USDA Announces $5 Million in Funds for Smart Technology Innovations in Agriculture

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced the availability of up to $5 million for research to strengthen the science behind the next generation of internet-connected agricultural implements and resources through the Cyber Physical Systems program. Funding for this program is made through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“Data driven analytical tools throughout the food supply chain—from production through processing, transportation, and food storage—will allow us to make smarter decisions that can promote efficient food production, reduce food waste, and increase food safety,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “These investments in cyber physical systems will improve efficiencies across the agricultural industry.”

The Cyber Physical Systems Joint Competitive Grant program helps coordinate the work of multiple federal agencies to improve the science behind increasingly complex cyber-physical systems (CPS)—the way the physical world connects to information and communication technologies. Self-driving tractors and cars, remote patient monitoring apps and smart irrigation scheduling are some examples of the cyber-physical systems already in use or testing. The National Science Foundation leads this initiative with support from NIFA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Department of Homeland Security, National Institutes of Health, Department of Transportation, and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences to strengthen the science and technology to ensure the growing number of cyber-physical systems being used are safe, secure, scalable, resilient and reliable.

CPS technologies can increase efficiencies in agribusiness, provide economic opportunities to workers and promote practices that sustain the environment. Increased secure access to information also helps producers meet the challenges of global population growth, food waste and the impacts of a changing climate.

Applications are due by February 15, 2017.

Details, eligibility for applicants, and research topics are available in the Program Solicitation section on the National Science Foundation website and on the NIFA website.

Examples of previously funded projects include a University of Tennessee project to develop and test biosensing and animal movement monitoring for early detection of certain infections in confined dairy herds to allow more rapid response when a herd is threatened. An Iowa State University project combines data from unmanned ground and aerial vehicles and satellites with sophisticated analytics for early detection and mitigation of row crop diseases.

Science funded by AFRI is vital to meeting food, fiber and fuel demands as the world’s population is projected to exceed nine billion by 2050 and natural resources are stressed under a changing climate. In addition, AFRI programs help develop new technologies and a workforce that will advance our nutritional security, our energy self-sufficiency, and the health of Americans.

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