Calls for expressions of interest

AO 231289

Support to design, supervise and implement research on integrated crop production, digital technologies and environmental footprinting in ACP horticulture to support transition toward sustainable agriculture and facilitate compliance with SPS requirements of domestic and international markets

Post date: 08/09/2023

Please complete the application form below:

Terms of Reference - CEI 231289

1. Title of contract

Support to design, supervise and implement research on integrated crop production, digital technologies and environmental footprinting in ACP horticulture to support transition toward sustainable agriculture and facilitate compliance with SPS requirements of domestic and international markets.

Ref: COLEAD/AO/231289

2. Location

The necessary interventions may require travel within partner countries (with an emphasis on ACP countries). Depending on the case, the experts could be invited to visit the different COLEAD offices if necessary (Brussels, Rungis, Nairobi, etc.).

3. Main object (CPV code)

Agri-food sectors

4. General address of the contracting authority

5 rue de la Corderie
94586 RUNGIS Cedex

5. Publication of detailed Contract Notice

Internet address of the contracting authority:

6. Procedure

The publication of this Contract Notice launches the first phase of the procedure and is intended to allow candidates to express their interest in bidding. An initial evaluation based on an analysis of the expressions of interest will result in the establishment of a shortlist of candidates deemed suitable to submit tenders.

Stages of the procedure:

Phase 1

  1. Publication of the Contract Notice and submission by candidates of their expression of interest
  2. Establishment of the longlist
  3. Pre-selection based on the application file
  4. Establishment of the shortlist

Phase 2

  1. Launching of the call for tenders (sending of tender documents to short-listed candidates)
  2. Selection based on the files provided by those tendering
  3. Establishment of framework contracts with the selected tenderers

The service providers selected following the consultation will be offered a framework contract, specifying a maximum daily remuneration rate per proposed expert. This rate of remuneration may differ from the financial proposal made by the tenderer.

In general, the services of the successful tenderers may start from the day of the signature of the framework contract. The interventions of the successful tenderers may extend until the full consumption of the budget allocated.

7. Background information


COLEAD is a non-profit interprofessional association created in 1973. Its purpose is to facilitate and implement all actions allowing, directly and/or indirectly, to increase the contribution of the agricultural sector, and horticulture in particular, to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

From an operational perspective, COLEAD is organised into several departments corresponding to COLEAD’s internal areas of expertise: Technical Assistance, Training, Research and Innovation Brokerage, Market Insights, Information and Communication, Regulation and Standards, Access to Finance, and Networking and Alliances.

FFM Plus programme

Fit For Market Plus: Mitigating the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic by strengthening the sustainability of the ACP horticultural sector

In November 2021, the EC and COLEAD signed a five-year grant contract, “Fit For Market Plus: Mitigating the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic by strengthening the sustainability of the ACP horticultural sector”, with a total budget of EUR 25 million financed by the 11th EDF.

Both FFM SPS and FFM+ are part of the intra-ACP cooperation programme between the EU and the Organisation of Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific States (OACPS), formerly ACP Group of States. It is part of European support for medium- and long-term policies aimed at strengthening productive capacities, stimulating innovation, and improving the sustainability and competitiveness of the ACP private sector.

The overall objective of FFM+ is to contribute to poverty reduction and improved food security and nutrition, by supporting the building of a fairer, safer and sustainable agri-food sector in member countries of the OACPS. Despite a disruptive landscape, the first specific objective is to support smallholders, farmer groups and MSMEs to maintain and improve access to national, regional, and international horticultural markets while adapting to changes in the operating environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Simultaneously, in a context of accelerated changes and paradigm shift, the second specific objective is to enable smallholders, farmer groups and MSMEs of the horticultural sector to seize new market opportunities through the development and adoption of safe and sustainable practices, skills and technologies.

