US: KSU announces 7 mln dollar federal grant award

Staff
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Kentucky State University has been awarded a $7,000,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the project titled “Driving AgTech Research and Education in Kentucky (DARE-KY) through Inclusive Network Building, Impactful Research, and Workforce Development for Soilless Food Systems.”

This award is set to transform the landscape of agriculture technology and STEM education in Kentucky as well as establish a research incubator for the Commonwealth.

“What a great day it is for Kentucky and for Kentucky State University,” shared Dr. Koffi C. Akakpo, President of Kentucky State University. “We could not be more proud of the work completed everyday here on campus and throughout the Commonwealth. NSF, along with our partners in this endeavor see our potential and the impact we will have for years to come.”

Project Overview
The DARE-KY project, spearheaded by Kentucky State University (KSU), aims to establish an innovative, cross-sector research incubator dedicated to enhancing nutrient management, food safety, and the sustainability of soilless agriculture systems in Kentucky. Collaborating with Bluegrass Community and Technical College, University of Pikeville, Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation, and FoodChain Inc., the project will focus on:

Nutrient recovery from aquaculture systems
Microbiota characterization of soilless systems
Food safety assessments
Environmental impact and sustainability of soilless agriculture operations

The project will employ metatranscriptomic and proteomic approaches to explore microorganism activity in aquaponic systems, evaluate nutrient flow, and enhance system productivity and sustainability. It will also investigate food safety in soilless agriculture, developing pathogen monitoring technologies to control foodborne pathogens.

Broader Impacts
The DARE-KY initiative seeks to significantly boost STEM education and workforce development, particularly for underrepresented students, through new curricula, research integration into student learning, and apprenticeship programs. The project will also host annual public engagement events and an AgTech symposium, aiming to position Kentucky as a leader in soilless agriculture technology research.

NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan Remarks: “This investment from NSF’s E-RISE RII program powers scientific progress through broad networks of researchers, institutions, and organizations that will significantly enhance STEM research capacity in our EPSCoR jurisdictions. We are investing in a future where EPSCoR jurisdictions are even more competitive in the scientific enterprise, both nationally and internationally.”

Award Details
Total Award: $7,000,000
Project Duration: August 1, 2024 – July 31, 2028
“We’re thrilled to support our longtime partner KSU in receiving this historic federal grant,” said Kentucky Science & Technology Corporation President Terry Samuel. “Our Kentucky Science and Engineering Foundation team is ready to work with KSU and partners by leveraging our university, industry and workforce relationships to establish Kentucky as a hub for soilless agriculture technology.”

The press conference was attended by representatives from Senator McConnell’s Office and Representative Comer’s Office as well as over a dozen elected officials.

“I see this as the beginning of a lot more achievements to come,” Dr. Thompson, President of the Kentucky Council of Postsecondary Education, shared. “This is the kind of grant that gives you the base to build on other possibilities and other outcomes…this press conference is not a one off [event].”

“Our collaboration with Bluegrass Community Technical College, University of Pikeville, KSEC, FoodChain and industry leaders to develop a state-wide research network centered around soilless agriculture is to address climate change, soil quality, and access to fresh food. Stay tuned as this award is just the beginning,” Dr. Akakpo concluded.

The DARE-KY Project represents a significant step forward in KSU’s efforts to lead in research and innovation while promoting sustainability and diversity in STEM fields. This grant will significantly enhance KSU’s ability to contribute to scientific progress and community development along with its partners.

For more information:
https://www.kysu.edu/

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