For many agtech entrepreneurs and innovators, finding the cash flow to get their idea off the ground is the most important step, but it can be tricky to know where to look. Fortunately, there are several grants and programs geared toward fueling agriculture research and innovation. Here are a few that we have found:
- Maintained through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) offers a variety of programs designed to provide investment in and advancement for agricultural research, education, and extension. Program participants typically involve organizations and individuals focused on solving societal challenges. NIFA’s programs are diverse and plentiful, including a Small Business Innovation Research Program, Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, Pest Management Programs, and a Specialty Crop Research Initiative. In April 2015, NIFA announced three grants designed to boost food security by minimizing livestock losses to insects and diseases. The awards to support research, education, and Extension efforts were made through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which is authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.
- Agricultural Technology Adoption Institute (ATAI): The mission of ATAI is to develop and test programs that help small-scale farmers in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa adopt and profitably use agtech. Twice a year, ATAI conducts a grant-making competition soliciting research proposals to either directly research technology adoption or to evaluate the impact of technology adoption. The eight-week selection process involves a proposal assessment, peer review scoring, and board review scoring.
- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation offers a robust program funding agricultural research and projects that help farming families increase production in a sustainable way while combating hunger and poverty around the globe. BMGF’s Agricultural Development initiative is one of the largest projects in the foundation. To date, the foundation has committed over $2 billion to the initiative. The Seattle-based initiative focuses on a few key areas, including research and development, livestock, and market access. The initiative engages in some direct solicitation while sending direct invitations to organizations and individuals whose work fits with the foundation’s goals. When it wants to broaden its investments, it sends out a Request for Proposal, either publicly or privately to targeted recipients.
- The Rockefeller Foundation’s Food Waste and Spoilage Initiative explores and funds inventions that focus on, among other things, cost-effective, high-potential technologies that reduce food waste. Through its work, the initiative discovered that hermetic bags can reduce on-farm storage loss by more than 90 percent and that mobile processing units can help farmers reduce costs through sharing agreements. The foundation also feature’s an Oceans and Fisheries Initiative seeking to increase the health and productivity of local fisheries by decreasing unsustainable fishing pressures and providing equitable solutions for impoverished fishing communities. For information on specific grants available through these and other Rockefeller Foundation initiatives, click here.
- The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation offers grants in a variety of sectors, including environmental conservation. The foundation’s Environment Program provides grants to organizations dedicated to conserving the North American West, expanding clean energy sources, and addressing climate change. For agtech entrepreneurs and startups focusing on providing farmers with more sustainable tools to help feed our ever-increasing population, the Environment Program could be a good fit.
- The 2014 Farm Bill also created and refunded many programs to help farmers, ranchers, researchers, and entrepreneurs help ensure a bright future for agriculture. These programs target everything from Beginning & Socially Disadvantaged Farmers/Ranchers, Conservation, Food Safety, Local Food Systems, Organics, and Sustainability.
Grant opportunities don’t just exist for startups and entrepreneurs. Farmers who want to increase their tech knowledge or find out how to run their businesses better have quite an array of options. The U.S. Department of Agriculture alone hosts a variety of programs through its many branches.
- Each year, the Risk Management Agency (RMA) announces the availability of funds for partnerships and cooperative agreements through the Federal Register, a publication used to announce proposed regulations. For 2015, RMA is offering $7 million in grants to create risk management education and training programs. RMA also provides crop insurance education in certain targeted states around the country. Through these programs, producers will receive assistance in understanding and using crop insurance programs as well as other risk management stratagies so they can make the best decisions for their operations. Offerings are typically introduced on July 1, 2015 and the deadline for applying is August 14, 2015.
- The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) oversees the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP). The purpose of this program is to promote America’s growing network of farmers markets while creating new opportunities for farm and ranch operators serving local markets. The FMPP provides outreach, training, education, and technical assistance to domestic farmers markets, roadside stands, community-supported agriculture, agrotourism, and other direct-to-consumer market opportunities. In order to receive FMPP assistance, applicants must be domestic entities owned, operated, and located within the United States or one of its territories. Local governments, tribal governments, agricultural businesses and public benefits are eligible, in addition to many other entities and groups.
There are also a number of comprehensive databases that compile annual lists of grants and other support programs. The Foundation Center maintains the one of the most comprehensive databases of U.S. grant-makers and their grants. In addition to the Web site, there are five regional library/learning centers and a national network of more than 300 Cooperating Collections.
Created through a partnership of Federal Agencies, Grants.gov directs grant-seekers to over 900 programs offered across 26 Federal grant-making agencies. The site also offers an email notification service, letting eager grant-seekers know when a new funding for which they may be eligible is announced.