The committee will use a rubric with specific criteria to judge applications in the two initial screening phases. Following these initial screens, applications will be routed to a Selection Committee consisting of 10 to 14 food system experts, who will be responsible for selecting the finalists and awardees.

  • Seed Grants: Seed Grants will require one round of committee reviews. Upon completion of application reviews, the committee will discuss as a group and vote to determine the Seed Grant awardees.
  • 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 hold its final meeting to vote and recommend Growth Grant and Seeding The Future Grand Prize awardees to IFT. IFT will oversee and facilitate the final Selection Committee Meeting, 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.

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 will not be considered.

Is it possible to cancel my entry?
Yes, applications can be cancelled. Please email foo[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 Awards
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 late October. 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 IFT's 2022 Annual Meeting 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 to provide an overview of the program and to answer questions on the following dates and times:

  • June 29, 2021 8:30am CST
  • July 27, 2021 6:00pm CST

Additional questions may be directed to [email protected].