Mountain pine beetle infestation has devastated pine forests in western North America, creating vast areas of “dead-crown zombie trees.” (iStock image)
The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program at USDA offers competitively awarded grants to qualified small businesses to support high quality, advanced concepts research related to important scientific problems and opportunities in agriculture that could lead to significant public benefits. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) administers SBIR Phase I grants that are limited to $100,000 and a duration of 8 months, and Phase II grants of up to $500,000 and 24 months that are open only to Phase I awardees. Below is the first-hand account of NIFA-funded SBIR research from Agenor Mafra-Neto, President and CEO of ISCA Technologies, Inc.
It might sound like the subject of the lamest B-horror flick ever made, but for pine trees in western North America, it’s a true story—the plant world’s equivalent of a zombie plague that has destroyed an estimated 723 million cubic of timber on more than 17.5 million hectares of forested land.
All on account of a tiny mountain pine beetle (MPB), no larger than a single grain of rice. Read more »
“Many farmers in the Southeast are planting indigo as a cash crop alternative to tobacco.” (Image courtesy of Sarah Bellos)
Blue jeans are a classic symbol of American fashion, but did you ever wonder how your blue jeans got their color?
Synthetic indigo dyes are used to give jeans their hue, but that was not always the case. Only two countries, China and Germany, currently manufacture the dyes that are used to color jeans, with China producing 90 percent.
Synthetic indigo is derived from coal tar and toxic chemicals that are fused together under conditions so extreme that making it in the United States is cost prohibitive, due to strict environmental and safety regulations. Read more »
SBIR grant recipients Ann Adams and Liz Brensinger with SBIR program coordinator Charles Cleland
For hundreds of years, agriculture has fostered a community of “makers” – people who have engineered the tools that ensure a steady, abundant supply of food and fiber under a wide variety of conditions. From the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, Mason jars in 1858, the gasoline tractor in 1892, to the current use of “big data” and genetic tools, the agriculture industry has made huge leaps and bounds in technology and engineering.
On June 12th and 13th, USDA joined other Federal agencies and a wide variety of public and private-sector organizations to celebrate the culture of “making” at the first-ever National Maker Faire. Held on the University of District Columbia campus in Washington, D.C., the National Maker Faire is part of a broad network of Maker Faires across the country that celebrate the spirit of curiosity, invention, and do-it-yourself determination. Read more »
An abundant blackberry crop that is easier to harvest on the Rotating Cross-Arm Trellis, which is on the market thanks to an SBIR loan. Photo Fumiomi Takeda, ARS.
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
Research, even cutting edge research, is often only half the battle when it comes to solving an agricultural problem. You’ve got to get those results out of the laboratory and into the market place before people can use them.
But a new facet of USDA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture set up this summer will help make it a little easier for technologies from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to do just that.
USDA’s SBIR program makes grants to small businesses to help move agricultural research down the road to commercial products. Read more »
The “Forest Scramble” playscape at Myrick Hixon EcoPark, in La Crosse, Wisconsin, features small-diameter round timber construction design by WholeTrees Architecture and Structures. WholeTrees has used four Small Business Innovation Research grants to create new markets, grow its business, and create jobs in the rural economy. Photo courtesy of WholeTrees.
With Mother Nature providing the raw material, a company based in Madison, Wisconsin, saw a chance to grow its business, help the local economy, and promote a sustainable environment all at the same time.
WholeTrees Architecture and Structures is a small, woman-owned business that has successfully leveraged four Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants into a business opportunity that has increased local revenue and grown the company from six employees and gross income of $150,000 in 2009 to 17 employees and gross income of about $1 million in 2013. The company projects revenue increasing to $4 million by 2016. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) administered the SBIR grants. Read more »
Robert Sorber operates the MicroDesal, which may successfully remove heavy metals, nitrates, phosphorus, and bacteria, making water safe to drink. Photo by Isaac Madsen
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
Clean drinking water for the world is a pretty tall order, considering that the United Nations says nearly a billion people currently go without it. But, that’s exactly the vision that Karen Sorber had when she co-founded Micronic Technologies in 2008 as a family business.
Now a Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is bringing the company one step closer to making that dream a reality. Micronic Technologies has introduced “MicroDesal,” a technology that takes well water with unsafe nitrate levels and treats it to the point where the water meets U.S. Environmental Protection Agency clean drinking water safety standards. Nitrates are unsafe for humans – especially children and pregnant women – and livestock. Read more »