USDA SBIR Phase I Announced

Objectives of the SBIR program include stimulating technological innovation in the private sector, strengthening the role of small businesses in meeting Federal research and development needs, increasing private sector commercialization of innovations derived from USDA-supported research and development efforts, and fostering and encouraging participation by women-owned and socially and economically disadvantaged small business firms in technological innovation. Firms with strong scientific research capabilities in any of the below topic areas are encouraged to participate. USDA NIFA will support high-quality research or research and development (R/R&D) applications containing advanced concepts related to important scientific problems and opportunities that could lead to significant public benefit and commercialization of an innovation.

Funding Levels: $100,000 (maximum) for Phase I


  • Each applicant submitting an application must qualify as a Small Business Concern (SBC) for R/R&D purposes at the time of selection.
  • A potential grantee that is a subsidiary must show that the parent company or parent companies are also a small business entity and the parent company or parent companies must provide documentation supporting their small business status.
  • The primary employment of the Project Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) must be with the small business concern at the time of award and during the conduct of the proposed research.
  • An SBIR awardee, combined with its affiliates, must not have more than 500 employees.
  • For Phase I, the R/R&D work must be performed in the United States.
  • All Phase I applicants must meet a minimum benchmark rate for converting Phase I awards into Phase II awards to be eligible to submit a Phase I application.

Duration: June 1, 2018 – February 28, 2019 (the proposed duration of Phase I projects should normally not exceed eight months). The USDA NIFA SBIR program is carried out in three separate phases. Phase I is to determine the scientific or technical feasibility of ideas submitted by applicants on research topic areas described in this solicitation. Phase II applications promote principal R/R&D and the potential to commercialize the innovation. The purpose of Phase III is to stimulate technological innovation and the national return on investment from research through the pursuit of commercialization objectives resulting from the USDA NIFA-supported work carried out in Phases I and II.

Cost Share: Cost sharing is permitted for applications under this program solicitation; however, cost sharing is not required nor will it be an evaluation factor in considering the competitive merit of applications submitted.

It is anticipated that the evaluation of SBIR Phase I applications will require approximately six months from October 5, 2017.

Available funding topics include:

  • Forests and Related Resources – The Forests and Related Resources topic area aims to address the health, diversity and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations through the development of environmentally sound approaches to increase productivity of forest lands, improve sustainability of forest resources, and develop value-added materials derived from woody resources. Proposals focused on sustainable bioenergy and development of value-added biofuels from woody biomass, and on the influence of climate change on forest health and productivity are strongly encouraged. Proposals that utilize nanotechnology in their approach to developing new wood-based products or that utilize wood-based nano-materials are also encouraged.
  • Plant Production and Protection – Biology – The objective of this topic area is to examine novel ways of enhancing crop production and protection by applying biological approaches to develop new methods for plant improvement, apply traditional plant breeding methods and new technologies to develop new food and nonfood crop plants, develop plant characteristics that reduce the harmful impact of plant pests and biotic stresses, as well as new genotypes of existing crop plants with characteristics that allow for their use in new commercial applications.
  • Animal Production and Protection – The Animal Production and Protection topic area aims to develop innovative, marketable technologies that will provide significant benefit to the production and protection of agricultural animals. New technologies for rapid detection, treatment and prevention of disease are needed to improve productivity and enhance the biosecurity of herds and flocks. Better technologies are also needed to develop and enhance alternatives to the use of antibiotics since pathogen resistance and human sensitivity to residue food products derived from animals have become of increasing concern. To meet increasing consumer demand for value-added animal products, innovative technologies are needed to address the challenges presented by nonconventional management systems and strategies. And there is an urgent need for technologies that decrease the impact of animal agriculture on the environment and optimize use of natural resources.
  • Air, Water and Soils – The Air, Water and Soils topic area aims to develop and commercialize technologies and innovations for conserving, monitoring and protecting air, water and soil resources while sustaining optimal farm and forest productivity. Climate variability, natural resources conservation (air, water and soils) and food security are major focal points of this topic area. SBRI encourages new technologies and innovations that will help improve soil; reduce soil erosion; improve water and air quality; enable plant and animal production systems to adapt to changing climatic conditions; and conserve and use water more efficiently.
  • Food Science and Nutrition – The Food Science and Nutrition topic area aims to fund projects that support research focusing on developing new and improved processes, technologies, or services that address emerging food safety, food processing and nutrition issues. The program will fund projects to: 1) increase the understanding of the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of food; 2) improve methods for the processing and packaging of food products to improve the quality and nutritional value of foods; and 3) develop programs or products that increase the consumption of healthy foods and reduce childhood obesity. The outcome of a successful project is a proof of concept for a marketable item or patented process.
  • Rural and Community Development – The objective of this topic area is to improve the quality of life in rural America by creating and commercializing technologies that address important economic and social development issues or challenges in rural America. Projects must explicitly discuss the specific rural problem or opportunity that will be examined and how the proposed technology will successfully address the problem or opportunity. Applications must also include an objective to assess the impacts of the proposed project on the environment or the socio-economic development of rural areas. The applications need not be centered on agriculture, but may be focused on any area that has the potential to provide significant benefit to rural Americans.
  • Aquaculture – The Aquaculture topic area aims to develop new technologies that will enhance the knowledge and technology base necessary for the expansion of the domestic aquaculture industry as a form of production agriculture. Seafood production from the wild is under increased pressure due to overfishing, and therefore aquaculture is increasingly an important source of farmed seafood and an important contributor to food security. Emphasis is placed on research leading to improved production efficiency and increased competitiveness of private sector, commercial aquaculture in the United States. Studies on commercially important, or potentially important, species of fish, shellfish and aquatic plants from both freshwater and marine environments are included. In this context, new technologies are needed to improve production efficiency, protect aquaculture species against disease, and ensure the safety of farmed seafood.
  • Biofuels and Biobased Products – The objective of this topic area is to promote the use of non-food biobased products and biofuels by developing new or improved technologies that will lead to increased competitiveness of value added products from agricultural materials. This research will lead to new opportunities to diversify agriculture and enhance agriculture’s role as a reliable supplier of raw materials to industry. Historically, appropriate research areas have included: development of improved technology for converting agriculturally derived raw materials into useful industrial products; development of new products from new industrial crops; and improving the effectiveness or cost competitiveness of industrial products derived from agricultural materials in comparison to non-agriculturally derived products.
  • Small and Mid-Size Farms – The Small and Mid-Size Farms topic area aims to promote and improve the sustainability and profitability of small and mid-size farms and ranches (where annual sales of agricultural products are less than $250,000 for small farms and $500,000 for mid-size farms). The vast majority of farms in this country are small 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 biological and natural resources. While some small farms are located in urban areas, most small farms are located in rural areas, and these farms are critical to sustaining and strengthening the leadership and social fabric of rural communities. Applicants are strongly encouraged to emphasize how their project would contribute to the well-being of rural communities and institutions. In particular, applicants should emphasize how the results of their project would be disseminated to other small farmers and provide benefit to the small farm community.
  • Plant Production and Protection – Engineering – The objective of this topic area is to enhance crop production in both conventional and organic systems by creating and commercializing engineering technologies that enhance system efficiency and profitability and that protect crops from pests and pathogens in economically and environmentally sound ways. Projects that promote energy conservation or efficiency in food and fiber systems are strongly encouraged.

The full Request for Application can be found here.

For more information on this grant or how to apply with Morrison's assistance, please contact the Morrison Grants Team by email at or call us at 530.893.4764.


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