Food and agriculture R&D pilot seed grant program of $75K launched for startups


Greenhouse at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture | Photo by Lou Stejskal via Wikimedia Commons

TRENTON, NJ – Are you into research, innovation, or an entrepreneur and would like to develop technology and other solutions to transform discoveries from research-stage concepts to commercially viable products and services that address the food security needs of New Jersey?

If you are, the New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation, and Technology (CSIT) plans to create a $750,000 grant program to turn entrepreneurial ideas into fulfillment.

Through the Food and Agriculture Research & Development (R&D) Pilot Seed Grant Program, CSIT will provide up to $75,000 to startups working on food and/or agriculture-related innovation in the life sciences, technology, and food and beverage (non-retail) sectors.

The grants will enable awardees to accelerate their R&D to transform discoveries from the research stage into commercially viable products and services that address the food security needs of communities across New Jersey. Projects do not need to be located within a food desert community. Still, applicants should describe how their proposal will broadly impact residents in food desert communities and food-insecure New Jerseyans.

“Food insecurity is a critical issue and New Jersey startups are developing innovative solutions in areas surrounding food processing, food access, and information on nutrition,” said CSIT Executive Director Judith Sheft.

Sheft added that CSIT is supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs that address the needs of the hungry and looks forward to watching startups in this vital sector grow and expand their footprints in the Garden State.

She also noted that this program would bolster New Jersey’s leadership role as it gains further recognition as one of the nation’s critical hubs for food innovation and technology. CSIT said New Jersey has many assets that are helping attract and retain companies in this growing sector, precisely its strategic location, expansive transportation infrastructure, and easy access to the Port of New York and New Jersey, which serves as the second busiest port in North America and is the largest on the East Coast.

Applications to open later this Spring

CSIT will host an informational webinar on the Food and Agriculture R&D Pilot Grant Program before the application opens. Details of that webinar will be posted on CSIT’s website once it is scheduled. A recorded webinar version and a copy of the materials presented will be available on the CSIT webpage following the event.

CSIT expects to begin accepting applications for this program later this Spring.

A commitment of $750,000 from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) to CSIT to fund the Food and Agriculture R&D Pilot Seed Grant program was approved by both Boards this month. The funding allocation from the NJEDA was appropriated through New Jersey’s Fiscal Year 2022 state budget, which dedicated $3.5 million to the Authority for “Food and Agriculture Innovation.”

“The Food and Agriculture R&D Pilot Seed Grant Program is an important tool in furthering Governor Murphy’s vision to make New Jersey a leader in innovation while increasing access to healthy food for every resident,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “This program will also harness the brainpower of New Jersey entrepreneurs – one of our state’s greatest assets – to aid in our whole-of-government approach to combatting food insecurity.”

Bonus Scoring

According to CSIT, bonus scoring will be awarded to applicants that are New Jersey-certified women-owned, minority-owned, or veteran-owned businesses or have a primary place of business/research and development within an opportunity zone eligible census tract within Trenton, Paterson, or Atlantic City.

Bonus scoring will also be awarded to applicants using intellectual property initially developed at a New Jersey university under an executed license agreement with the such university. To increase the percentage of first-time CSIT awardees, staff will implement a new scoring bonus for applicants not previously awarded a CSIT grant or voucher.

“Given the food insecurity in New Jersey and throughout the world, the Commission is proud to launch this important pilot program which will support entrepreneurs as they innovate to address this challenge,” said CSIT Chair Debbie Hart. “This program literally has the potential to change the world starting in the neighborhoods of New Jersey.”

–With Jay Domingo/PDM

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