7. Additional Indicators of Impact
From personal interviews with PIs and from survey respondents we learned that BARD occupies a unique position within the competitive grants’ environment, making its investments at a critical juncture.
BARD funding enabled translational research, positioned at the stage where fundamental research was able to demonstrate a preliminary applicative usage. This critically-timed support allowed many of the research projects to demonstrate proof of concept for an applied outcome, ultimately facilitating commercial interest and investments.
We wish to stress that the economic benefit calculated for this review is only one of many identified long-term benefits of BARD-supported research. Additional benefits, including environmental and social impact, are acknowledged and described in this review, but not quantified economically.
7.1 Further Funding
Extrapolating from the survey to BARD’s full portfolio of projects, we estimate that approximately 500 awards leveraged further funding from other academic funds, and another 170 awards procured further funding from commercial entities.
7.2 Additional Economic Benefits
Several projects, such as prolonging the quality of tropical foliage for export (case study 11), or the use of a virus as a carrier of genes against the citrus greening disease (case study 16), carry outcomes that have far-reaching state-wide gains in employment, trade and new affiliated industries that are not accounted for in the quantitative analysis. Benefits associated with the establishment of new companies in the US and Israel have not been quantified either. In other cases, benefits can have regional effects, such as the development of all-female prawn (case study 9), which created employment in a geographic periphery region of Israel and increased the retention of academic talent in that particular area.
Some of the innovations have had spill-over effects that have similarly not been quantified. We know that the introgression lines for higher Brix incorporated into commercial tomato varieties by Monsanto/Bayer (case study 2) have been implemented by additional industry players in their tomato breeding programs. Specific details are not available, and the benefits are not accounted for in the analysis. Similarly, the model for improved chicken feed (case study 4) has also been applied in the turkey industry, which was not included in the analysis.
Another factor contributing to conservative estimates of economic benefit has been limited data availability from industry players, such as for the improvements in chicken feed (case study 4), the commercializing of the sweet Nebula tomato (case study 1) and development of mildew-resistant basil lines (case study 17).
Lastly, we have most likely overlooked additional benefits gained from the adoption of improved knowledge-based agricultural practices, such as the post-harvest treatment of mango (case study 13), where dissemination and adoption of technique are more difficult to monitor and gauge.
7.3 Environmental Benefits
The environmental benefits delivered by the research projects and embedded within the case studies have, for the most part, not been quantified economically. While the reduction in pesticide use was in fact quantified for the power wheat (case study 3), this was done in the context of calculating monetary savings on herbicide use. Overall, the environmental benefits emerging from the case studies are highly prolific and impactful.
Power wheat, the greenhouse robotic system, the use of a virus as a carrier of genes against the citrus greening disease, use of Trichoderma and additional biocontrol agents (case studies 3, 20, 16, 14, and 12, respectively) all contribute to reduction of pesticide use.
Sludge treatment (case study 19) directly reduces the detrimental environmental impact of aquaculture waste products from land-based aquaculture, and self-generates energy.
Fish spawning in captivity (case study 7) eliminated the bottleneck for conducting aquaculture in captivity, directly led to conservation of overexploited marine species, and provided an applied tool for gene rescue and population amplification of threatened and endangered fish species.
The implemented chicken feed software (case study 4) and in-ovo feeding (case study 8) play a crucial role in lowering Feed Conversion Ratios (FCR), thereby delivering a positive environmental impact.
It is likely that many more of the diverse projects across all BARD panels have had direct and indirect positive impact on the environment.
7.4 Social Benefits and Food Security
The research projects leading to increased crop and animal productivity all contribute to global food security. We specifically note the three aquaculture projects on monosex prawns, hatchery spawning and treatment of land-based aquaculture waste (case studies 9, 7 and 19, respectively) as having led to increased global protein availability and animal productivity with a relatively low FCR.
Power wheat (case study 3) has already impacted grain availability in India, where the new varieties are being grown on an area comparable in size to the growing areas in all the US and Europe, and is likely to increase further in coming years.
Identifying the Tilapia Lake Virus (case study 10) has mobilized global organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to provide management tools and research objectives towards diminishing the potentially extensive negative impact of the virus on global food security as well as the nutrition and livelihood of countless small stakeholders.
The potential use in African rivers of all-male prawns (case study 9) as a biocontrol agent for freshwater snails which host the parasitic worm that causes Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia) could dramatically reduce the burden of disease in African countries.
7.5 Academic Impact and Capacity Building
The 1,330 grants funded by BARD have generated more than 5,600 published manuscripts, serving as another important vehicle for increasing the academic impact by disseminating the knowledge BARD has facilitated.
Based on the survey results, we estimate some 3,300 students have been involved in BARD research projects to date. At least 1,200 of them later held academic positions, and 600 were employed in Agri- and Bio- industries.
In many instances, the collaboration between US and Israeli PIs extended far beyond the scope of the initial research, continuing throughout their academic careers and those of their respective students to create a ripple effect and widen BARD’s circles of impact. Funding within the BARD award has often facilitated student exchange between the PIs, thereby broadening the reach of impact and contributing to capacity building of the younger generation of researchers.
Additionally, many technicians, staff members and in many cases undergraduate students took part in the research projects, each carrying their experience onwards into their respective fields.
3% of BARD’s research budget was allocated to financing international travel for the investigators. This is an integral part of the investment and serves as a measure of the scientific exchange between US and Israeli investigators, while reflecting BARD’s commitment to achieving the maximal benefits of cross-pollination of ideas and knowledge.
Of the PIs engaged in the 20 selected case studies, 4 had received BARD postdoctoral fellowships at notably early stages of their scientific careers.
7.6 Stakeholders Collaboration
Of the 20 case studies, 5 projects engaged with farmer organizations and cooperatives already during the research stage in order to provide a solution to a particular farming sector, and 4 worked closely with governmental entities. Another 7 attained commercialization through existing companies, and 6 led to the establishment of new companies. Of these, 5 were founded by the BARD researchers, together with 3 co-founders that were the Ph.D. researchers on the BARD awards. Three of the new companies were later integrated into leading international corporations.