The local precision agriculture industry is poised to get a boost from Uncle Sam.
A top federal official will be in Memphis and Covington Wednesday, July 31, to announce funding for three regional grants that will impact counties in Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business Programs Administrator Lillian Salerno will be in Memphis and Covington to announce funding that will touch 110 counties in the tri-state area.
Salerno is scheduled to make an announcement at the Memphis Bioworks Foundation at 8:30 a.m., followed by a second appearance at the Jimmy Naifeh Center at Dyersburg State Community College at 11:30 a.m. Salerno will be joined by the Tennessee director of USDA Rural Development, Bobby Goode, at both events.
In Memphis, Salerno will be joined by Memphis Bioworks executive director Steven Bares and retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Castellaw, president of the Crockett Policy Institute, a Tennessee-based organization that focuses on job creation, national security, education and energy.
Memphis Bioworks and its partners will receive two grants, both geared toward enhancing precision agriculture and job creation.
Precision agriculture focuses on using technology to help farmers become more efficient, maximize production and conserve scarce and increasingly costly resources.
One of the grants will include Memphis Bioworks and the Tennessee-based Crockett Policy Institute, which have partnered on an energy jobs program for veterans. The “soldier to civilian” plan has two main objectives: providing veterans with information on employment resources and opportunities, and creating renewable energy and precision agriculture jobs as a career option.
“Our common interest is creating jobs and starting businesses to create prosperity in rural communities,” said Bill Stubblefield, director of the AgBioworks Regional Initiative, the Memphis Bioworks program focused on making the Mid-South a leader in agricultural biotechnology research, discovery, business development, crop advancement and economic growth. “It looks like the best opportunities are in anything innovation-oriented in agriculture.”
Stubblefield said highly skilled veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are uniquely positioned to work in the technology-fueled precision agriculture industry.
“Today, they’re all computer-savvy and used to operating very advanced systems,” Stubblefield said.
The second grant will include another Memphis Bioworks partner, the Northwest Tennessee Entrepreneur Center.
The two organizations announced in June that they had formed a partnership to launch an agriculture innovation accelerator to help start and grow new agricultural businesses.
The program will support entrepreneurs commercializing a range of agriculture-related technologies, such as precision agriculture and software, grain handling and storage, food processing and more.