Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Reaching Smallholder Farmers with Agricultural Research Innovations

Research institutions around the world are developing products to address some of agriculture's most pressing challenges, from life-saving livestock vaccines to pest-fighting hermetic storage bags. How can researchers work with the private sector to make sure that products both meet the real needs of farmers and are commercially viable in the market? 

To address this question, Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation draws on its extensive experience in leveraging commercial pathways for scaling publicly-funded research and affordable technologies to benefit smallholder farmers. These partnerships have yielded insights and actionable steps of use to development practitioners, researchers, and donors on topics ranging from designing agricultural research that leads to commercialization to identifying success factors for commercializing agricultural research.

A collection of factors – not a set formula – is key. Critical among these factors is involving the private sector in strategy setting, program design, and implementation. Facilitating the commercialization process through capacity development and an enabling environment is also critical.

The following three Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation partnerships offer valuable lessons learned on scaling and marketing agricultural innovations for smallholder farmers:

In Nepal, Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation is funding an innovative partnership, led by Hester Biosciences Nepal, to produce a new form of a life-saving animal vaccine to combat Peste de Petits Ruminants (PPR), one of the most world’s most damaging livestock diseases. While a PPR vaccine currently exists, it is largely out of reach of Nepal’s remote rural herders. The new form, known as Thermostable and Thermotolerant Peste des Petits Ruminants (TPPR), was developed by Tufts University and is being scaled for mass production by Hester Biosciences Nepal. Unlike the current vaccine, TPPR is able to maintain its potency at temperatures reaching up to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) for a period of 45 days. Transporting and distributing TPPR without the need for constant cooling means more streamlined logistics and lowered costs, all of which translates into delivering rural herders a vaccine they urgently need at a price they can afford. Read more about our partnership here.

In Honduras and Guatemala, Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation worked with Store It Cold to commercialize the CoolBot, a small electrical device that attaches to a standard window air conditioner to create low-cost cold storage. With this simple technology, smallholders can extend shelf life, maintain quality, and reduce rejection rates of their horticultural crops for a fraction of the cost of a walk-in cooler. Store It Cold also worked with the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture at the University of California, Davis to demonstrate the appropriateness and effectiveness of the technology in developing countries, including exploring ways to further tailor it to global markets through solar power and local manufacturing. Read more about our partnership here.

In Kenya and Rwanda, Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation led a multi-year partnership to market and sell an improved grain hermetic storage bag. Known as PICS (Purdue Improved Crop Storage), the bags were developed by Purdue University to help smallholder farmers reduce significant postharvest grain losses. Serving as a bridge between research institution and private sector entity, Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation facilitated the transition of this innovative technology with Purdue University and two businesses in Kenya and Rwanda. At the conclusion of the partnership, smallholder farmers in both countries benefitted significantly and the two local businesses emerged self-sufficient in manufacturing, marketing, and selling the PICS bags. Read more about our partnership here.