WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the National Science Foundation announced the winners, including a team from the University of Illinois, of the first Innovations in Food and Agricultural Science and Technology $200,000 prize competition.
I-FAST helps scientists and engineers broaden the impact of their NIFA-funded research by encouraging collaboration between academia and industry to translate fundamental agricultural innovations into the marketplace.
“Innovation is an economic driver and a necessity in the agriculture industry,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “Through this new partnership with the National Science Foundation, we are able to help move ideas from the research lab to the marketplace, where they can provide real solutions as these teams intended.”
Each of the four winning teams receives $50,000 to start a business and move their innovation toward full commercialization. Team members also will participate in NSF’s Innovation Corps, a six-month entrepreneurial immersion course to develop skills that help them commercialize their inventions and discoveries.
Teams also are eligible to apply for additional funding through the USDA Small Business Innovation Research Program, administered by NIFA.
Winning teams include:
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — The team is bringing to market two software packages that make it possible for crop advisers to inexpensively run large-scale, on-farm agronomic trials and create strategies for profitable nitrogen fertilizer management.
- University of Houston, Texas — The team developed a behavior-based affordable educational toolkit and augmented reality technology system to educate, monitor and improve employees’ fresh- and fresh-cut produce handling practices.
- Lincoln University, Jefferson City, Mo. — The team developed a pathogen detection biotechnology test kit to determine if E. coli 0157:H7 is present in food to help lower the risk of contamination all along the food chain from the farm to the consumer.
- Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. — The team developed a micro electro-mechanical systems microtensiometer sensor that monitors minute-by-minute readings of both plant water and soil stresses to help producers optimize irrigation to improve the yield and quality of crops.