The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in conjunction with The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), the Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) to identify enhanced efficiency fertilizers (EEFs) and related products to reduce the environmental effects of row crop agriculture while maintaining or increasing farmer productivity and profitability. The use of commercial fertilizers of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) is one of the critical pillars of modern agriculture, relieving widespread nutrient limitation and facilitating the growth of crops at yields that would not be possible under the naturally existing supply of nutrients in the soil. However, fertilizers applied without consideration of the appropriate rate, timing, source, and method, can have harmful effects on the environment and human health. This challenge is part of a larger effort to evaluate the effectiveness of existing technologies, and spark innovation of new technologies that can reduce the environmental effects from row crop agriculture while maintaining profitability. This challenge focuses on sparking innovative solutions for enhanced efficiency and cost-effective delivery of N and P to growing plants. In addition to a monetary award, Solvers will receive public recognition of their work and may be provided with additional opportunities to publicize their submission, if they choose. This aligns with two of EPA’s Core Goals to create a cleaner, healthier environment, and to create more effective partnerships, and aligns with the USDA Agriculture Innovation Agenda.
Nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers facilitate the growth of crops, including corn, at yields that provide sustained global food production. However, fertilizers applied without consideration of the appropriate rate, timing, source, and method, can have harmful effects on the environment and human health. “Enhanced Efficiency Fertilizer” (EEF) is a term for new formulations that control fertilizer release or alter reactions that reduce nutrient losses to the environment. EEFs and other product technology innovations may be an important addition to a system of conservation practices that help reduce the impacts from row crop agriculture on the environment, while maintaining or increasing agricultural productivity and profitability.
To help mitigate these adverse effects, EPA is partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to launch the Joint EPA-USDA Partnership and Competition on Next Gen Fertilizers to Advance Agricultural Sustainability in the United States. Along with EPA and USDA, the competition is in collaboration with The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). This Partnership is being coordinated with input from stakeholders such as corn grower representatives, fertilizer companies, university researchers, and environmental and industry NGOs. This competition includes two challenges which aim to accelerate the development and use of existing and new product technologies that are affordable to reduce the environmental impacts of U.S. corn production. The results of the Partnership may ultimately be leveraged to improve production of other crops under a range of environmental conditions in the U.S. and abroad.
The Next Gen Fertilizer Innovation Challenge aims to identify concepts for novel technologies for fertilizers that can reduce the environmental effects from modern agriculture while maintaining or increasing crop yields. These concepts can include any enhanced efficiency or other technology product including, additives, inhibitors, stabilizers, or other technologies used with or in combination with commercial fertilizer nutrients, that enhance nutrient uptake and performance. Submissions to the Next Gen Fertilizer Innovations Challenge are not near-market and may include technologies that are not traditional EEFs.
Solvers are not required to give up any of their intellectual property (“IP”) rights to the Seekers to be eligible to receive an award.
- The Seekers may award a total prize award pool of $65,000. The minimum full award amount is $10,000. The Seeker can allocate higher individual award amounts, as deemed appropriate. The Challenge award will be contingent upon results of critical analysis and evaluation by the Seekers and the Judging Panel appointed by the Seekers. Meeting the Technical Requirements does not guarantee that the proposed solution will receive an award from the Seekers. Partial cash prizes may be considered for solutions that meet some, but not all, of the criteria.
- Finalists will be invited to present their technologies at a showcasing event (date and location to be determined). Promising submissions may also be advanced to greenhouse or field testing at the conclusion of the competition. Solvers should make it clear if they have the interest and ability for subsequent development phases and would be willing to consider future collaborations and/or subsequent competitions with support of government staff and facilities.