Other programmes managed and implemented by COLEAD (at the time of launching this market service):

As part of the diversification of its funding sources, COLEAD is led to implement other national or multinational programs funded by different donors. Thus, in addition to the FFM+ programmes, COLEAD is also involved in the implementation of several technical assistance programmes/projects in line with the association’s mission:

  • “Strengthening the Phytosanitary Control and Certification System in Guinea (STDF/PG/498) funded by the Standards and Trade Development Facility (FANDC – STDF).
  • NExT Kenya: Enhancing Kenyan Horticultural Export” (CRIS 414-898) funded by the EU aims to increase the contribution of the Kenyan horticultural sector to household incomes and improve food security, food safety and nutrition by strengthening the resilience, integration and sustainability of the country’s horticultural value chains.
  • “AGRINFO – Towards a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system: addressing compliance with EU regulatory and non-regulatory measures” (FOOD 2021/427-777), funded by the EC for a total budget of EUR 7 million. The AGRINFO programme focuses on identifying and monitoring EU policies, regulatory and non-regulatory measures, standards and market trends that have a potential impact on competitiveness, market access and trade dynamics on national, regional, international levels for agricultural operators in partner countries and in the EU.

The list of other programmes/projects is not exhaustive. Indeed, COLEAD is involved in the implementation of several national and regional technical assistance programmes/projects, in partnership with donors working towards inclusive and sustainable agri-food production and trade. Please refer to the COLEAD website to learn more about its interventions.

Problems to be resolved and reasons for the market

As no one-size-fit-all solutions exists for the implementation of sustainable agriculture, site-specific solutions must continuously be tailored to the local needs and demands based on data and metrics. In summary, “sustainable operations” means continuous evaluation and rethinking of operation strategies over time, thus meaning change. Therefore, the aim of COLEAD is to support the transition to more ‘sustainable agri-food systems’ by (a) facilitating and promoting good practices that are recognised elements of agroecological systems tailored to the local context, and by (b) monitoring key performance indicators to assess impact and make necessary adjustments to drive improvement over time. While respecting its principle of non-substitution, COLEAD thus generally aims to stimulate and embed sustainability in supply chain operations, from production to export/processing.

As such, COLEAD’s Research and Innovation Brokerage department (R&IB) will aim to address many issues that are at the centre of supporting the transition toward sustainable food systems. Climate change, environmental degradation, and regulatory reforms are contributing to serious challenges for producers, and there is an urgent need to facilitate access to the most appropriate and affordable technologies available to improve food production, quality, and safety. The Research & Innovation Brokerage Department aims to drive research and innovation by identifying technologies that have the potential to address these priorities and ensuring that such solutions are made available to value chain operators.

One of our main activities focuses on the need for effective and affordable crop production technologies in ACP horticulture. By bringing together knowledge from farmers, research, start-ups, and manufacturers, COLEAD experts seek to identify the most relevant solutions and existing technologies and accelerate their access to the market.

To prioritise activities and orientate research, the Research & Innovation Brokerage Department has reviewed extensive data from partner beneficiaries in ACP countries collected through surveys, sustainability self-assessments and new applications for support (AFS) received under the FFM Plus programme. Sustainable soil, water and waste management, and crop protection rank among top priorities for ACP horticulture. COLEAD research and innovation brokerage activities will therefore focus on the following areas, among others:

  • Practices and technologies supporting the operationalisation of integrated pest management thereby reducing dependency on synthetic pesticides.
  • Practices and technologies supporting the operationalisation of integrated soil fertility management, thereby enhancing soil fertility, more efficient nutrient- and fertilizer use, and development of suitable crop nutrition protocols following the 4R’s of nutrient stewardship. These activities will contribute to increased soil ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, and climate regulation, while reducing dependency on synthetic inputs.
  • Practices and technologies aiming at reducing and improving the valorisation of waste in food production and processing. Food waste not only represents a significant economic loss but also has substantial environmental and social impacts. By focusing on waste reduction and valorisation, we aim to develop innovative solutions that optimise resource utilisation. This includes strategies for repurposing organic waste into valuable by-products such as compost, animal feed or bioenergy, thereby contributing to a more circular and sustainable food system.
  • Practices and technologies supporting sustainable use of water in food production and processing. This includes the implementation and validation of practices that enhance water productivity and/or water use efficiency as well as innovative irrigation technologies.
  • Practices and technologies aiming at enhancing biodiversity and resilience to climate change.

