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USDA invests $21.6M in research for small businesses pursuing agricultural solutions

This week U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Chief Scientist Chavonda Jacobs-Young announced an investment of $21.6 million in scientific research for small businesses to further develop transformative agricultural solutions.

“Small businesses, particularly rural and agricultural enterprises, play a vital role in the American economy. They embody the entrepreneurial spirit that America was built upon,” said Jacobs-Young, who is also the USDA Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics. “This latest investment strengthens federal research and development support for small businesses, including women- and minority-owned businesses, and enhances USDA’s efforts to rapidly scale innovation across the food supply chain.”

This investment is part of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program that targets early-stage private-sector projects. Grant funding will support 34 research projects that propose innovative and disruptive solutions on topics ranging from food science and nutrition to natural resource conservation.

“The projects we’re supporting demonstrate scientific originality, technical feasibility, and strong commercial potential,” said Acting NIFA Director Dr. Dionne Toombs. “With this research, our small business partners are helping solve some of our most vexing agricultural problems.”

The grants are supporting businesses across the country, from Washington to New York. Examples of funded projects include:

  • Pathovacs Incorporated of Ames, Iowa, is formulating a vaccine that will protect vaccinated pigs against 15 different varients of Streptococcus suis that predominately cause disease in many geographical regions. According to the company’s research brief, an economical and efficacious vaccine capable of conferring robust cross protection will be both attractive to pig farmers and significantly reduce economic losses to pork producers across North America and the globe. Iowa State University estimates the bacteria costs the U.S. swine industry more than $3 million annually. The vaccine will also positively impact human health by decreasing incidence of human infection and disease, since pigs carry the pathogen asymptomatically and are a primary source of human infection.
  • Hangar Alpha LLC of New York, New York, has developed real-time predictive tools for fire behavior. These tools will help with cost-saving planning and prevention measures, and proper allocation of resources in real time. This funding will allow the company to rapidly develop and commercially produce predictive fire analytics for the public sector and expand into the tech-forward private sector.
  • Allocation Insight, LLC of Lansing, Michigan, is working to reduce spray drift from aerial applications while significantly increasing the efficiency and profitability of aerial applicators. Their product aims to do this by decreasing the drift potential of sprays, allowing faster application rates, and increasing the productivity within weather windows in which spray can be applied, and improving the precision of applications. The project will develop a scalable, multi-pump, electric drive, high-pressure aerial chemical delivery system that is designed to mount on piloted fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft, and potentially larger unmanned aerial vehicles.

View the complete list of the 34 funded Small Business Innovation Research projects:

  • Forests and Related Resources (2 awards, $1,299,734)
  • Plant Production and Protection (Biology) (1 award, $650,000)
  • Animal Production and Protections (3 awards, $1,899,999)
  • Conservation of Natural Resources (5 awards, $3,249,849)
  • Food Science and Nutrition (5 awards, $3,192,035)
  • Rural and Community Development (4 awards, $2,498,235)
  • Aquaculture (3 awards, $1,889,445)
  • Biofuels and Biobased Products (3 awards, $1,950,000)
  • Small and Mid-Size Farms (4 awards, $2,499,790)
  • Plant Production and Protection (Engineering) (4 awards, $2,549,665)

NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education and Extension across the nation to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. NIFA supports initiatives that ensure the long-term viability of agriculture and applies an integrated approach to ensure that groundbreaking discoveries in agriculture-related sciences and technologies reach the people who can put them into practice. In fiscal year 2022, NIFA’s total investment was $2.2 billion.


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