The Indiana State Department of Agriculture has awarded more than $468,000 to six projects to support the state’s specialty crop sector, including the watermelon, tree nut and nursery industries.
The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block grant program.
“This funding will allow the necessary research and development needed for the Indiana specialty crop sector to continue advancing,” said ISDA Director Bruce Kettler. “This sector is vital to our agriculture community and up-to-date education, research and marketing is crucial.”
The ISDA says the grants were awarded to non-profit organizations, academic institutions, and government agencies on a three-year cycle.
To qualify, projects must benefit the industry and not just one product, individual or organization.
For instance, researchers at Purdue University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering were awarded an approximately $180,000 grant to develop a video analytics system to verify people handling food, such as raw vegetables, have thoroughly washed their hands to prevent the spread of food-borne illnesses.
Below is the list of the other recipients:
- Illiana Watermelon Association received about $27,000 to market and promote Indiana Grown Watermelon to drive consumption.
- Indiana Grown awarded $63,000 to promote Indiana Farmers Markets and boost demand for local produce.
- Indiana University received $83,000 to identify steps to establish a supply chain for Indiana-grown tree nuts and to increase the value of the crop.
- Purdue University Department of Food Science was awarded $59,000 to develop a virtual and interactive food safety education program for on-farm manufacturing of food products.
- Purdue University Entomology Department received a $58,000 award to develop Best Management Practices for the Asiatic Garden Beetle in commercial mint production.
According to USDA, Indiana is the number five spearmint growing state with about 4,000 acres.