Current Opportunities

a women harvesting fish in Bangladesh

Request for Applications

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish is requesting concept notes that are due by 5:00 p.m. Eastern U.S. time on May 15, 2024, showcasing proposed research ideas to support Feed the Future's mission to break the vicious cycle of poverty and hunger in partner countries. Together, we aim to alleviate poverty and improve nutrition, especially for marginalized populations, through the reliable and inclusive provision of nutrient-rich fish and other aquatic foods.

This Request for Applications (RFA) requests proposals focusing on the Fish Innovation Lab's primary focus countries of Bangladesh, Kenya, Nigeria, and Zambia. Other high-priority geographies included in the scope of this RFA are Ghana, Madagascar, Nepal, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda.

All proposals must address one or more sub-themes listed under the three major Areas of Inquiry (AI), which are 1) climate-smart aquatic system innovations, 2) nutrition and food systems, and 3) inclusive access to improved inputs. All proposals must also directly or indirectly address the following cross-cutting themes within the context of the specific activity, as defined by USAID: 1) gender and social inclusion, 2) resilience, and 3) capacity development. At the full proposal stage, all proposals will be expected to describe a clear strategy and capacity for engaging with communities, producers, fishers, and/or industry as well as a plan to support local stakeholders in testing, adopting, and/or scaling of new technologies or improved practices. (For more information on our Areas of Inquiry and cross-cutting themes, scroll down to the drop-down tabs.)

The Fish Innovation Lab intends to fund approximately 14 activities for a period of up to 3 years with anticipated start dates of December 1, 2024, through March 1, 2025. Budgets for funded activities will be between $200,000–$500,000 U.S. dollars (USD) for the period of performance. The expected average award size will be $400,000-$500,000 USD. Funded research-for-development activities will commonly involve multiple U.S., host country, and other institutions and employ an integrated, interdisciplinary research approach with strong capacity development components. Activities will be selected through a two-step process involving a concept note and a full proposal.

This competitive award opportunity is open to any qualified research, educational, governmental, private sector, or nonprofit institution globally that has a Unique Entity ID and is registered in the System for Award Management (SAM; Unique Entity ID and SAM registration are not required for concept note submission. However, Unique Entity ID registration will be required for full proposal submission. The lab strongly encourages qualified U.S. Minority-Serving Institutions to respond to this competitive RFA.

If invited to submit a full proposal, the deadline is July 24, 2024. The anticipated selection date is September 3, 2024.






                CONCEPT NOTE GUIDANCE               

               RFA QUESTIONS AND RESPONSES              

Application Process

Concept Note: A concept note is required, which is limited to four pages and must be in English with narrative portions prepared in Microsoft Word with Times New Roman font size 11 and 1-line spacing with 1-inch margins. The concept note must be submitted via the following web link:, no later than 5:00 p.m. Eastern U.S. time on May 15, 2024. (The submission of a concept note is not binding for the submission of a full proposal.) Concept notes will be screened for alignment with the scope of work as research for development under one or more of the three Fish Innovation Lab Areas of Inquiry. Concept notes must include the following information on the cover page, which is not included in the four-page limit:  

  • Header 

  • Descriptive activity title 

  • Duration of activity (not to exceed 3 years) 

  • Total budget requested for the activity, and a budget for each implementing partner 

  • Relevant Area(s) of Inquiry  

  • Country/countries of interest (be as specific as possible with geographic focus) 

  • Name and contact information of the primary institution and each implementing partner 

  • Name and contact information of U.S. and host-country PIs and Co-PIs 

  • Clear indication if a U.S. Minority-Serving Institution (MSI) is engaged in the activity. If so, please list the name of the MSI, the individual from the MSI engaged, and their specific role within the activity. 

  • In addition to the above items on the cover page, you must submit a curriculum vitae (CV) for each PI and Co-PI; each CV should be no more than four pages in length and is not counted in the page limit for the concept note.

The four-page concept note must include a concise activity description including problem statement, activity goals, expected outputs, expected outcomes, relevance to the Fish Innovation Lab’s Theory of Change and the U.S. Government’s Global Food Security Research Strategy, description of activities (direct or indirect) for each cross-cutting theme, and relevance to the appropriate Feed the Future Country Plan and Zone of Influence for the targeted country. (Scroll down for the Fish Innovation Lab’s Areas of Inquiry, cross-cutting themes, Theory of Change, and Results Framework.) It should also include a research approach and methods and development impacts (including target/priority groups). The concept note should integrate an activity timeline (to be fully developed if invited for a full proposal). 

Full proposals: PIs with successful concept notes for ROUND 1 will be invited to submit full proposals, which must be no more than 20 pages, excluding the cover sheet, table of contents, executive summary, references, budget, budget narrative, and appendices. If needed, a ROUND 2 may be conducted for full proposals.

Formatting requirements for full proposals are identical to those for concept notes. See this attachment for the full proposal guidelines.

