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NIFA Programs Benefiting Small Farmers

Nifa Authors
Margaret Lawrence, Writer-Editor

Small farms account for 90% of all U.S. farms, and they play an important role in the agricultural sector. The viability and sustainability of small farms is important to the nation’s economy and to the stewardship of our biological and natural resources. On National Farmers Day, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture is highlighting its Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR-STTR) programs and how they are benefiting small farms across the country.  

Both the SBIR and STTR programs are providing solutions to the issues that face American agriculture and society. SBIR/STTR funds focused, valuable projects and creates partnerships between university researchers and small businesses to bring together science, research, production and marketing in a way that allows forward-thinking ideas to become a reality. 

  • HiveTech Solutions, a woman-owned business in Colorado, is improving honey bee health with its Mobile Indoor Climate Controlled Apiary. This technology provides healthy honey bee hibernation with 72% higher survivability compared to conventional outdoor storage. Using MICA, beekeepers can induce a stable metabolic state to protect against environmental stressors such as large temperature swings and seasonal spikes in Varroa mites, a parasite threatening honey bees. HiveTech secured additional outside investment to bring MICA to the commercial beekeeping market in 2022.  
  • A South Dakota company, Prairie AquaTech, developed Microbially-Enhanced Protein™, or ME-PRO®, a plant-based protein ingredient using a patented fermentation technology to improve the quality of feed and food. ME-PRO® increases the bioavailability of nutrients in sustainably sourced feedstocks to improve animal health and nutrition while reducing the environmental impact of products used in aquaculture and companion animal diets. Currently producing 30,000 tons of ME-PRO®, Prairie AquaTech is one of the global leaders in alternative protein ingredient production.    
  • Stony Creek Colors (SCC) has developed a complete and proven agricultural supply chain to replace synthetic dyes with plant-based drop-in solutions. SCC, based in Tennessee, recently developed a method to biochemically stabilize its biomass for storage and transport, allowing it to expand its farmer network into new climates that are well-suited for crop production and run-dye production activities year-round. This work has enabled substantial improvements to the dye production process, resulting in commercial sales of high-purity BioPreferred™ natural indigo dye to world-leading brand customers.  
  • Hawai'i 'Ulu Producers Cooperative (HUC) is an agricultural cooperative in Hawaii with 148 current members across Hawaii who operate small, diversified farms. HUC is revitalizing breadfruit ('ulu in Hawaiian) as a viable crop and dietary staple food by building a sustainable breadfruit industry that supports the economic success of small and mid-sized farms in Hawaii. As a result of an SBIR Small and Mid-Sized Farms Phase I project, HUC has successfully developed several lines of value-added breadfruit products that are currently available on the market. HUC is now working on a Phase II project to scale their work from pilot to commercial-level breadfruit production, with the goal of processing and marketing at least one million pounds per year aggregated from small, diversified farms.  
  • Based in California, Agrofocal is working to build a real-time crop monitoring system that is easy to use, affordable, and fits seamlessly with existing farming operations. Their proposed system can be mounted on any vehicle, allowing the camera to get an up-close, under-the-canopy view of the crop. Their goal is to create a system that provides insights that are available and ready to be viewed on an app as soon as the image collection is done. 
Farm Bill Priority Areas
Agriculture systems and technology
Animal health and production and animal products
Agriculture economics and rural communities
U.S. States and Territories
South Dakota

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