Virginia Tech® home

Susan Duncan Innovation in Agriculture Seed Grant

Submission Due Date

Fall 2024

Awards Announced

Fall 2024


The Susan E. Duncan Innovation in Agriculture Seed Grant is in honor of late Dr. Susan Duncan who was Professor of Food Science & Technology, the founding Director of the Center for Advanced Innovation in Agriculture (CAIA), a senior fellow at the Virginia Tech Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT),  and the Associate Director of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station (VAES) at Virginia Tech. This seed grant aims to support user‐centered and user‐driven research and development activities directed at building capacity, security, and resilience in the U.S Agriculture and Food sector.

The Susan E. Duncan Innovation in Agriculture Seed Grant program is jointly funded by Virginia Tech Applied Research Corporation (VT‐ARC) research funds and  matching funds from The Virginia Tech Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT) and the Center for Advanced Innovation In Agriculture (CAIA) with the support of Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station (VAES). The overarching goal of the Seed Grant is to advance research, innovation, and education in agriculture by bringing together faculty and students across disciplines; providing funding, space, support, and expertise; and building mutually beneficial partnerships beyond campus. We invite proposals for projects that are user‐ inspired and centered, creative, innovative, and show strong potential to advance the goals of VT‐ARC, CAIA, and ICAT and their partners. Grants can be used for agriculture‐focused transdisciplinary activities, creative projects, feasibility studies, and preliminary research. We expect that the funded projects will grow into larger grants and/or industry collaboration initiatives, performances, exhibitions, or events that are visible at a national or international level. In addition to its generous monetary contribution, VT‐ ARC will provide the funded research teams with mentorship on industry collaboration and entrepreneurship.

Topic Areas

The Susan E. Duncan Innovation in Agriculture Seed Grant program seeks user‐inspired and centered proposals that translate basic research into application and advance the use of new technologies in agriculture, specifically in the following topic areas (equally important):   

  1. New technologies that promote the rapid or high throughput collection of data, including strategies for sensing of biological, biochemical, or physical observations with direct relevance to agricultural applications
  2. Human‐centered design approaches to support the workforce in understanding and interacting with data. 
  3. Cyberbiosecurity for agriculture and life science‐based data 
  4. Artificial intelligence and data analytics to provide innovative agriculture solutions 5. Integration of advanced technologies and/or creative processes to help facilitate the human factor, such as workforce education and training, efficiencies, or overcoming disabilities to allow continued agricultural technology engagement.   
  5. Communication of innovative agriculture sciences through art   

This seed grant RFP is open to all faculty members at Virginia Tech. We’re looking for teams comprised of faculty from at least two different fields, with preference given to projects that include meaningful participation of faculty from two or more colleges. In order for teams to be eligible, at least one of the participating faculty must be a CAIA affiliate in good standing. We’re looking for projects that include strong partnerships between CALS faculty and non‐CALS faculty and advance the priorities and research platforms and goals of the CAIA, ICAT, and VT‐ARC.   

VT‐ARC, CAIA, and ICAT celebrate the critical importance of diverse teams of scholars and are dedicated to InclusiveVT ‐ serving in the spirit of community, diversity, and excellence to create a community that nurtures learning and growth for all of its members.  

Two‐three teams will be selected for funding for up to $25,000/team for one year. The funded teams are qualified to compete for an additional $20,000‐$25,000 during the second year. 

Email a PDF copy of your submission including the cover page and the 5‐page proposal document to Maddie Baldwin at by 5:00 p.m. EST on Friday, November 17, 2023. 

Please address each section in your proposal using Times New Roman 12 point font and page margin of 1”. Proposals should be limited to five pages, including images but not the coversheet. Proposals received without cover sheet signatures will not be considered.

Cover page: 

  • Complete team information 
  • Principle Investigator name, email, and home department (this will be the primary contact person) 
  • Team member names, emails, and home departments 
  • Bios and expertise of team members unique to the project 
  • Current and pending funding of the PI(s) 
  • Space requests (if applicable) 
  • ICAT specialist request (if applicable) 
  • VT‐ARC mentor request (if applicable) 
  • Total budget request 
  • Detailed budget and budget justification 

Proposal Document (5‐page limit): 

Please address each of the following proposal sections in your proposal using Times New Roman 12‐ point font and 1” page margin. Proposal should be limited to five pages, including images. Cover page is separate. 

  • Project Summary 
  • Statement of Need 
    • Research area(s) involved and its interdisciplinary nature
    • Evidence of user engagement leading to the selection of the proposed research topic(s)
    • Linkage to CAIA, ICAT, and VT‐ARC mission and goals 
  • Project Description 
    • Goals and Objectives   
    • Vision of project impact on agriculture innovation 
    • Methods, strategies, and activities 
    • Where the project work will happen and whether technical resources from ICAT and VT‐ARC mentorship are needed 
    • Evaluation plan for project success 
    • Anticipated outcomes and deliverables 
    • Plans for future research, funding, exhibition, industry collaboration, entrepreneurship, etc.
    • Timeline 
    • Timeline should begin after January 15, 2024 and end by December 1, 2024.

Awarded funds will be available January 15, 2024 and transferred to the PI’s home department.  All project expenses must be posted to Banner within 30 days of the project’s end date. No indirect cost applies to this grant. Proposals do not need approval by the Office of Sponsored Programs. 

Unspent funds must be transferred back to CAIA and/or ICAT within 45 days of the project’s end date (January 15 2025). 

We anticipate yearly call for this funding opportunity. 

Please note that faculty on an awarded team failing to deliver the outcomes identified in a funded proposal, a final project report within 45 days of project conclusion, and a mandatory lightening talk at an ICAT event may be ineligible for competing for the 2nd year additional funding and similar awards in the future. 

Funding Restriction 

Funds will not be awarded for conference travel or food. Funds can be used to buy out faculty time during the academic year or summer, pending home department approval (an endorsement letter from your home department should be included in the PDF proposal submission).

The proposals will be reviewed by a committee consisting of the director and associate director of CAIA and ICAT, two VT‐ARC representatives, and three faculty members, and then evaluated based on the following criteria: 

  • Intellectual merit and innovation in agriculture (20%) 
  • Interdisciplinary nature of the team (20%) 
  • Evidence of user engagements/inputs leading to the proposed work (20%) 
  • Correlation to the mission of CAIA, ICAT, and VT‐ARC (5%) 
  • Broader impact of the project (10%)
  • Potential channels for translation of research to agricultural application (5%) ∙ Timeline and clear outcome and deliverables (5%) 
  • Alignment with project categories and/or themes (5%) 
  • After the proposals are reviewed, a member of the proposal team will be invited to make a brief presentation to the review committee before a final selection decision is made (10%) 

Awards will be announced by Friday, December 15, 2023.

A final report at least 3 pages in length outlining the activities undertaken, outcomes, assessment and impacts must be submitted within 45 days of the completion of the project (December 1 2024), i.e., no later than January 15, 2025. An impact statement (1/2 to 1 page in length) related to the project, targeted toward non‐academic external stakeholders within the state, should be appended to the final report.  

All publications, presentations, illustrations, etc. resulting from this competitive grant program must include the following statement: “This activity was funded, in part, with the Susan E. Duncan Innovation in Agriculture Seed Grant, jointly funded by the Virginia Tech Applied Research Corporation (VT‐ARC), The Virginia Tech Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT), and the Center for Advanced Innovation In Agriculture (CAIA) with the support of Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station (VAES).