Canberra, Australia – Ausvet announced today that is a winner of a Grand Challenges Explorations grant – an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Melanie Bannister-Tyrrell at Ausvet will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “Surveillance as a Side Effect of Service”.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) supports innovative thinkers worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mould in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Melanie Bannister-Tyrrell’s project is one of nearly 60 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 22 grants announced by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To receive funding, Melanie Bannister-Tyrrell and other Grand Challenges Explorations winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of seven critical global health and development topic areas. The foundation will be accepting applications for the next GCE round in September, 2019.

Ausvet is a One Health consulting company using epidemiology, sociology and information technology to improve the health of people, animals and plants around the world. For our Grand Challenges Explorations grant, we aim to generate high-quality information about important crop pests and diseases by addressing the needs of smallholder farmers. Smallholder farmers in low-income countries need information about the presence and spread of important crop pests and diseases in their area, to make decisions about which crops to plant, when and where to apply control measures, and how to detect and respond to exotic pests and diseases. However, agriculture extension services are often overstretched, which limits the direct support they can provide to farmers. Farmers may also be reluctant to report the presence of pests and diseases to agriculture extension services, in part because of the risk of measures such as crop destruction without compensation.

We will develop a system that supports smallholder farmers to send confidential reports of possible pest and disease concerns. Farmers will receive advice and support from their peers as well as agriculture extension services, via text messages and calls. Farmer reports and information exchanges will be used to estimate how widespread important crop pests are in the area. When crop pests or diseases are on the rise, all registered users in the area will be notified, with advice on course of action. Our innovative, user-focused approach ensures that surveillance information will directly support service delivery, with practical benefits for stakeholders at all levels.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 1480 projects in more than 65 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants. The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization. The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required. Initial grants of US$100,000 are awarded two times per year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.