The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced 17 grants for research on the next generation of agricultural technologies and systems to meet the growing demand for food, fuel, and fiber. The grants are funded through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.
“Technology is front and center in agricultural production,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “NIFA is investing in research on precision and smart technologies to maximize production efficiencies, including water and fertilizer use, and to produce nutritious food, new biofuels, and bioproducts.”
AFRI is America’s flagship competitive grants program for foundational and translational research, education, and extension projects in the food and agricultural sciences. AFRI’s Agriculture Systems and Technology grants support the design and engineering of agricultural production systems and research on the burgeoning field of biomass, biofuels, feedstock, bioenergy, and bio-based products. These projects are expected to spur innovation in rural America and contribute to rural prosperity.
Included among the grants announced is a University of California Riverside project that uses electronics and chemistry to recover high-quality water, nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), and energy from agricultural wastewater. Also, researchers at the University of Nebraska are developing an efficient irrigation system that combines imaging sensors on unmanned aerial vehicles, predictions of crop water use, and water sensors in the soil.
The fiscal year 2016 grants totaling $7.3 million included:
- University of Kentucky Research Foundation, Lexington, Kentucky, $500,000
- University of Kentucky Research Foundation, Lexington, Kentucky, $498,726
- Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Mississippi, $149,983
- North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, $499,998
- University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, $499,978
- University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, $499,916
- University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, $499,896
- Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Piscataway, New Jersey, $50,000
- Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, $312,238
Bioprocessing and Bioengineering
- Auburn University, Auburn University, Alabama, $481,539
- University of California, Riverside, California, $480,843
- University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, $472,965
- Iowa State University of Science and Technology, Ames, Iowa, $482,905
- Sustainable Bioproducts LLC, Bozeman, Montana, $482,829
- The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, $482,448
- University of North Texas, Denton, Texas, $482,905
- University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, $482,752
Project details can be found on the NIFA website.
Previously funded projects include an Oregon State University project to develop wireless sensors to study flight behavior of native pollinators associated with agricultural crops. This project will shed light on bumblebees flight patterns to help efforts to sustain their populations. Researchers at Iowa State University are developing a low-cost electronic sensor to monitor, in real-time, excess nitrate levels in surface water that are a major environmental and health concern. This technology may help landowners and governments in their conservation efforts by circumventing the need to collect water samples for lab analysis.