Innovative production is a diverse and dynamic area of agriculture, including indoor controlled environment agriculture, rooftop farms, outdoor vertical production, green walls, high-tech vertical farms, greenhouses, and hydroponic, aeroponic, or aquaponic farms. These operations are creating new and better markets, enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops, and creating economic opportunities for the next generation of agricultural producers. They also support climate resilient food systems by extending the growing season, conserving water, and providing local and regional food options.
USDA experts – economists, agronomists, researchers, leaders in food safety, crop genetics, packaging, and plant breeding – support the field with the latest research, connections to new markets and growing new operations and opportunities.
- Sign up for E-mail updates on Innovative Production and Urban Agriculture
- Information for urban and innovative producers on Farmers.gov
- USDA’s Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production webpage
USDA’s Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production
The Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production (OUAIP) coordinates across USDA agencies to update programs and engage with stakeholders to serve the needs of urban and innovative producers.
- Urban Agriculture and Innovation Production Grants initiate or expand efforts of farmers, gardeners, innovative producers, local governments, tribal communities, schools, and other stakeholders to target areas of food access; education; business and start-up costs for new farmers; and development of policies related to zoning and other needs of innovative and urban production.
- Have questions about USDA resources for innovative production, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
- Teens for Food Justice, New York, New York
The Teens for Food Justice project expands a pilot hydroponic farm at the Far Rockaway Educational Complex, a campus of four Title I schools serving over 1,800 children. The Far Rockaway Educational Complex hydroponic farm program is a partnership between Teens for Food Justice and the NYC Department of Education to address food insecurity and lack of access to healthy food. The UAIP grant supported the expansion of hydroponic farms to three additional Title I schools, serving 2,500 children.
- Aeroponics Towers for Nixa School District in Missouri
The UAIP grant for Nixa School District UAIP project will be used for an aeroponics tower farm consisting of 125 11-ft. towers, outdoor raised beds, an outdoor classroom, and native plant area. The tower farm will enable university students to learn about this innovative farming process and supply the nearby food pantry with fresh produce to increase food access and improve nutrition for residents in Southwest Missouri.
- Hydroponics Address Nutrition Access in Dubque, Iowa
- The City of Dubuque is expanding the impact of their existing urban farms by adding a greenhouse and hydroponics system to a local urban farmstand. The project aims to grow fresh produce year-round for the community, provide community education about food entrepreneurship and benefits of sustainable local food production, and support the introduction of healthy and local foods in existing corner stores.
Direct Support for Innovative Producers
If you grow – or are starting to grow -- using innovative production, USDA can help you finance, plan, and protect your operation. Learn more at farmers.gov/urban about our resources for farmers, including access to land and capital and resources for beginning farmers.
USDA Service Centers: A first step is to make an appointment with your USDA Service Center. We are also opening new Urban Service Centers. This is where you can meet face-to-face with our on-the-ground experts from Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service. Rural Development assistance may also be available in certain locations.
- Farm Service Agency (FSA) offers many types of loans, including microloans tailored specifically to small-scale farms and Farm Storage Facility Loans (FSA) that can help you build, upgrade, or purchase facilities to store commodities, including fruit and vegetable cold storage, washing, packing, and handling buildings and equipment. Learn more about USDA funding and the loan discovery tool.
- The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers technical and financial assistance for practices like irrigation systems, roof runoff structures, and lighting efficiency that can support indoor, vertical, aquaponic, hydroponic, and other forms of growing. NRCS also supports research and innovation.
- Rural Development can help you locate guaranteed financing through the Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program; Rural Economic Development Loan & Grant Program; Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loans & Grants; and Value-Added Producer Grants.
- Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Patrick Leahy Farm to School Program helps child nutrition program operators incorporate local foods in the National School Lunch Program, the Summer Food Service Program and Child and Adult Care Food Program and all associated programs.
