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SBIR Impact - March 2009

SBIR Impact is a quarterly newsletter for small businesses interested in the USDA-SBIR program and for institutions and organizations that support the small business community and rural America.


Phase I panels are complete and funding recommendations have been made. Project directors who submitted proposals will receive word via phone or e-mail about their status of their proposals. If you submitted a FY 2009 phase I applications and have not been informed about the status of your proposal, contact us at sbir@csrees.usda.gov. Information about the recommendation status of a proposal will only be made available to the project directors and/or authorized organizational officials. Information about new grantees will be posted on our abstracts page as soon as awards are made official, around May 1. We caution companies that have been recommended for an award about publicizing this information before the grant is made official. Grants are not official until a thorough administrative review of each recommended proposal is complete.

The next USDA-SBIR Request For Applications (RFA) is tentatively scheduled to be released early June 2009, with a closing date in early September 2009, for phase I proposals. All FY2010 proposals must be submitted electronically through Grants.gov.  Note that the registration process for submitting applications electronically can take as much as one month to complete, and registration must be finished prior to submitting a proposal.  If you intend to submit an application, you need not wait until the RFA is published and can begin the registration process immediately.

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By Stacy Kish

Padding into the kitchen in the early morning to prepare breakfast, the last thing you want to find is pink cream cheese.  The festive cheese color is not a holiday concoction; it is caused by fungus growing on the breakfast spread. 

What kind of fungus makes cream cheese pink?

Scientists in the food industry are often faced with the same dilemma. In order to identify potential harmful fungi on food products, scientists grow the organism in the lab and make a visual identification. 

Fungi that spoil food are numerous and diverse. Scientists in the lab have to consult books to correctly identify the culprit and take the necessary actions to alleviate this problem in the marketplace and ensure food safety.

The food industry needed a simple, but detailed, food guide to aid in the identification process.

With funding from the USDA Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR), Dr. Emilia Rico and colleagues at BCN Research Laboratories, Inc in Rockford, TN have developed a CD to assist the food industry in fungal identification.  Dr. Rico is a member of the International Commission in Food Mycology (ICFM, www.foodmycology.org).

FoodMold is an interactive computer program provided on a CD that enables food scientists in the laboratory and industry to accurately identify common fungi that grow on produce, raw materials for processing, and processed food products.  FoodMold uses the standard conditions originally described by Pitt and Hocking in “Fungi and Food Spoilage” (1st edition in 1985).  In fact, Dr. John Pitt was a key contributor to this project. 

“The use of FoodMold will enable accurate recognition of important species by many more industry people” said Dr. Rico.

The CD contains information on 150 species of fungi, including the most important food spoiling offenders like Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Fusarium.

“FoodMold is easy to use and contains nearly 300 pages of information about food-borne fungi, including 20 specially written keys with illustrated pop-up photographs to help the user identify the fungus of interest” said Dr. Rico.

FoodMold was tested at various workshops offered to the food industry.  The product was very well liked by the participants.  They particularly liked the fact that it was in color since most of the fungi taxonomy books currently available are in black and white (Pitt and Hocking, 1985; Samson et al., 2000).  All the information is up to date and there are many references that the user can go to.  The participants thought that the price was very affordable considering what they were getting for it.  They thought it was a great reference.

Fungi not only cause food spoilage, but some of them, including some very common species also produce powerful toxins, called mycotoxins that can cause sickness in humans and domestic animals, and in extreme cases cause death.  The most serious of these toxins are called aflatoxins.  They are produced by certain common species of Aspergillus that grow on many crops, but especially on peanuts and maize. Aflatoxins are a major cause of liver cancer, especially in poorly nourished people in developing countries.

A second important mycotoxin is Ochratoxin A.  It is produced by certain Aspergillus and Penicillium species commonly found on cereal grains, dried fruit, coffee, and in wines. This toxin causes kidney failure in domestic animals, but its effect on humans remains unknown.  It is more important in cool temperature climates like Europe and Canada than in the United States.

Fusarium toxins are produced by a wide range of Fusarium species and are produced in cereal grains, specifically wheat and maize.  Their main effect in humans seems to be reduction in the efficiency of the immune system, but can also cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and weakness.