The COLEAD approach is in-line with the European ‘Farm to Fork’ Strategy that aims to accelerate the transition to sustainable food systems that: (i) have a neutral or positive environmental impact; (ii) help to mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts; (iii) reverse biodiversity loss;(iv) ensure food security, nutrition and public health, making sure that everyone has access to sufficient, safe, nutritious, sustainable food; and (iv) preserve affordability of food while generating fairer economic returns, fostering competitiveness of the EU supply sector and promoting fair trade.

For success in agricultural trade at local, regional and international levels, ACP countries must supply food products competitively while respecting market and regulatory requirements. Although ACP countries have exported fresh produce for many years, the rapid evolution of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) regulations and commercial standards is becoming an increasing barrier to accessing both regional and international markets.

For those exporting to the EU, significant current challenges include:

  1. New EU plant health rules (under Directive 2000/29/EC, and the new Regulation EU 2016/2031), which are placing increased demands on inspection services and national plant protection organisations (NPPOs).
  2. The Regulation (EC) 1107/2009 review process, which governs the placing of plant protection products (PPPs) on the market, and is leading to the loss of many substances that are important to the horticultural sector.
  3. Regulation (EC) 396/2005, the EC Maximum Residue Level (MRL) Harmonisation programme
  4. New rules for organic agriculture under Regulation (EU) 2018/848.

To meet these challenges, the ACP horticultural industry needs effective, affordable and available crop production and crop protection solutions that support compliance with the stringent and evolving demands of the regulatory and commercial environment.

In ACP horticulture, however, there is a general underinvestment in the development of innovative solutions and technologies, in the setting of new maximum residue limits (MRLs) for PPPs, registration of new PPPs, development of local GAP recommendations, or testing and upscaling of new technologies and practices. COLEAD therefore seeks to contribute to accelerated investment in research and innovation. This includes upscaling successes and promoting best practices across its regions of intervention.

COLEAD is therefore constantly searching for alternative practices and technologies that are safe, effective, available and for which there is commercial added value for supply chain operators.

8. Market description

Type of contract

This contract concerns the provision of support services for the technical implementation of all ongoing and future COLEAD projects/programmes.

All successful tenderers will be offered a framework contract, which will specify the names of the selected experts and the maximum daily fee per expert. In some cases, and following the evaluation of the proposed CVs, the fees mentioned in the contract may differ from the fees proposed in the financial offer of the tenderer.

The objective of this tender is to create a pool of experts with the sought expertise, as described in “Type of activities”, who can be mobilised by the COLEAD’s technical team when needed. Services will therefore be required on an as-needed basis and through ordering letters specifying the terms of the assignments.

As a result of the aforementioned, it is important to note that within this tender, although signing a framework contract is a pre-requisite to work with COLEAD, it does not guarantee that all service providers will be asked to carry out assignments.

Principles of intervention

In continuity with previous programmes, the intervention logic of COLEAD’s programmes is based on the expression of requests for support from MSMEs or producer groups in partner countries, but also from intermediate support structures – whether public or private – which are actively involved in the process of compliance and the development of value chains concerned (service providers, business membership organisations, training centres, inspection services, etc.). It also adopts the following modalities and principles of actions that have contributed to their success:

  • Local ownership ;
  • No substitution of local stakeholders ;
  • Investment in local expertise and human resources;
  • Pooling of problems / economies of scale/intra-inter regional approach favoured;
  • Demand-driven approach;
  • A participatory approach and cost sharing;
  • South-South cooperation;
  • Technical, scientific and financial partnerships to avoid duplication, optimise synergies and upscale impact;
  • A cross-cutting framework on youth and women.

COLEAD will preferentially involve service providers with consultants based in partner-countries , with a specific emphasis on ACP countries, from which the beneficiaries of the programmes are requesting support, in order to ensure that the characteristics of the operators concerned and their environment are considered rapidly and effectively. This concern for the increasing involvement of local expertise is an integral part of COLEAD’s intervention logic.

