US Government grants agri-food research projects $2.6 million

Posted: 16 March 2018 | | No comments yet

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded grants worth a total of US$2.6 million to support the initial development of 27 agriculture and food production university projects.


SEWING SEEDS: Previous rounds of funding have helped research on the effect of sleep loss on the immunity of dairy cattle

The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) gave out the funding through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, authorised by the 2014 Farm Bill.

The ERG programme aims to foster the creation of transformative innovations that address plant and animal health and production, food safety and nutrition, bioenergy, natural resources and environment, agriculture systems, technology, agricultural economics and rural communities.

AFRI is America’s flagship competitive grants programme for foundational and translational research, education, and extension projects in the food and agricultural sciences.

“We have made tremendous strides with conventional agricultural practices,” said NIFA Director Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy. “However, with an expected population growth of more than nine billion by 2050, progressive, high-yielding innovations are necessary in order to ensure food production and security for a growing population.”

There grants include a project at the University  of Florida that tackled the urgent need to determine the frequency of Zika virus infection in wild-caught mosquitoes in Haiti, generating information that can help efforts to control the spread of Zika from insects to humans in Florida and other Southern states.

Through another grant, Middle Tennessee State University explored an alternative approach to sustainable bioenergy and renewable energy by using food-industry wastes to grow microorganisms that produce the lipid precursors of biodiesel.

Each grant received roughly the same $100,000. Project details can be found at the NIFA website.

Previously funded projects include a project at Ohio State University to determine the effect of sleep loss on the immunity of dairy cattle. Researchers at Duke University are exploring ways to use Super Critical Water Oxidation (SCWO) – already successfully used to treat sewage sludge – to convert animal waste to harmless end-products that generate carbon offsets and possibly renewable energy.

The ERG programme, which accepts letters of intent and proposals on a rolling basis throughout the year, addresses emerging challenges that require new or unconventional approaches and yield high potential impact. This programme area supports research projects, including blue sky and high risk/high reward hypotheses, to develop proof of concept for untested ideas that will lead to positive disruption of the agricultural norm.