USDA announces $400,000 to support agricultural science entrepreneurs


WASHINGTON, D.C. August 3, 2017- The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced availability of $400,000 through a new competition to help university researchers bring their discoveries to the marketplace. The Innovations in Food and Agricultural Science and Technology (I-FAST) competition is a joint initiative of NIFA and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

"Federal funding is crucial to agricultural research, especially to help move university-developed technologies into commercial products, aka technology transfer," said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. "I-FAST competition gives researchers the training they need to help make their research marketable."

The I-FAST Competition identifies previously awarded NIFA-funded research teams that would benefit from additional support. I-FAST winners will receive mentoring, training, and funding, to accelerate the translation of their NIFA-funded research into products and services that can make an impact in the marketplace and the global economy. The competition will award eight university teams $50,000 each. The awards enable the team members to participate in NSF's Innovation Corps (I-Corps), a six-month entrepreneurial training program. Teams are also eligible to apply for additional funding through the USDA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, administered by NIFA.

The pre-application open period is August 3, 2017 to September 8, 2017. For information on submissions, visit the NIFA website.

In 2016 and 2017, the first round of I-FAST awards were made, among which a Cornell University team developed a water stress sensor to help grape, nut, apple, and wine growers save water and improve crop quality and yield. As a result, the team created a new company, FloraPulse, to market the product to prospective customers and clients. A Lincoln University team developed a pathogen detection biotechnology test kit to help lower the risk of E. coli contamination from the farm to the consumer. As a result, the team created a new company, Nanotechnovate, and continues to develop, patent, and market proprietary technologies to agriculture and other industries.

The I-FAST program is being implemented under the America Competes Act. Visit to learn more about other federal challenges.


NIFA invests in and advances innovative and transformative initiatives to solve societal challenges and ensure the long-term viability of agriculture. NIFA's integrated research, education, and extension programs support the best and brightest scientists and extension personnel whose work results in user-inspired, groundbreaking discoveries that combat childhood obesity, improve and sustain rural economic growth, address water availability issues, increase food production, find new sources of energy, mitigate climate variability, and ensure food safety. To learn more about NIFA's impact on agricultural science, visit, sign up for email updates or follow us on Twitter @usda_NIFA, #NIFAimpacts.

USDA is an equal opportunity lender, provider, and employer.

Media Contact

Sally Gifford
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