Legislation proposed this month by U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and U.S. Representative Cindy Axne (D-IA) would create a new agency inside the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that would prioritize the development of new innovations and technologies for American farms, ranches and rural communities.
The proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency–Terra (ARPA–Terra) carries a similar name as the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) in the Department of Energy that has funded cutting-edge energy technology development since 2009. ARPA-E has built an impressive track record, having funded billions of dollars of research, inspired the formation of dozens of high-tech companies, and established the foundations for hundreds of new patents.
Many of the latest advances in biofuel production, battery technology, energy efficiency, and bioenergy crop development have only been possible with crucial support from ARPA-E.
A number of algae research consortia and commercialization projects have made considerable breakthroughs thanks to ARPA-E support. These advances in technology have not only benefited the energy sector, but are now finding new applications in food production, water treatment, bioplastics and other sectors.
If a similar model can be implemented at the USDA it could transform how technology advances improve agricultural productivity, sustainability, and economic opportunity in communities across the country.
Algae was recently designated as a crop for the first time in the 2018 Farm Bill, and ABO will be keeping a close eye on this new legislation.
A focus on high-risk, high-reward technology innovation by the federal government has transformed sectors like energy and communications. Agriculture can be next.