Virginia Tech's Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab (IPM) has been awarded $18 million in funding by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to begin stage five of their global research initiative.
“The main purpose (of the new stage) is to improve the lives of farmers in the developing world,” said Amer Fayad, the associate director of the IPM Innovation Lab.
The IPM Innovation Lab is one of 24 Feed the Future Innovation Labs in the nation. The purpose of these labs is to focus on research specifically related to the issues of agriculture, according to the Office of International Research, Education and Development Director of Communications Miriam Rich.
Virginia Tech’s individual Innovation Lab opened in 1993 and has since completed four phases of pest management research in 17 different countries. According to Farad, the IPM Innovation Lab was involved with an intervention to control the papaya mealybug that resulted in $500 million to $1.5 billion in economic benefits.
The upcoming fifth phase is expected to last five years and to include a possible amount of $23 million in supplemental funding. A majority of the work will be done in Asia and Africa.
The lab will specifically be focused on improving pesticides and fertilizers, analyzing exported crops, studying invasive species and making pest management products financially feasible.
“We are working to link the public and the private sectors in the countries where we work,” Farad said. “We will work with NGOs and the private sector to ensure that products are developed and affordable to farmers.”
Fayad believes that the research will ultimately prove to be beneficial to the lives of farmers worldwide.
“The major impact will be raising the living standards of farmers,” Fayad said. “When farmers are producing more crops they can secure additional income.”
The impact of the research will extend beyond enriching the individual financial lives of farmers to improving the environment as a whole.
“Water quality will improve and crop quality will improve,” Fayad said. “(The improvement) will affect the health of the people.”
Rich added that the indirect impacts will also be substantial, especially for underdeveloped countries.
“The hope is that as the standard of living improves the political stability also improves,” Rich said.
USAID awarded the funding in part after Virginia Senator Tim Kaine issued a letter of support urging the agency to select Virginia Tech.
Kaine endorsed Virginia Tech’s research ability, writing "as a former Governor and now serving U.S. Senator for Virginia, I know well that Virginia Tech’s research capabilities are unmatched in the Commonwealth.”
The office of Senator Kaine expressed the senator’s belief that Virginia Tech’s research will have profound economic global implications.
Rich believes that Virginia Tech was awarded the funding due to the quality of the lab’s capabilities.
“We got the funding because of our experts and our expertise,” Rich said. “They know that we’re reliable, that we’re going to be around for a while.”
Though the Innovation Lab is focused on the upcoming phase Fayad stated that the lab would be eager to expand on their work in additional phases.
“If USAID decides to extend (the lab) to another round we will definitely continue,” Fayad said.