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

This week Chavonda Jacobs-Young, chief scientist at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), announced a $21.6 million investment in small business science research to further develop transformative agricultural solutions.

“Small businesses, especially rural and agricultural ones, play a vital role in the American economy. They embody the entrepreneurial spirit on which America was built,” said Jacobs-Young, who is also the USDA Undersecretary for Research, Education and the Economy. “This latest investment bolsters federal support for research and development for small businesses, including women- and minority-owned businesses, and enhances USDA’s efforts to rapidly scale innovation along the food supply chain.”

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

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

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

  • Pathovacs Incorporated of Ames, Iowais formulating a vaccine that will protect vaccinated pigs against 15 different strains of Streptococcus suis that predominantly cause disease in many geographic regions. According to the company’s research brief, an affordable and effective vaccine that can confer robust cross-protection will be attractive to hog farmers and significantly reduce economic losses for pork producers across North America and the world. . Iowa State University estimates that the bacteria cost the US pork industry more than $3 million annually. The vaccine will also have a positive impact on human health by decreasing the incidence of human infections and disease, as pigs carry the pathogen asymptomatically and are a primary source of human infection.
  • Hangar Alpha LLC of New York, NY, has developed real-time predictive tools for fire behavior. These tools will help with prevention and savings planning measures and correct resource allocation in real time. This funding will enable the company to rapidly develop and commercially produce predictive fire analytics for the public sector and expand into the technologically advanced private sector.
  • Allocation Insight, LLC of Lansing, Michigan, is working to reduce spray drift from aerial applications, significantly increasing the efficiency and profitability of aerial applicators. Their product aims to achieve this by decreasing the drift potential of sprays, enabling faster application rates, and increasing productivity within the weather windows where the spray can be applied, and improving the accuracy of applications. The project will develop a scalable, multi-pump, electrically driven, high-pressure airborne chemical delivery system designed to be mounted on piloted fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft and potentially larger unmanned aerial vehicles.

View the full list of 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)

  • Natural Resources Conservation (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 Bio-Based Products (3 awards, $1,950,000)

  • Small and Medium 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 outreach across the nation to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. NIFA supports initiatives that ensure the long-term sustainability of agriculture and applies an integrated approach to ensure that breakthroughs in agriculture-related science and technology reach the people who can put them into practice. In fiscal 2022, NIFA’s total investment was $2.2 billion.

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