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 »
In support of the Obama Administration’s efforts to put Americans back to work and create an economy built to last, the Department of Agriculture (USDA), Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization will host Rural Small Business Connections, a training event to provide small businesses with educational networking sessions and opportunities on how to successfully do business with USDA and other Federal agencies.
Rural Small Business Connections is designed to provide small businesses and small farmer-owned cooperatives with the exposure and insight to increase small business contracting participation with the Federal government. Conference attendees will have an opportunity to participate in a full day of learning discussions led by program and small business procurement officials from USDA, and other Federal agencies. Read more »
USDA is committed to working with our partners in the sheep industry to support them as they provide quality products to consumers and increase producer returns here at home. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung
Since they were brought over during the earliest explorations of North America, the sheep industry has played a vital role in the agricultural history of our nation. In the 1940s, there were over 55 million sheep in the U.S., but today those numbers hover around one-tenth of that total. There are about 80,000 sheep ranchers across the U.S., and, with support from the 2014 Farm Bill, they will have additional resources to help develop innovative approaches to address their long-term needs.
Consolidation of the U.S. sheep packing industry, higher feed and energy costs, loss of animals to predators and lower lamb consumption, along with competition from imported of lamb cuts, have taken their toll on U.S. sheep producers. In response to industry needs, USDA is committed to working with our stakeholders to ensure the long-term viability of the sheep industry. Read more »
A USDA pilot program is helping small producers reach more retail markets by making Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification more accessible and affordable. Under the pilot, cooperatives, food hubs and other groups of small producers can pool resources to implement food safety training programs, perform internal inspections and share the cost of GAP certification.
For their communities, small farmers are anything but small. Their contributions are quite large – not only do they provide food for local residents – they also create jobs and economic opportunities. However, retailer requirements and the cost of marketing can make it difficult for small producers to scale up and reach larger markets. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is working to remove those barriers by offering a number of services that help small and local producers grow and sustain their businesses.
In the produce industry, more and more retailers require suppliers to have Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification, which verifies that the operation is following industry-recognized food safety practices and recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration. For small farmers, getting GAP certified can be difficult and expensive. To help offset some of these costs, the AMS Specialty Crops Inspection Division and Transportation and Marketing Program are partnering with the Wallace Center at Winrock International to implement a Group GAP Pilot Project. 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 »
These days, it seems like it’s easier than ever to turn a good idea into reality. This is the era of Kickstarter, where entrepreneurs can connect with potential investors at the click of a button.
Of course, it takes more than money to grow an idea. It takes an atmosphere that fosters creativity and rewards innovation. And at a deeper, less obvious level, it requires strong, secure infrastructure—roads and bridges, but also internet access and community facilities like hospitals and schools—that improves connectivity and access to information, moves products to market, and makes communities competitive and attractive to new businesses and investments. Read more »