USDA awards $3.8m in nanotechnology research grants

Grants to support nano-scale science in broad range of challenges facing ag and food systems.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA) announced April 27 more than $3.8 million in funding to support grants focused on using nanotechnology to find solutions to societal challenges such as food security, nutrition, food safety and environmental protection.

The awards were made through NIFA's Agriculture & Food Research Initiative (AFRI).

"Nanoscale science, engineering and technology embrace opportunities in a broad range of critical challenges facing agriculture and food systems," NIFA director Sonny Ramaswamy said. "Advances in nanotechnology help secure a healthy food supply by enabling cost-effective methods for the early detection of insects, diseases and other contaminants; improve plant and animal breeding, and create high value-added products of nano-biomaterials for food and non-food applications."

NIFA noted that past projects include a Cornell University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute venture that led to the development of a new nanotechnology that could keep bacteria from sticking to medical equipment and food processing machinery. A project from Harvard School of Public Health is investigating the effectiveness of a chemical-free, nanotechnology-based method for the inactivation of pathogenic and spoilage microorganisms on the surface of fruits and vegetables.

Fiscal year 2014 projects include:

* The University of Georgia — $496,192;

* The University of Iowa — $496,180;

* The University of Kentucky Research Foundation — $450,000;

* The University of Massachusetts-Amherst — $444,200;

* North Dakota State University — $149,714;

* Rutgers University — $450,000;

* Pennsylvania State University — $447,788;

* West Virginia University — $496,168, and

* The University of Wisconsin-Madison — $450,100.

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