BFI Seed Grants 2021 Request for Proposals

Access the Collaboration Grant application form here.
Access the Research Grant application form here.

 The Berkeley Food Institute (BFI) announces a 2021–22 funding cycle for collaborative, interdisciplinary research projects that are aligned with the mission of the Institute and led by faculty and/or cooperative extension specialists at UC Berkeley. Our foundational premise is that the complexity of contemporary agri-food systems demands interdisciplinary work and productive collaborations between members of the scholarly community, farmers and other producers, non-governmental organizations, governments, and civil society. BFI builds links and overcomes gaps or silos that have commonly impeded progress in this field. To these ends, two tiers of funding will be available in 2021–22.

About us: The Berkeley Food Institute seeks to transform food systems to expand access to healthy, affordable food and promote sustainable and equitable food production. We empower new leaders with capacities to cultivate diverse, just, resilient, and healthy food systems.

Cross-Cutting Themes 

This year, BFI will give preference to proposals that examine at least one of these cross-cutting urgent themes: 

  1. Adaptation to climate change: Agri-food systems face multiple, compounding threats from climate change, including both acute shocks like wildfires and droughts as well as ongoing stressors such as the increasing global temperature and movement of pests and diseases. While mitigation remains essential, adaptation must also occur. Adaptation pathways could be an opportunity to realign and diversify agri-food systems to provide multiple benefits for all people and the environment, or pathways could focus on narrow and brittle solutions that entrench an industrial agri-food system. Proposals under this theme would support the former pathway by developing broad and nimble adaptation solutions for any aspect of agri-food systems in a time of climate crises.
  2. Structures that perpetuate agri-food systems inequality: Inequalities related to race, class, gender, and other social categories shape the production, distribution, and consumption of food, while structural inequalities embedded in the capitalist political economy constrain the transition to diverse, just, resilient, and healthy food systems. A large body of research focuses on the tail end of the problem—documenting or attempting to remedy disparities by race, class, gender, and other social categories in access to food, jobs, land, or markets rather than on dismantling the structures (e.g. the ongoing impact and legacy of racist and/or discriminatory policies, funding, institutions and practices) that perpetuate inequality within the larger agri-food system. As a result, many solutions reinforce existing power, privilege and structural inequities. These proposals would look squarely at a structure or structures that perpetuate inequality in agri-food systems  and propose a  project to reduce that inequality. Projects could be local, national, or global in scope.  

Projects must also align with at least one of BFI’s priority areas: 

Good Food Access: We define good food access as a condition where all people have access to food they can afford (or the ability to grow or otherwise obtain food for consumption) that is healthy and meets nutritional needs, is sustainably and equitably produced, and culturally appropriate. 

Fair and Healthy Jobs: We define fair and healthy jobs as those that contribute to the overall health of agri-food systems, by reducing environmental impacts, by increasing nutritional availability and quality, and build community-level wealth for all peoples. 

Racial Equity: We define racial equity in the food system as a condition in which all people, including people of color, are owners, planners, and decision-makers in the systems that govern their lives. Agri-food systems benefit from the elimination of racial inequity, which now acts to the detriment of producers, consumers, the environment, and workers.

Urban and Rural Agroecology: Francis et al. (2013) define agroecology as “the integration of ecology in agriculture and agri-food systems, encompassing ecological, economic, and social dimensions.” At BFI we focus our work on both urban and rural agroecological agri-food systems.

Grant Types

Two types of grants are available for this application cycle:   

  1. Collaboration Grant: $1,000 – $10,000 grants for initiating innovative research. Collaboration Grants are intended to spark faculty teamwork and encourage university-community partnerships. Collaboration Grants will provide support for two or more cross-disciplinary faculty to begin or develop plans for projects related to the BFI mission. Funding may support a forum, meeting(s), field-based reconnaissance projects, or focus group discussions that facilitate fruitful interdisciplinary dialogue among researchers and/or stakeholders on a targeted topic related to agri-food systems challenges/opportunities. Such meetings need to be more than just scholarly discussions—they should be aimed at generating clear results such as a proposal for future research. The funding is to be expended within one year of officially receiving the award from BFI. The grant period is April 1, 2022, to March 30, 2023. Due to the funding source for the research grant program, no cost extensions will not be allowed. Total funding available: $30,000.
  2. Research grant: $20,000 – $100,000 grants for new fully articulated research projects that address one or both of the cross-cutting themes (see above). Research teams should include at least two cross-disciplinary faculty and at least one community partner. The funding should be expended within two years of officially receiving the award from BFI. The grant period is April 1, 2022 to March 30, 2024. Due to the funding source for the research grant program, no cost extensions will not be allowed. Total funding available: $200,000.

