Six awardees receive specialty crop grant funding

INDIANAPOLIS (Dec. 3, 2020) —  The Indiana State Department of Agriculture awarded more than $468,000 to six projects designed to grow the state’s specialty crop sector, funded by USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant program.

Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops.

“Our Hoosier farmers are leading producers of many fruits and vegetables, like tomatoes, mint and melons, which are so vital to our agricultural economy,” said Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch. “This funding will allow these six projects to further develop the specialty crop sector to ensure continued success for years to come.”

The grants were awarded to non-profit organizations, academic institutions and government agencies on a three-year cycle and will fund specialty crop research, education and market development. To qualify, projects must aim to benefit the industry as a whole, rather than one product, individual or organization.

Some of the projects awarded this grant cycle include Purdue University developing an automated hand-hygiene verification observation system to monitor and verify that food handlers have thoroughly and effectively washed their hands and Indiana University identifying the steps needed to establish an Indiana-based supply chain for Indiana grown tree nuts.

Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Bruce Kettler is looking forward to seeing the market development and research advancements that the projects find.

“This funding will allow the necessary research and development needed for the Indiana specialty crop sector to continue advancing,” said Kettler. “This sector is vital to our agriculture community and up to date education, research and marketing is crucial.”

The following list includes the organizations that received funding for the 2020-2023 grant cycle:

Illiana Watermelon Association – Marketing and Consumer Education Campaign to Promote Indiana Grown Watermelon

Award: $26,825.60

Project: The Illiana Watermelon Association will raise awareness of the Indiana watermelon industry and educate consumers on the health benefits and versatility of Indiana grown watermelon. Through geo-track marketing, social media marketing and setting up booths at community events, the Illiana Watermelon Association will be able to educate consumers on the health benefits of Indiana grown watermelon and drive consumption.

Indiana Grown – Promotional Marketing for Indiana Farmers Markets

Award: $63,000.00

Project: The goal of this project is to work with Indiana farmers markets to boost demand for local produce, build a stronger producer-consumer relationship and increase sales in the local markets.  Indiana Grown will develop and implement an organizational marketing plan to assist the market masters to increase sales and consumption of specialty crops at farmers markets.

Indiana University – Indiana Tree Nuts: Building Supply Chains for Indiana grown Chestnut, Hazelnut, Pecan and Walnut

Award: $82,954.80

Project: Indiana University will identify the steps needed to establish an Indiana-based supply chain for Indiana grown chestnuts, hazelnuts, pecans and walnuts by conducting a supply chain assessment and hosting grower education workshops. The focus will be on the feasibility of building Indiana’s nut aggregation and processing capacity, to increase the amount of value created by Indiana grown nuts.

Purdue University Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering – Hand Hygiene Verification using Video Analytics

Award: $179,252.85

Project: Purdue University will design, build, implement and evaluate an automated hand-hygiene verification observation system that uses automated video analytics to monitor and verify that food handlers have thoroughly and effectively washed their hands. The system will consist of commercially available cameras, a low-cost laptop computer and a video analytics algorithm designed to verify that the necessary steps of hand-hygiene have occurred in the proper order and for a sufficiently long time.

Purdue University Department of Food Science – Virtual and Interactive On-farm Education Program for Fruit & Vegetable Farmers

Award: $58,756.95

Project: This project aims to develop a virtual and interactive food safety education program for Hoosier produce farmers to help them better understand the regulations and provide guidelines for various on-farm manufacturing. Train-the-trainer program will also be developed for regulators and extension educators to help them better communicate with farmers about the on-farm manufacturing. Our ultimate goal is to develop this virtual and interactive on-farm manufacturing education program for Hoosier produce farmers to produce more wholesome and safe value-added products and to thrive with an increased profit and income.

Purdue University Entomology Department – Developing Best Management Practices for the Asiatic Garden Beetle in Commercial Mint Production

Award: $58,134.30

Project: Purdue University entomologists will partner with commercial mint producers in the state to grow our knowledge of the Asiatic garden beetle (Maladera castanea), hereafter AGB, and its management in mint systems. The goals of this project are to: (1) establish flexible economic thresholds for AGB in commercial mint fields, (2) evaluate insecticide efficacy against AGB grubs in mint and (3) develop a self-sufficient extension program to support grower efforts to manage AGB in Indiana mint production systems. Upon completion, these objectives will contribute to the development and implementation of best management practices for AGB in Indiana mint.

Visit www.isda.in.gov for more information about the Specialty Crop Block Grant program.

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Photo credit: Mindy Jasmund from West Lafayette

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