February 14, 2024

UMD Team Wins $5M NSF Grant for Food Insecurity Tech Solutions

UMD's NourishNet Secures $5M NSF Grant for Quantum Nose & FoodLoops Fighting Food Insecurity
The multidisciplinary NourishNet team led by the University of Maryland has clinched a $5M NSF grant for their pioneering work on Quantum Nose and FoodLoops. Their innovative approach to food quality detection and surplus distribution is transforming the fight against food insecurity with technology and dedication.
Image Credit: Graham Binder

A multidisciplinary team led by University of Maryland has been awarded $5 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop NourishNet, featuring Quantum Nose, a portable and user-friendly food quality sensor that can detect early-stage food spoilage, and FoodLoops, a real-time app to optimize surplus food distribution to food insecure people.

The NSF Convergence Accelerator program has advanced the UMD-led NourishNet Team to Phase 2 of the Tackling Food Insecurity track after receiving $750k in the proof of concept Phase 1, where they will develop their toolbox that bolsters the national food system by reducing food waste and delivering healthy food to the food insecure.

Led by Stephanie Lansing, professor in UMD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the team has brought forward a tech-driven solution that will unite a network of producers, donors, distributors and those who are hungry to fill food pantries with fresh produce and reduce food waste.

“We are so thrilled to receive Phase 2 funding from the Convergence Accelerator which gives us the resources to create new connective tissue between consumers, producers, donors/distributors, and institutions,” said Lansing. “This project has several ambitious goals, but our main focus is to deploy NourishNet on a national scale to increase food accessibility for all populations, and reduce spoilage to build a more sustainable and responsible food system.”

In Phase 2, NourishNet plans to meet several key objectives including direct sale and distribution of the toolbox, complete financial marketing and business development and expand consumer education within food pantries and national universities. They will bring on new partners including ChowMatch, LindaBen Foundation, SCS Engineers and Well Said Media to complement their existing Phase 1 partnership with Prince George’s County Food Equity Council.

"A collaborative approach between academic researchers, industry, government, nonprofits and other communities is important to optimize the production of food and connections between farmers and consumers, researchers and other stakeholders," said Douglas Maughan, head of the NSF Convergence Accelerator program. "A lot of great work was accomplished by all teams in Phase 1, but there is still more to be done. The teams selected for Phase 2 are expected to build innovative, tangible solutions and strong partnerships to address food scarcity, irrigation issues, supply chain inequalities and inefficiencies and more."

Through Track J, NSF aims to help transform food systems across the nation to ensure access to healthy, safe and affordable food, as well as create sustainable agricultural forestry and food practices that consider the climate, regeneration, and waste reduction. The track's focus also aligns with one of USDA's core priorities to ensure everyone in the country has consistent and equitable access to safe, healthy, affordable food essential to optimal health and well-being.

About the NSF Convergence Accelerator
Launched in 2019, the NSF Convergence Accelerator — a TIP program — builds upon NSF's investment in basic research and discovery to accelerate solutions toward societal and economic impact. The program's multidisciplinary teams use convergence research fundamentals and innovation processes to stimulate innovative idea-sharing and development of sustainable solutions. Learn more about the program.

About the National Institute of Food and Agriculture
NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education and Extension across the nation to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. NIFA supports initiatives that ensure the long-term viability of agriculture and applies an integrated approach to ensure that groundbreaking discoveries in agriculture-related sciences and technologies reach the people who can put them into practice. In Fiscal Year 2023, NIFA's total investment was $2.6 billion. Learn more about NIFA's impact on agricultural science.

Republished with permission from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

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