Modern farming and technology go hand in hand, and the USDA wants to help producers develop their innovative ideas with some financial help. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program offers grants to small businesses “to support high quality research related to important scientific problems and opportunities in agriculture.”
The SBIR program has several objectives: to stimulate technological innovations in the private sector; to strengthen the role of small businesses in meeting federal research and development needs; to increase private sector commercialization of innovations derived from USDA-supported research and development efforts; and to foster and encourage participation by women-owned and socially and economically disadvantaged small business firms in technological innovations.
“Most of the topic areas in the USDA SBIR program are designed for new innovations that need to have feasibility determined,” said Scott Dockum, USDA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program Coordinator. “If feasibility of the innovation is the goal, then the innovation can fit well into any of the 10 USDA SBIR topic areas.”
The topic areas are: forest and related resources; plant production and protection (biology); animal production and protection; air, water and soils; food science and nutrition; rural development; aquaculture; biofuels and bio-based products, small and mid-sized farms, plant production and protection (engineering).
The SBIR program is managed by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and grants are awarded based on the “scientific and technical merit” of proposed ideas. The program does not offer loans for the establishment of new businesses. Phase I grants have a limit of $100,000 in a duration of 8 months. Phase II grants have a limit of $600,000 in a duration of 24 months, and are only open to former recipients of Phase I grants.


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