Risk Management Agency (RMA) can help insure your crops against losses. The Micro Farm and Whole-Farm Revenue Protection programs insure revenue earned by selling crops and value-added products. The Controlled Environment program is an inventory-based program that offers insurance for destruction orders for plant diseases and contamination introduced from the environment even though all biosecurity protocols were followed.
- Find a local insurance agent, use the free disaster assistance discovery tool, or contact your regional office.
Marketing and Selling
Programs offered through FSA, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), and Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) can help you reach consumers in new ways and open additional revenue streams when selling products. AMS’s Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) funds projects that develop and expand direct producer-to-consumer markets. Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audits are voluntary audits that verify that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled, and stored to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards.
The Women, Infants, Children (WIC) Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program issue coupons for eligible foods from state-approved farmers, farmers' markets, or roadside stands. Contact your state for eligibility and information on how to accept WIC as payment when selling products directly to consumers.
Research Support and Reports
The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) partners with universities and businesses in over 90 research locations. Research related to innovative production includes LED light-spectrum impact analysis on plant growth, nutrient optimization, plant pathology, plant breeding and selection, pollinator experiments, and new automation processes.
- USDA Partnership with AmplifiedAg: Transforming Food and Agriculture Research for USDA-ARS Agencies
- Vertical Farming – No Longer A Futuristic Concept
Conservation Innovation Grants funds innovative research where partners work with producers on conservation projects.
- Conservation Innovation Grant: Best Practices Guide Water Circularity for Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Operations.
Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) has a network of offices in approximately 180 countries staffed by agricultural attachés and local agricultural experts that identify problems, provide practical solutions, and work to advance opportunities for U.S. agriculture.
- FAS’s Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program funds projects that address sanitary, phytosanitary, and technical barriers that prohibit or threaten the export of U.S. specialty crops. Activities can include seminars and workshops, study tours, field surveys, pest and disease research, and pre-clearance programs. Non-profit, for-profit, and government entities are eligible to apply.
National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supports research, including innovations and best practices for different types of operations, including Controlled Environment Agriculture. Learn more about NIFA’s grants that can support innovative production:
- The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) is the nation’s leading competitive grants program for agricultural sciences. The initiative funds research that is vital to meeting food, fiber and fuel demands across the world, and helps develop new technologies and a trained workforce.
- The Specialty Crop Research Initiative supports the critical needs of the specialty crop industry through the promotion of collaboration, the exchange of information, and the development of resources that accelerate application of scientific discovery and technology.
- Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program provides grants to organizations for education, mentoring and technical assistance initiatives for beginning farmers and ranchers.
- Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants Program supports research to help identify and analyze environmental effects of biotechnology and helps regulators develop policies concerning the introduction of such technology.
- Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education offers competitive grant and professional development programs to help promote environmental stewardship and more profitable farm incomes.
- Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program is intended to bring together stakeholders from distinct parts of the food system and to foster understanding of national food security trends and how they might improve local food systems.
- Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative supports research, education, and extension programs that enhance the ability of producers and processors who have already adopted organic standards to grow and market high quality organic agricultural products.
- Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs focus on transforming scientific discovery into products and services with commercial potential and/or societal benefit.
Technical Reports and Research
The Unified Website for Biotechnology Regulation describes the federal review process for certain biotechnology products and allows users to submit questions.
USDA and Department of Energy drafted the Research and Development Potentials in Indoor Agriculture and Sustainable Urban Ecosystems Workshop Report (PDF, 651 KB) which identifies research and development challenges, opportunities, and needs relating to in six major areas: community services, economics, ecosystem services, plant breeding, pest management, and systems engineering.
There are many ways you can let USDA know about the needs of your operation. Learn how to connect with your agricultural community through local partners, county committees and USDA.
- Farm Service Agency Urban County Committees are elected committee members provide input on USDA urban agriculture policy in selected cities.
- Federal Advisory Committee for Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production meetings are open to the public, check the link for updates.
- Research and Promotion Programs from the Agricultural Marketing Service.