The 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 scientific research for small businesses to advance transformative farming solutions.

“Small businesses, particularly rural and agricultural businesses, play an important role in the American economy. They embody the entrepreneurial spirit that America was built on,” said Jacobs-Young, who is also USDA undersecretary for research, education and business. “This latest investment strengthens federal research and development support for small businesses, including women- and minority-owned businesses, and bolsters USDA’s efforts to rapidly scale innovation throughout 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 breakthrough solutions on issues ranging from food science and nutrition to the conservation of natural resources.

“The projects we support 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 to solve some of our most vexing farming problems.”

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

  • Pathovacs Incorporated of Ames, Iowa, formulates a vaccine that protects vaccinated pigs against 15 different variants of Streptococcus suis, which are predominant disease-causing species in many geographical regions. According to the company’s research report, an economical and effective vaccine capable of conferring robust cross-protection will both appeal to pig farmers and significantly reduce economic losses for pork producers in North America and around the world. Iowa State University estimates the bacteria costs the US swine industry more than $3 million annually. The vaccine will also have a positive impact on human health by reducing the incidence of human infection and disease, as pigs transmit the pathogen asymptomatically and are a major source of human infection.
  • Hangar Alpha LLC of New York, New York, has developed real-time fire behavior prediction tools. These tools help with cost-saving planning and preventive measures as well as the correct allocation of resources 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 technically advanced private sector.
  • Allocation Insight, LLC of Lansing, Michigan, works to reduce spray drift from air applications while significantly increasing the efficiency and profitability of air applicators. Their product aims to reduce spray drift potential, enable faster application rates and increase productivity within weather windows in which sprays can be applied and improve application precision. The project will develop a scalable, electrically powered, multi-pump, high-pressure air chemical delivery system designed for mounting on manned fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft and potentially larger unmanned aerial vehicles.

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

  • Forests and Related Resources (2 Awards, $1,299,734)

  • Crop Production and Protection (Biology) (1 prize, $650,000)

  • Animal Production and Conservation (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 Bio-Based Products (3 awards, $1,950,000)

  • Small and Medium Farms (4 Awards, $2,499,790)

  • Crop Production and Protection (Engineering) (4 Awards, $2,549,665)

NIFA invests in and promotes agricultural research, education and extension nationwide 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 breakthrough discoveries in agricultural science and technology reach the people who can put them into practice. In fiscal year 2022, NIFA’s total investment was US$2.2 billion.


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