Beneficiaries / target groups

The beneficiaries/target groups are the stakeholders of the agricultural industry, including but not limited to, directors and technical managers of companies and farmers organisations, outreach staff of organisations supporting smallholders, agents of the intermediate structures of the agricultural sector, public and private sector service providers, and public service agents with an emphasis on the competent authority for SPS inspection and certification (the National Plant Protection Organisation – NPPO), Pesticide registration authorities and laboratories, etc.

Type of activities

Global objective of the market

The present service market aims at

  1. Supporting the R&IB team to identify research and innovation needs, plan and supervise activities to develop crop production, crop protection, water management, food processing and waste management, and information technologies that will help growers produce safe food on a sustainable basis, and in compliance with the SPS regulations and standards in force for local, regional, and international markets.
  2. Implementing and monitoring field trials in ACP countries to adapt, develop and disseminate technologies (including digital technologies) that will help growers produce safe food on a sustainable basis, and in compliance with the SPS regulations and standards in force for local, regional, and international markets.

Description of services concerned

The services sought include needs identification, planning, supervision and implementation of crop production and crop protection research and innovation, including the implementation of field trials in ACP horticulture. It is important to note that a tenderer is not expected to be able to provide all the services presented below (1 to 6). The evaluation will take into consideration the differences between the required services along with the associated infrastructure and competencies. Each tenderer can submit only one application, but they may include one or more services (without limitation) by specifying which are covered in their tender. Evaluation of an application will be carried out separately for each of the services included in the tender.

  1. Support the COLEAD Team to identify priority needs in crop production and crop protection in ACP horticulture through:
  • Monitoring EU regulatory changes, in particular Regulations (EC) 1107/2009 and (EC) 396/2005 concerning plant protection products, and Regulations (EC) 834/2007 and (EC) 2018/848 concerning organic agriculture. Identify changes that are likely to affect ACP horticulture, and use this information to identify needs for information, research, innovation or research brokerage to enable compliance by operators. Activities may include (for example) field trials, desk studies, or surveys and engagement with operators.
  • Monitoring emerging problems and trends including (for example) new crop pests and diseases, lack of available management options or input supplies; non-compliances with plant health regulations, pesticide MRLs, environmental standards, or commercial requirements.
  • Surveys of COLEAD members and partner beneficiaries to identify the most critical problems and constraints.
  1. Support COLEAD’s R&IB department in designing a programme of field trials based on:
  • An analysis of emerging crop production and crop protection problems and needs (including literature reviews, surveys, interviews, etc.)
  • An analysis of emerging trends in research and innovation, in particular to identify new practices or technologies of potential relevance to ACP horticulture.
  • Liaison with EU and ACP authorities and researchers
  • Liaison with input suppliers (in particular fertilisers and plant protection product companies) and agro-tech manufacturers and owners (including digital technologies)
  1. Plan, coordinate and supervise the implementation of field trials in ACP countries and disseminate results:
  • Support the identification of suitable service providers, and supervise implementation of field trials
  • Supervise the design, planning, implementation and reporting of field trials or proof of concepts studies to validate new technologies. Ensure that they are fit for purpose and conform with industry and research norms. In the case of pesticide residue trials, this requires Good Experimental Practices (GEP) & Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) compliant procedures.
  • Support the drafting of internal reports, documents and brochures for dissemination, and peer reviewed publications (if relevant).
  1. Develop trial protocols, and implement field trials for crop production, to test technologies under real conditions; collect scientifically sound data to enable (for example) local validation of new technologies or methodologies; analysis of the cost-effectiveness of new technologies; further dissemination to the COLEAD network.

