The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has invested more than $5.4 million in bioprocessing, bioengineering, biofuels, and biobased products research in the last 12 months to support trade initiatives.

The grants have been split between the Bioprocessing and Bioengineering award funds and the Small Business Innovation Research program.

NIFA Director Dr. Carrie Castille said, “NIFA’s Bioprocessing and Bioengineering awards fund projects that will stimulate new trade opportunities for the U.S. bioeconomy. Additionally, these Small Business innovation Research projects focused on biofuels and biobased products strengthen America’s entrepreneurial spirit and support a robust economy by guiding research and development needs across agriculture.”

Grants have already been made to North Dakota State University to develop safe, effective, and versatile fire retardants, and to the University of Idaho to develop an environmentally friendly approach to wood protection.

Small businesses such as Meridian Bioplastics have gained funds to explore the manufacturing potential of pennycress, a non-edible oil, in developing biodegradable plastics. Formology Inc., meanwhile, has received funding for a project that will use hazelnut shell by-products to create environmentally sustainable specialty wood and natural firer panels for architecture.