FoodMold will be sold as a CD directly by BCN Research Laboratories.  Details may be found on their web site, www.bcnlabs.com or by requesting information at foodmold@bcnlabs.com.  To enable dissemination of FoodMold to the food industry and microbiology community, a demonstration CD, called "FM Demo" has also been produced. That CD is being distributed free of charge to industry contacts and any interested party.  In the future, it is planned to produce more specialized fungal identification CDs using the same systems as have been employed in

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Diana Endicott, of Rainbow Organic Farms Co. has been a recipient of the National Agriculture Hall of Fame’s Honor Acre, the SBIR Tibbetts Award and multiple USDA SBIR awards for her work in developing new and innovative ways to bring together the resources, commitments and support for small farmers to produce and sell their products to the retail market.  Diana was recently one of the many farmers nominated for the position of White House Farmer.  The selected White House Farmer will be charged with transforming five prime south-facing acres of the White House lawn and plant[ing] in their place an organic fruit and vegetable garden whose produce will be used by the White House Chef, and given to area food banks.  “The impact of this position would be to develop a model that continues the trend of vegetable gardening across America” Diana said.  There were 110 nominations and each farmer received votes for the position via the White House Farmer website.  The website received 56,000 votes from all across the country and after the final count, Diana ended up sixth.  For more information on the White House Farmer and to see the final rankings visit http://whitehousefarmer.com.

Exquadrum, Inc.

Green power has been a major topic in the press of late.  The research being conducted by Exquadrum is concerned with improving the sustainability and profitability of small and mid-sized farms and ranches by developing a wind turbine for renewable wind energy production.  Exquadrum received a 2008 Phase I award to develop this technology and has recently been featured in the Victorville Daily Press.  To read the article go to http://www.vvdailypress.com/search/?q=Exquadrum&fistype=site.

ISCA Technologies Inc.

ISCA technologies has received multiple SBIR awards for innovative design and application of insect control technologies.  In 2008, the USDA Forest service awarded ISCA a contract as part of the Slow the Spread (STS) program for gypsy moth control.  ISCA, with Dynamic Aviation as the aerial application subcontractor, demonstrated that SPLAT GM (Specialized Pheromone & Lure Application Technology for Gypsy Moth) technology could be applied from the air over specific demonstration blocks which were evaluated by the government. Performance was based on how easily the application system was calibrated, how well it maintained calibration during applications, and the ease of loading/cleaning the system.  Six loads of SPLAT in six flights were necessary to complete the demonstration.  Aerial application of SPLAT demonstrated that it was possible to control the flow of SPLAT and transferring the material from the barrel to the aircraft tank did not cause any problems. It was also proven that SPLAT was not a nuisance to the local residents compared to other available technologies.  After applying the SPLAT, it was hardly noticeable to local residents.  The USDA personnel concluded that the SPLAT GM application technology, as presented in the demonstration, has the performance characteristics necessary to be part of the operational work done to slow the Spread of the Gypsy Moth.  For additional information contact ISCA Technologies at http://www.iscatech.com.

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FY 2008 Phase I Grants

Many FY 2008 phase I grants expired Dec. 31, 2008. For those companies whose grants expired on that date, final technical reports are due to our office by March 31 (90 days).  These reports must be sent electronically to sbir@csrees.usda.gov. For more information on reporting requirements and the steps necessary to close out a grant, please visit http://www.csrees.usda.gov/funding/sbir/sbir_grantee.html.

Quarterly Financial Reports (SF-272)

SF-272 reports are required even if you have not spent any grant funds during a given quarter. Failure to submit reports in a timely manner will result in a hold placed on your Payment Management System (PMS) account with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and you will not be able to withdraw funds until the delinquent report(s) have been submitted and the hold is lifted by DHHS. USDA-SBIR program staff does not have access to this system and cannot remove any holds placed on the system by DHHS. If you have questions about these reports or need help in completing them, you can contact Vivian Hughes (vhughes@psc.gov or 301.443.9181) at PMS who handles the USDA-SBIR account. Questions can also be sent to the general PMS help desk (PMSSupport@psc.gov)

Changes in Contact Information

Each grantee must provide the SBIR office with current contact information. Because correspondence between USDA-SBIR staff and grantees is conducted almost exclusively via e-mail, correct e-mail addresses are critical.  Although maintaining this information is only explicitly required for the duration of the grant, we encourage all prior grantees to maintain contact with our office. Please send changes in contact information to sbir@csrees.usda.gov and include the proposal and grant number for all projects to which the change applies.

