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USDA Grants to Support Technological Innovation in Small Businesses

Media Contact: Jennifer Martin, (202) 720-8188

WASHINGTON, Sept. 19, 2012–Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $6.2 million in research and development grants that will spur technological innovations and discoveries in small businesses in 28 states across the country. The grants are part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s continuing efforts to invest in science to find solutions to the challenges facing modern agriculture.

“The Obama Administration is making historic investments in rural America and working to grow our economy, so middle class families feel confident in their futures and their children's futures,” said Vilsack. “These grants have helped hundreds of small businesses explore innovative ideas, leading to the development of new and better agricultural products and services.”

USDA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants strengthen the role of small businesses in meeting federal research and development needs and promote technological innovations in the private sector. The program also fosters and encourages participation by economically disadvantaged small business firms and minorities and disadvantaged persons.

Companies initially apply for Phase I feasibility studies, which may be followed by Phase II research and development projects. Phase I grants are limited to $100,000 and a duration of eight months, while Phase II grants are limited to $450,000 and a duration of 24 months. Approximately 50 percent of Phase I projects continue on to Phase II.
A full list of 2012 SBIR Phase I awardees is available online. The following are examples of awardees with projected outcomes that create jobs and economic opportunities, combat childhood obesity, reduce energy use and increase efficiency:

  • Geo Spider, Inc., Gainesville, Fla., $99,023.  This project aims to develop over-the-top citrus harvesting equipment that will improve the ability to harvest within the tree canopy.
  • Lindgren-Pitman, Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla., $97,692.  This project involves the design of a mechanical scrubber that can clean all sides of a net in one pass, while eliminating the need for high pressure water.
  • Agri Wind Turbines, Little Rock, Ark., $100,000.  This project will use a modified grain silo to power a vertical-axis wind turbine.
  • Pathovacs Incorporated, Ames, Iowa, $99,750.  The goal of this project is to help ensure a safer food supply by producing effective, broadly protective chicken Campylobacter vaccines.
  • UES, Inc., Dayton, Ohio, $100,000.  This project will develop a label-free, real-time, and highly-sensitive system to detect foodborne pathogens in meat processing and packaging facilities.
  • Farmhand Foods, LLC, Durham, N.C., $99,860.  This project aims to develop effective business and marketing strategies that create market opportunities for small-scale livestock producers.
  • Piedmont Biofuels Industrial, LLC, Pittsboro, N.C., $99,890.  The goal of this project is to increase biorefinery diversification by developing commercially-viable and sustainable biofuel co-products.


Descriptions of funded projects from previous years can be found online at

USDA is one of 11 federal departments and agencies required to reserve 2.6 percent of their extramural research and development dollars for small businesses. Since 1983, the USDA SBIR program has awarded more than 2,100 research and development grants to American-owned, independently operated, for-profit businesses with 500 or fewer employees.

USDA’s SBIR program is administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) with funding provided by several USDA agencies: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Agricultural Research Service, NIFA, Economic Research Service, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Rural Development-Rural Cooperative Business Services, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting daily lives and the nation's future. For more information, visit


USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Stop 9410, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call toll-free at (866) 632-9992 (English) or (800) 877-8339 (TDD) or (866) 377-8642 (English Federal-relay) or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish Federal-relay).