The USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture on Monday awarded more than $18 million in grants to small businesses for research and development that will lead to technological innovations for agriculture.
NIFA awarded 100 grants through the Small Business Innovation Research program.
The SBIR program exists to stimulate technological innovations in the private sector and to strengthen the role of federal research and development in support of small businesses. The program also fosters and encourages participation by women-owned and socially or economically disadvantaged small businesses, USDA says.
"Small businesses are adept at finding solutions that can advance agriculture, create new jobs and grow our economy. These grants will provide resources so small businesses can innovate and create new breakthroughs," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.
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 30-40% of Phase I projects continue onto Phase II.
In fiscal year 2014, USDA awarded $7,421,711 in Phase I grants and $11,048,055 in Phase II grants.
Since 1983, the SBIR program has awarded more than 2,000 research and development grants to American-owned, independently operated, for-profit businesses with 500 employees or fewer.
NIFA funds and administers the SBIR program, with additional funding provided by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Agricultural Research Service, the Economic Research Service, the National Agricultural Statistics Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.