Important Dates

Release date

April 15, 2024

Deadline for submission of written questions

April 24, 2024

Posting of responses to written questions

May 3, 2024

Deadline for submission of concept notes

May 15, 2024

Invitations for full proposals

June 5, 2024

Informational webinar for invited full proposal teams

June 12, 2024

Deadline for submission of invited full proposals

July 24, 2024

Award notifications

September 3, 2024

Areas of Inquiry

AI-1: Climate-smart aquatic system innovations. Research under this AI will result in technologies, practices, and approaches that enable environmentally sustainable solutions in aquaculture production and fisheries management practices that will improve livelihoods; strengthen the resilience of individuals, communities, and systems; and promote equitable and sustainable use of aquatic resources.

Research Strategy Theme: This theme emphasizes the research and development of scalable technologies, practices, and approaches that enhance the capacity of fish farmers, fishers, and their communities to adapt to the accelerating effects of climate change while improving production systems to reduce emissions and enhance carbon storage in aquatic habitats. The Fish Innovation Lab will implement community-based and integrated research and knowledge co-production approaches to improve the productivity of aquaculture and fisheries systems and ensure social and environmental sustainability. This will facilitate improvements in farm efficiency, wild harvest systems, and biodiversity that will yield social benefits and ecological savings, which are critical to improving climate adaptation. Sub-themes include

  1. Development of climate-smart aquaculture production systems;  

  1. Aquaculture technology improvement, including integrated aquaculture-agriculture systems;  

  1. Sustainable fisheries management, including shoreline harvesting; and 

  1. Aquatic production systems that protect ecosystem vitality and biodiversity, promote social equality, and advance good governance.

These research activities will explore solutions for addressing climate-related challenges faced by smallholder aquaculture farmers/producers, fishers, traders, retailers, and consumers. These initiatives are driven by the need to strengthen the resilience of the different actors of aquatic food systems given the obstacles posed by climate change. Outcomes of these activities should align with USAID-supported goals to increase food security through sustainably increased aquatic food production and consumption, aligned with USAID’s Biodiversity Policy. 

AI-2: Nutrition and food systems. The nutrition and food systems research area will generate evidence on improving human nutrition by using aquatic foods sustainably and equitably.  

Research Strategy Theme: Using a food systems approach, research conducted under this AI will result in technologies, practices, and approaches that improve human nutrition by leveraging fish and other aquatic foods to enhance access to diverse diets, increasing food safety along aquatic food value chains, and promoting inclusive access to aquatic food value chains. Ensuring access and food safety of aquatic foods for vulnerable populations is important under this theme, targeted by phases in the life course (e.g., pregnant and lactating women, infants and young children, school-age children and adolescents, and older adults) or background nutritional status (e.g., high prevalence of stunting, nutrient deficiencies, compromised development, or poor-quality diets). Sub-themes include

  1. Integrated interventions to improve nutrition security and food environments (availability, affordability, quality, convenience, promotion, and sustainability); 

  1. Sustainable, healthy aquatic food systems, climate-smart fish value chains (including distribution and trade), and processing technologies; 

  1. Food safety in fish products, fish processing, and postharvest handling to mitigate food loss and waste; and 

  1. Inclusion of marginalized groups in fish and other aquatic food value chains, including access to output markets. 

Research in this area will develop integrated solutions that encompass different elements of aquatic food value chains spanning production, distribution, and consumption, accounting for environmental, institutional, cultural, economic, and social factors associated with aquatic food systems. This comprehensive approach is designed to address nutrition, income, and food insecurity issues among marginalized groups and communities in priority countries. Furthermore, ensuring more equitable access to high-quality, safe sources of aquatic foods will result in improved dietary diversity and nutrition among marginalized groups. 

AI-3: Inclusive access to improved inputs. Activities under this AI will conduct research to address input-related gaps in the aquaculture and fisheries sectors.

Research Strategy Theme: Access to quality and affordable seedstocks and feeds remains a problem for fish farmers, and reliance on wild-caught fish for fish meal and fish oil continues to put pressure on fisheries. Moreover, access to services such as veterinary services and extension is weak or poorly developed. Therefore, the Fish Innovation Lab will prioritize research that enhances inclusive access to and benefits from quality feed and seedstocks, including genetically improved fish and innovative approaches to veterinary and extension services. Research in this area will result in technologies and practices that improve inclusive access to inputs and services and help fish farmers reduce, manage, and mitigate risks to support resilient, prosperous, and well-nourished individuals, households, and communities. For fishers, this research will support the development of technologies, practices, and approaches that reduce pressure on fisheries and optimize fish supply. Fish farmers are also impacted by production losses due to poor husbandry and disease losses, an area that can be improved through research on fish health and aquaculture biosecurity. Overall, research in this area will support income growth, improve diets, and promote natural resource conservation. Sub-themes include 

  1. Fish health and aquaculture biosecurity; 

  1. Improved fish feed quality, including fish meal and fish oil replacement; and 

  1. Improved fish broodstocks and seedstocks through enhanced fish genetics and selective breeding. 

These research activities will result in improved and accessible broodstocks, seedstocks, and feeds; enhanced biosecurity and diagnostic infrastructure and services to support the aquaculture industry; decreased producer dependence on antimicrobials and chemical treatments; and increased resilience of aquaculture and fisheries to natural and anthropogenic shocks.

