The U.S. bioeconomy takes another step forward. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced $9.6 million in available funding for projects to support the development of new biobased products and biomaterials from renewable sources such as crops, trees, and waste materials from farmland and forests. Funding is made through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.
“Rural America has the potential to be the economic powerhouse through biofuels and biobased products,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “NIFA investments in research and development help to create new economic opportunities in rural communities, protect the environment, and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign energy.”
AFRI is America’s flagship competitive grants programs for addressing critical societal issues through the food and agricultural sciences. The AFRI Sustainable Bioenergy and Bioproducts Challenge Area supports projects that lead to the commercial production at scale of biobased products such as biochemicals, biomaterials, and products that replace fossil carbon-based products. This challenge area supports three types of projects: research, education or extension projects; integrated projects; and food and agricultural science enhancement grants.
Among previously funded projects, a Cornell University project is helping teachers introduce students to the bioenergy and bioproducts systems being developed in the Northeastern United States. In November 2016, Alaska Airlines landed the first commercial flight powered in part by a new renewable fuel made of wood waste, a fuel developed through NIFA support to Washington State University and the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA). Launched in 2011, NARA has advanced research into biofuels and biochemicals, fostered the Northwest regional biofuel industry and helped educate tomorrow’s workforce on renewable energy.
by Henry McWolf