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Plant Production and Protection- Engineering

Background
The objective of this topic area is to enhance crop production 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 are strongly encouraged. Engineering projects will describe the system need; design specifications, functionality and reliability; and cost of change analysis. Where feasible, describe the testing metrics, experimental design, materials and methods to collect and analyze data on the metrics. 
 
Examples of appropriate subtopics for research applications from small businesses include, but are not limited to, the following:
1.   Improved crop production methods or strategies ? Enhance the efficiency of crop production by utilizing innovative methods and equipment for planting, growing and harvesting crop plants, including optimization of inputs and reduction of operation costs by implementing the use of precision farming technology, robotics, sensors, information technology, and remote sensing, etc.
2.   Plant protection ? Reduce the impact of plant pathogens, insect pests and competing vegetation on crop plants by developing efficient and environmentally safe pesticide and herbicide application equipment, and by developing needed technologies to monitor and manage plant disease, insect pests, or abiotic stress at the earliest stages of their manifestations.
3.   Energy conservation ? Develop crop management systems, farm and greenhouse structures, and waste utilization strategies that promote energy conservation and efficiency, including the development of technology for the economic use of alternative/renewable energy resources.
 
Special Priority Research Areas for FY 2016:  SBIR is strongly encouraging the submission of applications focusing on the following problem areas. Additional consideration will be given to applications addressing the development of products, processes, and services for US production of specialty crops (fruits, nuts, vegetables, nursery, and greenhouse crops):
1.   Improved chemical application technology that increases product efficacy, worker safety, and reduces off-target drift of applied chemicals.  Pollinator Health is a Presidential priority area, so systems and technologies to avoid risk of pesticide exposure to bees are sought.
2.   High resolution spatial and temporal monitoring of specialty crops using sensors and sensor networks (for example, temperature, humidity, drought stress, pest damage, and disease). Description of the sensor and the anticipated data interrogator system will be elaborated.
3.   Post-harvest handling (including transportation and storage ) of specialty crops, including handling to maintain quality and reduce food safety issues, reducing waste streams from post- harvest handling, selection for quality and consumer preference.
4.   Reduction of manual labor in specialty crop production, harvesting, and post-harvest handling through technology to improve the competitiveness of US specialty crop production.
5.   Technologies that enhance commercial horticulture production to improve the competitiveness of U.S. flowering potted plant, bedding plant, and cut flower production, seasonal crops, annuals, and perennials. 
6.   Planting, production, harvesting, and post-harvest handling technology targeting the sustainable production of the following biomass feedstock crop groups: perennial grasses, energycane, sorghum, and oil seed crops (not including algae, see Other Key Information below).
7.   Engineering technology to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. organic agriculture and horticulture.
 
Investigators are encouraged to contact Dr. Kitty Cardwell, National Program Leader for SBIR Plant Production and Protection Engineering at kcardwell@nifa.usda.gov or 202-401-1790 regarding questions about the suitability of research topics or to arrange a telephone consultation.

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