Food Systems For Nutrition Innovation Lab

The Feed the Future Food Systems for Nutrition Innovation Lab (FSN-IL) is pleased to announce that five applicants have received sub-awards for the RFA titled “Actions to Support Storage, Packaging, and/or Cooling Innovations for Perishable Foods in Target Geographies:”

All sub-awardees, of which two focused on Nepal, two on Bangladesh, and one on Malawi, were among the top candidates in this competitive, two stage review process.

FSN-IL seeks to generate evidence-based support to innovations that enhance nutrient density, reduce food loss, and waste, and ensure food safety. The FSN-IL used a competitive process to select and fund cost-effective research focused on identifying actions to support storage, packaging, and cooling innovations to reduce loss and waste and ensure food safety of nutrient dense perishable foods in target countries.

The expectation is that these subawards will further our understanding of scalable innovations and innovation bundles within the storage, packaging, and cooling space, provide insights on the cost effectiveness of innovation bundling as well as actionable business strategies and models to be shared with the broader community.

FSN-IL looks forward to continuing the process of supporting innovative research to achieve its objective of identifying, testing, assessing effectiveness of innovation bundles and developing practical implementable business strategies that support food systems transformation for nutrition in its target countries of Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

More on the selected applicants and their funded research are described below!


Kajal Gulati’s Research: Breaking the Vicious Cycle of Loss and Waste: Evaluating and Scaling Cold Chain Storage Innovations in Bangladesh

The absence of farmgate storage is a major factor contributing to agricultural losses in Bangladesh’s value chains. Numerous farmers and traders lack access to suitable cold storage for high-value fruits and vegetables, resulting in economic setbacks and compromised food safety. This creates a vicious post-harvest cycle, compelling early sales at lower prices. To address this challenge, our consortium, comprised of Purdue University, Bangladesh Agricultural University, and a private sector partner (SmartMech Ltd), aims to introduce cost-effective cold storage technologies through scalable business models. In the first year, we will conduct a comprehensive cost-effectiveness analysis of existing cold storage technologies suitable for deployment in Bangladesh. In the subsequent two years, our project will focus on assessing the economic viability and socio-economic impacts of two business models designed to scale cold-storage-as-a-service for farmers and small-scale traders. This evaluation will be conducted using a randomized controlled trial, paving the way for sustainable expansion of cold storage access in the region. Learn more about Dr. Kajal Gulati here!

Madan Dey’s Research: Upgrading Value Chains of Nutrient-dense Perishable Agricultural Commodities in Bangladesh: Technological Interventions and IT-based Business Model Development to Reduce Postharvest and Nutrient Loss

The overarching goal of this project is to co-create a cost-effective storage, packaging, and cooling innovation bundle and introduce a lean business model that reduces post-harvest (PH) and nutrition loss in fruits, vegetables, and fish value chains in Bangladesh by integrating multidisciplinary research and building capacity through training. The project will identify areas along these value chains needing improvement in terms of cost-effectiveness, PH, and nutrition loss, and fine-tune the training programs based on a co-created innovation bundle and lean business model.  The research component has three distinct subcomponents. The first subcomponent deals with the co-creation of a cost-effective storage, packaging, and cooling innovation bundle by evaluating existing technologies, market structures, and policies of fruits, vegetables, and fish in Bangladesh. The second subcomponent develops a lean business model emplacing access to market (A2M) mobile apps incorporating small and medium entrepreneurs (SMEs), farmers, and other value chain actors. The cost-effectiveness of innovation bundles and the lean business model will be evaluated through appropriate financial and economic analysis. The third subcomponent uses extensive training programs to improve human and institutional capacity. The training component will be based on the findings of the co-creation of innovation bundles as well as a lean business model to improve capacity at the universities and government agencies in imparting the most relevant training to fruits, vegetables, and fish value chain actors, including farmers, processors, distributors, and SMEs in the domestic market. Learn more about Dr. Madan Dey here!

Amanda Crump’s Research: Empowering and Innovative Designing for Protecting Nutrient Dense Food: Rural Market Development

Led by UC Davis and backed by iDE’s expertise, this project strengthens the supply chain of nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits in rural markets of Nepal through technology commercialization. Through this investment, we will demonstrate a strong business case for the adoption and use of Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) and a wide range of cold and dry storage technologies among market actors for increased income, decreased postharvest loss and improved availability of nutrient-dense food in the rural mountainous markets in Nepal. At the end of this two-year project, the supply chain of nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits in rural Nepal markets is strengthened through our facilitation of technology commercialization. This strong private sector partnership model empowers women, youth, and communities and promotes nutrition and resiliency. Learn more about Dr. Amanda Crump here! 

Julia Bello-Bravo’s Research: Reducing Ginger Storage Losses with Women Producers in Nepal

The link between malnutrition and poverty is well documented in Nepal. The combination of inadequate diets and poverty have particularly hit hard the rural poor in the provinces encompassing mid-hill region of Nepal. Ginger, primarily cultivated by women in Nepal, is one of the top ten exportable commodities prioritized by the Government in the Agriculture Development strategy which addresses food and nutritional security. The overall goal of our project is to reduce ginger storage losses for small holder women producers by scaling up socially appropriate cost-effective ginger storage innovations in three mid-hill districts in the Palpa region, Nepal. By storing fresh ginger with minimal losses in volume and quality, women producers will have an opportunity to double their price sale. Our efforts to reduce ginger losses will contribute towards greater consumption of quality, safe ginger resulting in a healthier, more food secure population. Learn more about Dr. Julia Bello Bravo here!

Mark Manary’s Research: Packaging and Processing of Foods for Safety and Reduced Environmental Impact in Malawi

The challenge of food safety and sustainability has evolved over six decades, thanks to advances in post-harvest processing and packaging. However, the benefits of these advancements are not distributed equally worldwide, and insufficient attention has been given to environmentally friendly packaging solutions. In regions like Malawi, limited access to the electric gird hampers safe food presentation, resulting in reduced market access and significant food waste. Solar power offers a promising alternative. Additionally, the widespread use of non-biodegradable plastics in food packaging, particularly in food aid products like ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), poses environmental threats. This project, based in southern and central Malawi, seeks to modify food processing machinery, evaluate their effectiveness, and introduce sustainable packaging options to reduce waste, enhance climate resilience, empower women in agriculture, and improve access to fresh food. If successful, these innovations could have broader applications and contribute to environmental and food safety improvements, with the knowledge shared freely with local stakeholders once proven viable. Learn more about Dr. Mark Manary here!