Idaho’s companies and universities didn’t have to wait for the state to become more involved before they started creating partnerships with one another. Both the agriculture and technology industries are forced to move at a staggering pace to keep up with demand, and we want to ensure we are fostering and supporting partnerships that are beneficial to all those involved.

For example, Empire Unmanned, an Idaho company developing unmanned aerial vehicles and technology which will provide precision agriculture services, is a joint venture EmpireUnmannedbetween Idaho companies Empire Airlines of Hayden; ADAVSO of Star; and Blair Farms of Kendrick. Additionally, ADAVSO was the first entity in the U.S. to be granted a Section 333 exemption to fly UAS commercially for agriculture by the FAA.

In fact, ADAVSO, Empire Airlines, and Blair Farms were original members of the Idaho UAS Working Group – a statewide network of businesses, universities, and state and federal government organizations spearheaded by Idaho Commerce – which is the driving force behind advancing UAS interests throughout Idaho and the region.

The Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) grant program 2015 funding cycle also awarded $945,038 to three AgriTech programs at each of Idaho’s three research universities.  The mission of the IGEM grant program is to create partnerships that pair private sector experts with research professionals to bring commercially viable technologies to market.

  • Boise State University received $338,110 for research and development in data analytics for agronomic decision making. This funding will help expand agronomic services and products that are based on historic farm and crop yield data. This project presents an opportunity for the development of software and systems needed for precision agriculture.
  • Idaho State University received $179,755 for the development of algorithms of field crop data using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).  Hyperspectral sensors mounted on UAS will capture crop data at the individual plant level. This data will be used for water management, crop nutrition, and other agronomic efficiencies.
  • The University of Idaho will receive $427,173 for bringing to scale a new reactive filtration water treatment technology. Funding will support a new technology that takes unclean water through a level of treatment required for unrestricted reuse and recycling.  This project creates the opportunity to address water treatment concerns from agricultural, municipal, and industrial waste water sources.

“These projects represent an opportunity to position Idaho, its universities, and industry as leaders in the precision agriculture space,” said Director Sayer. “There will be constant demand to develop more efficient methods to feed the world’s population, and Idaho is uniquely positioned to take a leadership role with experience in both agricultural excellence and technological innovations.”

Additionally, The Idaho State Department of Agriculture annually provides funding through the United States Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.  Funds are passed through for projects that enhance the competiveness of specialty crops in Idaho. Specialty crops include fruits and vegetables, horticulture and nursery crops.

Over the past few years, the ISDA has funded nearly $2 million specifically for research and technology projects, not including 2015 projects that will be announced in the coming weeks.  Several projects have included remote sensing technology applications for agronomic monitoring of nitrogen, disease and irrigation.  Eligible projects may include pest and disease monitoring and control, enhancing food safety, improving production efficiency and sustainability, developing new and improved seed varieties, or developing good agricultural, handling or manufacturing practices.

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