The principal difference between the collaboration and research grants, other than the amount of funding, is that collaboration grants are to support new teams to form and develop their ideas, in mutually beneficial community-university partnerships. Research grants, on the other hand, are available for teams that have already formed developed a research question, and are ready to conduct the project. 

For both grant types, applicants must articulate how the proposed project will foster significant changes in agri-food systems at any scale. Projects must be led by teams of at least two disciplines, and should involve at least one community partner as a core partner (farm, business, tribe, governmental agency, nonprofit organization, K–12 school, etc.). Due to limitations of the funding source, subawards to other universities will not be allowed; however, BFI will consider projects with external university partnerships.

Only one type of application per PI will be accepted, however a PI may collaborate with others on their proposal(s).   

Criteria for Selection

Strong proposals will: 

  • Create or strengthen mutually beneficial collaborations among UC Berkeley teams and agri-food systems community partners  
  • Use interdisciplinary approaches, preferably with a systems orientation 
  • Identify a clear knowledge gap related to one or both of the cross-cutting themes and use rigorous  research approaches to address it
  • Demonstrate high potential to influence current practices and/or policies or solve policy challenges
  • Seek to disseminate its results and, for Research Grants, have a clear plan for dissemination  
  • Articulate a pathway to scale research up with future funding

Eligibility and Requirements

The BFI grants program is open to all ladder-rank faculty and extension specialists at UC Berkeley. UC Berkeley staff and lecturers with PI status are also eligible to apply for this faculty grant. 

All research involving human subjects must be approved by the Office for the Protection of Human Subjects (OPHS) by the start of the funding period to ensure the protection of participants’ rights and welfare in the research process. 

Timing and Outcomes

The deadline for proposals is December 15, 2021, 5:00 pm PT for the 2022 funding cycle. BFI will notify applicants by March 15, 2022, and make the funding available for an April 1, 2022, start date. 

All grantees will be expected to submit a progress report of approximately two pages, due October 1, 2022, and a final report within a month of the conclusion of the grant term. The progress and final report must include a spending ledger from the Berkeley Financial System. If funding needs will deviate by more than 20% from the stated expense lines, we ask that you contact the BFI Executive Director for permission to alter the budget.

Grantees may be invited to present their work, whether completed, or in-progress, at a BFI event. 

Allowable Expenses

Collaboration Grants:

  • Funding towards an undergraduate research assistant, graduate assistant researcher (including tuition and fees), or post-doc
  • Procurement contracts: for example for translation and/or transcription services, graphic design, professional facilitator, non-university community experts, or other contractors. This can include payments to community partners. All contractors must be set up at UC Berkeley vendors
  • Space rental, food, travel, or other expenses

Research Grants: 

  • Funding for field research, travel, supplies, etc.
  • Funding for an undergraduate or graduate student researcher (including tuition and fees), or post‐doc research assistant
  • Summer salary for faculty PI(s)
  • Procurement contracts: for example for translation and/or transcription services, graphic design, non-university community experts, or other contractors. This can include payments to community partners. All contractors must be set up at UC Berkeley vendors
  • Publication printing and dissemination
  • Space rental, food, travel, or other expenses

All proposed budgets should use this budget template and provide reasonable justification for expenses. BFI sets minimum student wages for students; see the budget template for details. The research grant program is funded through state government (19900) funds, and must adhere to UCOP state funding guidelines

Non-allowable Expenses on 19900 Funds

  • Subawards: Due to the nature of the funding source, you cannot grant subawards to other universities. However, you may be able to work with non-university community partners through a procurement contract via Supply Chain Management
  • Prizes and other gifts for university staff, students, or faculty
  • Hotel stay within 40 miles of residence/place of business
  • Spouse or domestic partner travel expenses
  • Meals in excess of allowable amounts
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • AB 1887 travel restrictions: California Assembly Bill No. 1887 prohibits state-funded and state-sponsored travel to states with discriminatory laws, as designated by the California Attorney General. The states currently identified by the California Attorney General as covered by AB1887 are: Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas. For additional FAQs see 

Grant proposals for both tiers must be submitted electronically. To apply, fill out the relevant application form by December 15, 2021, 5:00 pm PT. The application form will ask you to upload your budget template and other documents. 

Access the Collaboration Grant application form here.
Access the Research Grant application form here.

Questions? Contact BFI at or 510-529-1533.