The United States-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD) is a competitive funding program for mission-oriented, strategic and applied research of mutual-interest agricultural problems, conducted jointly by American and Israeli scientists. This cooperative research entails active collaboration between Israeli and Americans research institutes and has led to significant breakthroughs in advancing agricultural technologies to deal with problems faced in the field.
BARD was created in 1978 with initial contributions of $40 million by both the United States and Israel. The endowment fund was then augmented in 1984 by another $15 million from each country. In 1994, an agreement was reached that Israel would match any U.S. suplement to the fund by the amount of $2.5 million annually. Since 1998, though, this annual supplement has been substantially reduced.
BARD funds projects for a period of three years, giving an average of $310,000 to the researchers in both countries over that period. Awards are given out based upon the details of the budget justification, the number of funded institutions in the proposed project and the nature of the specific research program.
Since its inception, BARD has evaluated more than 4,400 projects and has awarded more than $270 million to 1,300 joint projects between nearly every U.S. state as well as Canada and Australia with Israel. Additionally, BARD has sponsored 185 postdoctoral fellows since 1985 and 11 senior research fellows since 1991. They have also led 45 scientific workshops.
BARD-sponsored research has led to innovative developments, new technologies and renewed focus in drip irrigation, pesticides, fish farming, livestock, poultry, disease control and farm equipment. BARD also conducts a fellowship program and supports joint workshops.
An external review done in 2000 of BARD's performance in its first 20 years found that the foundation supported a very high caliber of research and development projects and attracted proposals from the top echelon of scientists. The review found that two-thirds of the projects were classified as excellent or outstanding and that the projects also generated a large output of scientific papers, many of which are published in the most prestigious journals.
While BARD funds agriculturally relevant and scientifically meritorious work in all traditional disciplines of agriculture; it has identified the following fields as priorities:
Increased efficiency of agricultural production; protection of plants and animals against biotic and abiotic stress; food quality, safety and security; water quality and quantity; functional genomics and proteomics; sensors and robotics; and, sustainable bio-energy systems.
Recently BARD established the MARD program to promote cooperative agricultural research and development activities between scientists in Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and the United States. During its five years of operation, MARD has funded numerous successful regional workshops, mutual visits, training seminars and similar activities that have enhanced the spirit of collaboration between Palestinian, Jordanian, Israeli and US researchers.