Cross-Cutting Themes

Each research proposal must clearly and convincingly integrate all three cross-cutting themes described in this section into its core research design and approach. Each theme is central to the U.S. Government’s Global Food Security Research Strategy and, therefore, must be reflected in all activities conducted under the Fish Innovation Lab.

Gender and social inclusion

USAID’s inclusive development approach is that every person is instrumental in the transformation of their own societies, and that their inclusion throughout the development process leads to better outcomes. Inclusive development requires intentional proactive efforts to include marginalized groups, including women and girls, youth and elderly, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ people, displaced persons, migrants, indigenous people, religious or political minorities, and people in lower casts or economic classes. All activities funded by the Fish Innovation Lab must be in alignment with USAID’s 2023 Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy and follow USAID’s inclusive development guidance.

Concept notes and full proposals must include a strategy that incorporates one or more of the following approaches to inclusive development: 1) the use of qualitative or quantitative methods, such as barrier analysis, individual in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, inclusive development analyses, gender assessments or surveys (e.g., Project Level Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index [Pro-WEAI] to identify barriers to—and incorporate opportunities for— inclusive development; 2) implementation among women and men fish farmers and fishers across all representations, with emphasis on women, youth, and any other marginalized groups and collection of data disaggregated by sex, age, and any other relevant identity markers to capture inclusive involvement at different stages of aquatic food value chains; 3) informing culturally and technically appropriate program interventions by the awardee that make aquatic-food-related income-generating opportunities equally available to women and men, across all representations, with emphasis on women, youth, and any other marginalized groups; and 4) informing culturally and technically appropriate program interventions by the awardee that strengthen enabling conditions for engagement of women, youth, and any other marginalized groups and are both sustainable and scalable. Resources, including policies, definitions, and trainings can be found online: and At the full proposal stage, all applicants will be required to complete inclusive development training as specified by the Fish Innovation Lab. 


Resilience is a critical component of USAID’s work to improve food security and reduce poverty. The Fish Innovation Lab understands resilience as the ability of vulnerable groups reliant on income, food, and nutrition from aquaculture and fisheries to mitigate, adapt to, and redesign from shocks and stresses. Many practitioners increasingly recognize aquatic food value chains as a driver of food security and income despite being affected by shocks and stresses. Maintaining healthy and productive aquaculture and fisheries is critical to continued resilience of coastal residents and small-scale fish farmers and families who rely on both for income and nutrition. Shocks and stresses can include extreme weather events, unusual fluctuations in temperature, salinity, currents and rain, floods, disease outbreaks, and anthropogenic stresses and shocks. Given these considerations, each research proposal and activity must define how it contributes (or has the potential to contribute) to resilience and risk mitigation at different stages of aquatic food management and production, including value chains, and at the household and/or system level. Specifically, each research proposal must include how it will help identify, improve, or foster specific capacities of households, value-chain actors, or the systems in which they work to mitigate or manage shocks and stresses to aquaculture and fisheries management, operations, and livelihoods. Proposals should also highlight linkages to resilience at the community level and in food systems (for the FAO definition of food systems, see With an understanding of the existing risks and shocks to the system, research teams will be able to better understand facilitators and barriers to adoption. For additional information, please see USAID's Resilience page:

Capacity development 

All proposals must delineate activities promoting local capacity development in the host country and should address capacity development in at least one of the ways described below: 

  1. Individual capacity is strengthened by enabling people to develop and use the competencies required to do their jobs well. 

  1. Organizational capacity is built by establishing and sustaining entities of all types (including universities and the private sector) that take responsibility for sustainable aquaculture and fisheries development. 

  1. Systems-level capacity is built by creating an enabling environment that economically and culturally recognizes the value of aquatic foods for food security and enables the aquaculture and fisheries sectors to sustain and thrive.

Graduate student training is a key component of capacity development through Feed the Future Innovation Labs. Training of graduate students at host country universities is strongly encouraged, and proposals that incorporate this approach will be favorably reviewed.

Fish Innovation Lab Theory of Change

Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish Theory of Change

Fish Innovation Lab Results Framework

Fish Innovation Lab Results Framework

Collaborative Opportunities for Minority-Serving Institutions Webinar

Download the Collaborative Opportunities for MSIs Webinar PowerPoint Slides


Questions regarding this RFA were submitted through April 24, 2024. Responses are available by clicking on the “RFA Questions and Responses” button above.