Agri-Food Innovation Summit Puts Spotlight on Agriculture and Food Entrepreneurship, Research

National and state leaders in agriculture and food innovation and entrepreneurship will gather Nov. 2-3 for the Arkansas Agri-Food Innovation Summit, a first-of-its-kind event spotlighting the federal funding opportunities that can drive industry transformation.

The event, which is free of charge, is open to food and agriculture professionals and students. It will be held at the Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Sciences, 1371 W. Altheimer Dr. in Fayetteville. Participants can register online for the commercialization and research tracks.

The summit is being hosted by four leaders in innovation: the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center, the U of A Division of Economic Development, the U of A System Division of Agriculture and Catalyst/Research and Technology Transfer at Arkansas State University.

As home to giants in agriculture and retail, “Arkansas is uniquely positioned at the crossroads of an agri-food supply chain revolution, ready to champion transformative advancements,” said Trey Malone, co-host for the event.

Malone is an agricultural economist for the U of A System Division of Agriculture and the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences. He is also a Fellow for the Sustainable Food Systems at the Farm Foundation.

“Collaboration is one of the most powerful drivers in agriculture and food innovation,” said Deacue Fields, vice president-agriculture for the U of A System. “This event has been built to spark and nurture collaboration across public and private sectors, academia and industry and state and federal entities. We are proud to host what we believe will be the start of many successful partnerships.”

Day 1 — Commercialization Track

The first day’s agenda — which runs from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. — focuses on early-stage seed funding from federal sources. The program will highlight the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $4 billion Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer program, known as America’s Seed Fund.

Program officers of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, or NIFA, will present opportunities for non-dilutive funding to support the development of novel agri-food tech solutions. The USDA program officers will be available for one-on-one meetings to discuss individual research projects by appointment, which can be made through the online registration page.

Attendees will also learn from Arkansas-based USDA Seed Fund awardees who went “from lab to launch” and are running successful startups.

A panel on agricultural innovation for the 22nd century will pair top academic researchers with industry CEOs and experts to gain their perspective on what innovation is needed and how academia and industry can better collaborate. Additional funding sources will be explored with panelists representing state, venture and philanthropic funding.

The day’s program concludes with networking and a hosted tour of the nearby Center for Arkansas Farms and Food and the Arkansas Food Innovation Center. Food and drinks will highlight Arkansas food entrepreneurs.

Day 1 registration is online.

Day 2 — Research track

The second day, which runs from 8 a.m. to noon, will focus on NIFA funding opportunities. Speakers will include Fields, Dionne Toombs, NIFA’s associate director for programs and Dierdra Chester, director of the office of chief scientist for research, education and economics programs. Three national program leaders will helm face-to-face discussion sessions. They are:

  • Jodi Williams, national program leader for food safety
  • Robert Godfrey, division director for animal systems
  • Michelle Santos Schelske, national program leader for education programs.

The half-day session will wrap with a tour of Division of Agriculture research facilities, including the food safety laboratory, Poultry Science Smart Farming Research Facility and the Clean Plant Center.

Throughout the event, the Fryar Price Risk Management Center of Excellence will host a student agri-food research competition. Student posters will be on display throughout both days.

Day 2 registration is online.

About the Division of Agriculture: The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system. The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses. The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.


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