On June 14, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program released this year’s request for applications. SBIR is a division of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). This program supports scientific and technological innovation “in critical American priorities to build a strong national economy, one small business at a time.”
SBIR’s objectives focus on private sector innovation and using the private sector to commercialize USDA-derived research and development efforts, as well as focusing on boosting technological innovation in women-owned and socially disadvantaged small businesses. The program has ten priority areas in agricultural research; two program areas – Rural and Community Development, and Small and Mid-Size Farms – may be of particular interest to those in sustainable agriculture.
Two previous projects from the Small and Mid-Size Farm category:
Holmes & Associates utilized SBIR funds to launch an online catalog and the AdirondackCraft.com website to promote wood products and crafts manufactured in rural communities in upstate New York. When the website launched it featured over 400 products from 70 small manufacturers and artisans in the Adirondacks, creating $30,000 of internet-based sales in the first year.
Sleepy Hollow Farm developed a USDA National Organic Program Certified production and processing system for the medicinal plant goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis) that is adaptable to small family farms. Partnering with Clemson University’s Institute for Nutraceutical Research and The University of Illinois, Chicago’s College of Dentistry at various points in the project, Sleepy Hollow created a line of research grade goldenseal products suitable for use in NIH sponsored clinical studies. More than 40 small farms now produce goldenseal as a direct result, and income for production and processing was projected to exceed $1 million per year within the first three years of the program.
Examples of projects in other program areas include the development of test kits to help farms manage nitrate levels, an energy shake for honeybees, promotion of earthworm tea, and development of sensors for measuring wind erosion. See other success stories here.