Four universities win $50,000 each in the first national I-FAST competition


In Washington D.C., the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the National Science Foundation presented the winners of the first Innovations in Food and Agricultural Science and Technology $200,000 prize competition.  I-FAST helps scientists and engineers translate fundamental agricultural innovations into the marketplace. Each of the four winning teams from University of Houston, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Lincoln University and Cornell University will receive $50,000 to start a business and move their innovation towards full commercialization.

This year’s winners include a pathogen detection biotechnology test kit to determine if E. coli 0157:H7 is present in food; and, a micro electro-mechanical systems sensor that monitors minute-by-minute readings of both plant water and soil stresses to help producers optimize irrigation. Two teams developed software toolkits for diverse applications including nitrogen fertilizer management, large-scale, on-farm agronomic trials and behavior-based educational tools for fresh and fresh-cut produce handling practices.