These may include:

  • Trials to study improved production practices and technologies to enhance soil fertility, and crop nutrition regimes that increase soil ecosystem services (such as carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, and climate regulation) while reducing dependency on synthetic inputs.
  • Trials to study improved practices and technologies to reduce losses and improve the valorisation of waste in food production and processing.
  • Trials to study improved practices and technologies for food processing and preservation.
  • Trials to study practices and technologies supporting sustainable use of water in crop and food production and processing.
  • Trials to study practices and technologies that enhance biodiversity.
  • Trials to study practices and technologies that increase resilience to climate change.
  • Test innovative digital solutions (using case studies / Proof of Concepts) that improve SPS compliance in the ACP horticultural industry including (for example) for the monitoring and surveillance of pests and diseases distribution in priority crops; improved traceability for complex supply chains involving small producers; farmer profiling tools; inputs recommendations; smart irrigation systems.

Examples of innovative solutions include the following, but are not limited to:

  • Crop production practices such as crop rotations, intercropping, IPM strategies.
  • Soil fertility involving the use of bio-stimulants or organic inputs in combination with mineral inputs.
  • Integrated water management, including the use of technology (solar pumps, drip irrigation).
  • Waste management through composting, transformation into animal feed or other by-products (such as cosmetics, packaging).
  • Technologies designed to improve the storage and preservation of food products, such as waxes, fruit and vegetable processing technologies, etc.
  • Digital technologies such as smart technologies for yield prediction, irrigation management, crop pests and diseases surveillance, farmer profiling, traceability, soil quality assessment.
  1. Develop trial protocols, and implement field trials for crop protection to support the local registration of biocontrol or plant protection products and/or generation of data to define new Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) including:
  • Developing protocols for efficacy and/or residue trials according to competent authorities’ requirements (and potential GEP & GLP) in collaboration with the PPP manufacturers. This includes field trials on plant protection products covering:
  • Screening trials to determine biological efficacy (including biological control, traps, bio-stimulants and adjuvants), pre-and post-harvest.
  • Efficacy trials to support applications for registration in ACP countries.
  • PPP residue trials to define the GAP required to meet the MRLs for local/regional and EU markets and/or to support registration applications in ACP countries.
  • IPM trials to support operationalisation in practice of new approaches to crop protection.
  • Support the identification of suitable service providers and supervise implementation of field trials.
  • Liaise with accredited analytical facilities and arrange collection, preparation, and transport of samples.
  • Analyse data, prepare the trial report for registration or to define new GAPs.
  • Liaise with the PPP manufacturer and competent authorities to ensure that the data generated, and reporting are fit for purpose.
  1. Support assessment of the environmental footprint of COLEAD partner beneficiaries’ activities, with the aim of enhancing operations and minimising impacts. This involves the following key tasks:
  • Facilitate Service Provider Selection: Help to identify suitable service providers and oversee the execution of studies to assess the environmental footprint of products or companies.
  • Monitor Trends and Policies: Tracking trends and policies in the sector, as well as developments in methods for calculating the environmental footprint of products, companies and supply chains, including associated digital solutions.
  • Gather Relevant Company Data: Ensure the collection of high-quality primary data from companies, ensuring its suitability for the assessment’s objectives.
  • Conduct Life Cycle Analysis: Utilise appropriate methodologies to carry out comprehensive life cycle analyses.
  • Analyse Data and Provide Recommendations: Analysing data to support the environmental impact claims of companies or sectors, and proposing recommendations based on tangible studies to improve their operations.

These services will help to enhance the environmental sustainability of COLEAD partner beneficiaries in ACP horticulture and agrifood, while improving their overall operational efficiency.

The crops likely to be included in COLEAD activities include: beans and peas in pods, tomato, okra, hot pepper, sweet pepper, aubergine, melon, cucumber and other cucurbits with edible peel, sweet potato, yam, cassava, dasheen and macabo, ginger, lettuce and other salad leaves, sweet corn, baby corn, baby carrot, baby cabbages, baby leek, amaranth, watermelon and butternut squash, head cabbages, potato, onion, garlic, shallot, soft fruits (strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry etc.) asparagus, pineapple, papaya, avocado, passion fruit, mango, coconut, litchi, banana, citrus, guava, grapes, tamarillo, spices and herbs. Other crops may be added if the need arises.

Technical reports will be expected for each assignment, including interim and a detailed final report. The content and timeframe for the delivery of technical reports will be specified in the ordering letter for each assignment.


