UPIKE awarded nearly $600,000 NSF grant to enhance AgTech research and education

The University of Pikeville (UPIKE) is proud to announce its participation in an exciting initiative funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). UPIKE will receive $593,280 to support research activities, personnel, equipment purchases, travel, materials/supplies and student stipends. 

Through the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Research Incubators for STEM Excellence (E-RISE RII), UPIKE will collaborate with multiple institutions to promote research competitiveness, build academic partnerships and create workforce development opportunities in soilless agriculture. E-RISE RII is a new program that aims to further EPSCoR’s programmatic goals by developing and implementing sustainable networks of diverse research teams to tackle critical research priorities. 

The project titled E-RISE RII: Driving AgTech Research and Education in Kentucky (DARE-KY) through Inclusive Network Building, Impactful Research, and Workforce Development for Soilless Food Systems will involve collaborative research from UPIKE along with Kentucky State University (KSU), Bluegrass Community and Technical College, Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation and FoodChain Inc.

Led by KSU, DARE-KY will establish a pioneering research incubator in the commonwealth to enhance nutrient management, food safety and sustainability in soilless agriculture. The collaborative research will explore nutrient flow in aquaponic systems, microbial community dynamics, biofilm formation and food safety.

UPIKE Assistant Professor of Biology Byron Meade will serve as the university’s principal investigator for the research conducted on campus, leading research efforts on testing root rhizosphere biodiversity and using hydroponic systems. 

“UPIKE is honored to be one of the recipients of the National Science Foundation E-Rise II grant looking at how fungi interface with high-tech agriculture systems. Through this grant, students and university researchers will be looking at rhizosphere fungal diversity and wastewater treatments using mushroom mycelium. This grant will provide $84,000 for student research stipends over the next four years and position our students to confidently pursue advanced degrees in multiple fields of study.”

As a key partner in DARE-KY, UPIKE will focus on two main research objectives. The wastewater treatment research will investigate the potential of fungi mycelium to clean wastewater from aquaponic systems, with broader applications for wastewater treatment. Researchers will also compare the biodiversity in the rhizosphere of hydroponic plants with that of wild samples, aiming to understand the microbial diversity around plant roots in controlled versus natural environments.

Please visit upike.edu to learn more about UPIKE. The complete NSF Award posting can be found at https://new.nsf.gov/news/nsf-awards-35m-networks-transform-research.