USDA NIFA invests in Integrated Biorefinery Optimization program

By USDA | January 05, 2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture has awarded a grant to improve biorefinery technologies through the Integrated Biorefinery Optimization program. The funding comes from NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, which addresses challenges in food and agricultural sciences through research, extension, and education.

“We are invested in innovative technologies aimed at addressing global challenges and spurring growth and sustainability of our bioeconomy across the spectrum of the supply chain,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy.

The IBO program is coordinated and co-funded jointly between NIFA and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office. This research helps integrated biorefineries reduce costs and improve performance to enhance U.S. energy security by reducing dependence on foreign oil and fostering economic growth through the latest advances in biotechnology.

Through IBO, the grant will fund research totaling $2,994,429 at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. The project proposes to develop and commercialize solvent fractionated lignins to polymeric products for their potential market in building and construction sectors. The overarching objective of the proposed research is to develop integrated pathways for the extraction of value-added polymeric products from lignin waste/under-valued stream from biorefinery. Project details can be found at the NIFA website.

NIFA has invested in a range of projects to expand the regional biofuel and bioproduct industries and foster the scientific corps and workforce that support the bioeconomy. One recent example is a five-year investment to the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (link is external) (NARA), which has advanced research into biofuels and biochemicals, fostered the Northwest regional biofuel industry and helped educate tomorrow’s workforce on renewable energy. November 2016, Alaska Airlines landed the first commercial flight powered in part by a new renewable fuel made of wood waste developed through this initiative. The project produced over 90 publications, reached more than 30,000 K-12 students through education programs, and has had a lasting impact on bio-based jet fuel supply chains in the Pacific Northwest.

NIFA reviews all proposals accepted in NIFA’s competitive grant programs through an external peer review process in which a panel of experts from within the respective field in question takes part. Specific details on panel meetings, review formats, and evaluation criteria may vary among programs.

NIFA’s mission is to invest in and advance agricultural research, education, and extension to solve societal challenges. NIFA’s investments in transformative science directly support the long-term prosperity and global preeminence of U.S. agriculture. To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural sciences, visit, sign up for email updates, or follow us on Twitter @USDA_NIFA, #NIFAImpacts.