US government must increase agri research – report

More federal investment in research in the sector would provide 'return potential', argues a report.

The US government must increase investment in agricultural research to maintain the country’s prominence in the global market, a report argues.

More research to help the US agri sector deal with increased competition, growing demand, blight, disease and climate change is needed, the paper by advocacy group Supporters of Agriculture Research (SoAR) and 13 US universities warns.  It also calls for a dramatic increase in federal funding for agri research on recent breakthroughs in genomics and nanotechnology.

The paper argues commercial success from research in areas like food safety and livestock health makes a clear case for return potential in agricultural research funding.

The US Department of Agriculture’s research budget has increased by less than one percent since 2003, it notes.

Agriculture programmes from at least 13 universities, including Cornell University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University contributed to the report.

The report comes as private investors show interest in monetising university research in the sector. Earlier this year, UK private equity firm JB Equity launched a £15 million joint venture with the University of Edinburgh to build livestock genetics, feed additives and veterinary pharmaceutical start-ups around technology developed at the university’s Roslin Institute and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.

In the US, agribusiness giants Bayer and Syngenta Ventures have invested $11.5 million in AgTech Accelerator, an incubator created to develop businesses from research conducted at a network of US universities. The start-up investment platform has partnerships with eight US universities.