Please note, e-mail addresses also need to be updated with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Payment Management System as well.

Understanding Your Terms and Conditions

USDA SBIR Staff encourages all grantees to review the terms and conditions that were provided in the grant paperwork.  Within the terms and conditions are the requirements for completing your grant, including deliverables and how funding is disbursed.  If you cannot locate the terms and conditions in your package you can download a copy at the Grantee Resources page.

Acknowledging SBIR Funding

Proper acknowledgement of CSREES funding in published manuscripts, presentations, and news releases is critical for the success of the USDA SBIR program. We specifically ask that you use the following language to acknowledge this support:
“This project was supported by the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program of the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES), Grant Number (Insert Grant Number Here).”

We strongly encourage you to acknowledge CSREES funding in interviews and articles that feature your company, as well as work that was supported through our program. This acknowledgement is beneficial for both the USDA SBIR program and the companies with whom we partner.

Finally, we ask that you use the CSREES logo on your PowerPoint presentations or posters at meetings. CSREES logos are available in several formats on our Web site.

Phase II Commercialization Assistance Program Update

The USDA SBIR program has partnered with Larta Institute, a premier commercialization assistance organization, to develop and implement the 2008 USDA-Commercialization Assistance Training Program (USDA-CATP) for Phase II projects.  If your company enrolled in the program you will receive correspondence from Larta and the USDA SBIR office regarding the upcoming Webinar training. Space is limited for these training seminars so plan to RSVP early.

*Please note: Only USDA SBIR Phase II companies that enrolled in the Phase II CATP are eligible to attend these important seminars*

Agriculture Innovation Showcase

The 2009 Ag Innovation Showcase will be held May 18-19 in St. Louis at the Danforth Plant Science Center.

This forum will feature innovative technologies and approaches to the various sectors of agriculture including ag-bio, biofuels, information technology, animal health, food and nutrition, and sustainable materials. Attendees include entrepreneurs, companies, USDA, and investors (corporate and VC) in the Ag community. SBIR companies may also apply to present and register for a 20% early bird discount on attendance. The 2009 Ag Innovation Showcase is produced by Larta Institute in partnership with the Danforth Plant Science Center, Nidus Center, and Missouri Technology Corporation.

Website: www.agshowcase.com

Recent and Upcoming Meetings - SBIR Staff

Dr. Siva Sureshwaran will be presenting the USDA SBIR program at the University of Nebraska April 15, 2009.

Dr. Charles Cleland will be attending the Kentucky SBIR-STTR Conference in Lexington, KY, March 26, 2009

Dr. Charles Cleland will be attending the Indiana SBIR Conference, Indianapolis, IN, April 13-14, 2009.

Dr. Charles Cleland will be attending the Public Engagement and Science Communication Symposium at Cornell University, May 12, 2009.

Mr. Scott Dockum will be attending the EPA-USDA SBIR Workshop: How to Win Grants Under the Small Business Innovation Research Program at Iowa State University, Ames Iowa, March 26, 2009.  For additional information go to www.techtransfer.iastate.edu.

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Dr. Pete Burfening
8.3 Animal Production and Protection

Dr. Charles Cleland
8.1 Forests and Related Resources
8.4 Soil and Water Resources
8.7 Aquaculture
8.12 Small and Mid Size Farms

Dr. William Goldner
8.2 Plant Production and Protection – Biology
8.8 Biofuels and Biobased Products
8.13 Plant Production and Protection – Engineering

Dr. Richard Hegg
8.11 Animal Manure Management

Dr. S. Sureshwaran
8.6 Rural and Community Development
8.9 Marketing and Trade

Dr. Dionne Toombs
8.5 Food Science and Nutrition

Scott Dockum
General SBIR Program Support

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The USDA SBIR staff encourages feedback concerning this newsletter and, more broadly, the administration of the USDA SBIR program. We are committed to being responsive to the needs of applicants to the program and to those companies who have received USDA SBIR grants. Please send comments to sbir@csrees.usda.gov or call (202) 401-4995.

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To receive email notification of future USDA SBIR newsletter releases, send a message to sbir@csrees.usda.gov and type subscribe SBIR in the subject line.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and where applicable, sex, marital status, amilial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD). To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.