top of page

NSF Awards $7M to Kentucky State University, Kentucky Science and Engineering Foundation and Partners for AgTech Research

Sixteen people stand in front of large screen reading "KSU announces $7,000,000"
Photo courtesy of Kentucky State University

The Kentucky Science and Engineering Foundation is partnering with Kentucky State University on a new grant awarded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) to expand agriculture technology (AgTech) research and impact across Kentucky. The project, Driving AgTech Research and Education in Kentucky (DARE-KY), will establish Kentucky as a hub for soilless plant production methods including hydroponics and aquaponics — a rapidly growing sector of AgTech.


“What a great day it is for Kentucky and for Kentucky State University,” shared Dr. Koffi C. Akakpo, President of Kentucky State University. “We could not be more proud of the work completed everyday here on campus and throughout the Commonwealth. NSF, along with our partners in this endeavor see our potential and the impact we will have for years to come.”


DARE-KY will create an unprecedented, cross-sector research incubator to improve nutrient management, food safety, and sustainability of soilless agriculture in Kentucky, which will lead more diverse and inclusive STEM research and several approaches to understand how nutrient flow through aquaponic systems influences microbial communities and its potential impact on biofilm formation and food safety. The project will enhance workforce development in Kentucky by creating new curricula, integrating research into student learning and developing new work-and-learn opportunities. 


“Kentucky is on the forefront of agricultural innovation and has a strong AgTech research community ready to explore how innovations in soilless agriculture technology can transform agriculture practices.” said Dr. Maria Labreveux, executive director of the Kentucky Science and Engineering Foundation. “We look forward to working with KSU and partners to expand understanding and workforce readiness to adopt these innovative practices.”


Funding for DARE-KY is part of NSF’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Research Incubators for STEM Excellence Research Infrastructure Improvement (E-RISE RII) program to boost research competitiveness, build partnerships across academic institutions and non-academic sectors and create workforce development opportunities. The $7M award marks the largest competitive stand-alone federal award in KSU’s history.


"This investment from NSF's E-RISE RII program powers scientific progress through broad networks of researchers, institutions and organizations that will significantly enhance STEM research capacity in our EPSCoR jurisdictions,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. "We are investing in a future where EPSCoR jurisdictions are even more competitive in the scientific enterprise, both nationally and internationally."


The Kentucky Science and Engineering Foundation (KSEF), an initiative of the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation that removes barriers to research and development for Kentucky innovators, is a collaborating institution on the grant along with Bluegrass Community and Technical College, University of Pikeville and FoodChain, Inc. KSEF will support the grant by engaging industry partners, building connections among research institutions and organizing an annual symposium. Additionally, the team will support KSU and partners in pursuing additional research funding for the project.


“We’re thrilled to support longtime partner KSU in receiving this historic federal grant,” said Kentucky Science & Technology Corporation President Terry Samuel. “Our Kentucky Science and Engineering Foundation team is ready to work with KSU and partners by leveraging our university, industry and workforce relationships to establish Kentucky as a hub for soilless agriculture technology.”


KSU, Kentucky’s only HBCU, is one of six partner institutions of KSTC’s Kentucky Commercialization Ventures program, which provides support to Kentucky higher education institutions that do not have dedicated technology transfer resources. The school was recently named as one of three partners on another NSF grant through Kentucky Commercialization Ventures – KCV EDGE – that will help the school expand its capacity for securing and administering federal research grants.


To learn more about DARE-KY and the services offered by KSEF to Kentucky researchers, visit




Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page