Resources required

The detailed technical skills required for each assignment will be defined on a case-by-case basis. In general, the applicant will need to provide evidence of the following expertise and resources:

  • Graduate in agriculture/ food sciences/ environmental sciences/ IT or any other relevant discipline in light of the expected services.
  • Minimum 3 years’ professional experience in the agricultural/waste management/water management/food processing/life cycle analysis sector, or minimum 3 years’ professional experience in digital/innovative solutions distribution/development in the context of agriculture or food supply chains.
  • Practical experience in one or more of the following (preferably in an ACP context): research needs assessment in agriculture/agrifood; planning and design of field-based research; implementation and analysis of field trials in plant production and/or crop protection; development of proof of concepts for digital technologies; environmental footprinting/lifecycle analysis in agri-food products.

Depending on the proposed services, the following are also desirable:

  • Access to technical equipment and infrastructures needed to implement the services under Section 3.
  • Experience, training, and qualifications in GEP for the implementation of PPP residue trials
  • Authorisation (licence, certification, approval) from a national or regional competent authority in the ACP to carry out trials for PPP registration purposes
  • Knowledge of European sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) regulations and standards.

9. Budget

The maximum value of this Contract Notice is € 500,000.

10. Provisional timetable

Date of publication of this Contract Notice: 08/09/2023

Deadline for receipt of applications (expressions of interest): 09/10/2023

Deadline for publication of the shortlist: 24/10/2023

Expected date for sending invitations to tenders: 25/10/2023

Deadline for submission of tenders: 13/12/2023

Date of notification to the successful bidders: 14/03/2024

Expected start date of the contract: (from) from the date of signature by the 2 contracting parties

The final schedule will be included in the tender documents.

11. Eligibility

Participation is open, under equal conditions, to all natural persons and legal entities (participating individually or in a consortium of bidders) who are nationals of the ACP and EU States and/or listed in Annex 1 to this document. A consortium may be a permanent group with legal status or an informal group created for the purpose of a specific call for tenders. All the members of a consortium (i.e. the lead partner and all other partners) are jointly and severally liable to the contracting authority.

A check will be carried out to ensure that none of the candidate bidders appears on any of the Financial Sanctions Lists (lists designating persons, groups or entities subject to financial sanctions by the United Nations, the EU and France).

The participation of an ineligible natural person or legal entity will result in the automatic exclusion of the application concerned. If this ineligible person is part of a consortium, the application of the entire consortium will be excluded.

12. Prohibition on pre-selected candidates forming groups

Any tenders received from tenderers allied with firms other than those mentioned in the shortlisted application forms will be excluded from the tender procedure. Shortlisted candidates may neither associate nor conclude mutual subcontracting agreements in the context of the contract in question. No more associations will be allowed after the shortlist has been established.

13. Criteria for selecting applications

Selection criteria relating to the technical and professional capacity of the bidder will be applied to candidates. In the case of an application submitted by a consortium, these criteria will apply to the whole consortium.

These criteria ensure that the candidate (or the consortium as a whole) has sufficient skills and experience to perform the contract.

The correct observance of the instructions for sending the application file will also be considered in the evaluation.

14. Application form

The bidder should indicate an interest in participating in the call for tenders by applying. If the candidate is pre-selected, the name of the structure indicated on the application file will be used in the shortlist. No further changes (name, consortium or other) will be allowed.

The form is available in English and French and should be completed in one of these languages.

It includes the following data:

  1. General information on the applicant
  2. The application file:
  • 1 brief description of one or more recent assignments (within the previous 3 years) related to the type of activities, illustrating your competence in one or more areas of expertise described in the terms of reference (4000 characters maximum, spaces included).
  • the names of up to 3 experts who technically meet the expertise requirements and a brief description of their respective skills and experience.
  • at least one professional reference with an email address.

The application must be received by COLEAD no later than Monday, October 09th, 2023.

  1. Communication with COLEAD

If you have any questions regarding this Contract Notice or your application, please email

Be sure to include Contract Notice reference COLEAD/AO/231289 in the title of your email when communicating with COLEAD.

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