Founded in 2012, the Michigan State University (MSU) Global Center for Food Systems Innovation (GCFSI) is one of only eight development labs supported by the US Global Development Lab at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), established for the purpose of creating, supporting, and strengthening food systems innovation to help aid in global food security.
GCFSI works on improving food systems in a world facing shrinking natural resources, changing climate, and rapidly increasing demand—all in a context of technological changes. Our goals are to find creative ways to overcome the problems of shrinking farm land in developing countries, help under-resourced farmers deal with less rainfall due to climate change, and develop plans to improve systems dealing with food production, storage, processing, packaging, transportation and distribution strained by larger urban population.
GCFSI is developing and testing new approaches emerging from its interdisciplinary research ranging from production innovation through post-harvest processing to distribution and market evolution in a holistic approach. This effort is based on active contributions from a diverse mix of agricultural scientists, economists, engineers, geographers, supply chain experts, urban planners and others. Innovative ideas are supported directly by GCFSI's center-led projects as well as via student and faculty innovation grants.
Two other key components of GCFSI are the Translational Scholars Corps, which teaches journalists and researchers how to communicate complex research to different audiences, and the Decision Support Informatics (DSI) team, which helps a variety of stakeholders answer questions and solve problems by converting massive amounts of raw data and converting it into useful visuals and maps.
GCFSI has partnered with Wageningen University (WUR) in the Netherlands to help advance a number of its center-led projects, particularly related to climate resilient maize and seed systems. Together, GCFSI and WUR will address the many factors that limit access to improved seed varieties, which will ultimately lead to improved crop yields, workforce, and livelihoods. In addition, the groups will investigate how post-harvest and market information influence farmers’ demand for improved maize seeds Ethiopia.
Another key partner for GCFSI is the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR). It is here GCFSI is working with key leadership to establish a vibrant Innovation Hub, which will help support food system innovation and bolster food security, as well as develop the current and next generation of entrepreneurial scientists in Malawi and the region.
In addition, the Innovation Hub at LUANAR will host an extension of our TSC program, which will benefit students there by providing hands-on training in videography and opportunities for students to produce videos and webinars related to food systems innovations.
Another core theme of GCFSI’s work is gender inclusiveness. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that women benefit from GCFSI's efforts to improve agricultural productivity, reduce poverty, strengthen resilience to climate change, improve food security and nutritional status, and enhance workforce development systems. GCFSI recognizes the central role women play in agriculture in most developing countries, as well as the numerous challenges that hinder their full participation in and benefits from food systems activities.