Qualterra, Inc. receives award from competitive USDA SBIR Phase I grant program to develop a novel virus cleaning platform and service for the horticulture industry

Qualterra Micropropagation lab - Acclimation Room

Qualterra’s Controlled Environment Horticulture (CEH) facilities and techniques will be used as part of the company’s development of its virus cleaning technology platform which will be funded in part by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I grant program.

February 1, 2024 – Clean AgTech company Qualterra has been awarded $174,954 in grant funding from the highly competitive United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I program which is administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The SBIR program at the USDA offers competitively awarded grants to qualified small businesses to support high quality research related to important scientific problems and opportunities in agriculture that could lead to significant public benefits. The award funding will help Qualterra accelerate the commercial development of its innovative virus elimination platform service for horticultural crops, addressing a critical need for specialty crop protection and food security technologies within the horticulture industry. The main objective of Qualterra’s project is to test and assess multiple plant virus elimination strategies, including variations of thermotherapy, cryotherapy, chemotherapy, micro-shoot tip culture, and combination therapies in five different horticultural crops; identify best treatment regimen for each crop; and establish recommended internal protocols for virus elimination in each crop based on the results. Once fully developed and deployed, this commercially available virus elimination/cleaning platform would be the first of its kind to offer crop-specific-solutions to removal of viruses from growers’ and breeders’ valuable planting material. “This grant award funded by the USDA SBIR Phase I program will help accelerate the development of our virus cleaning technology platform that is so desperately needed in our industry,” said Mike Werner, CEO of Qualterra, “We are grateful for our continued support from the USDA SBIR program and look forward to continue our work to deliver outstanding impacts for growers and plant breeders alike.”

Qualterra Molecular Plant Services 2
Dr. Sharol Marcec of the Qualterra science team uses Qualterra’s robotic DNA/RNA extraction system as part of the company’s protocol for testing plant material for the presence of viruses.

Plant viral infections result in significant economic losses and threaten crop diversity. Growers often work with high-value proprietary, heritage, and/or heirloom varieties that cannot be easily replaced if infected. In such cases, virus cleaning is the only viable option to salvage these unique resources. In recent years, the demand for virus cleaning services has intensified, especially in the wake of recent crop viral epidemics, and existing options for virus cleaning are severely limited, both technologically and in terms of throughput. Qualterra’s project addresses the urgent need for a highly advanced, efficient, and readily available virus elimination service, providing growers and plant breeders with a useful tool to protect their crop varieties. “Provision of efficient and accessible virus cleaning services is a crucial step toward ensuring the protection, resilience and sustainability of the horticulture industry,” said Dr. Seanna Hewitt, Senior Genomics Scientist & Grants Management Specialist at Qualterra. “Collectively, the members of our scientific team have the backgrounds needed to develop advanced virus cleaning solutions. This SBIR award has provided an avenue for us to be able to explore, optimize, and deliver these solutions. I am thrilled for our team, whose joint efforts contributed to the success of our proposal.”


About Qualterra

Qualterra is an agricultural technology company on a mission to create innovations in agriculture and sustainability. Qualterra’s platform of technologies follow a plant life cycle from molecular plant testing and breeding support to propagation and nursery technologies through ag biomass waste processing and carbon capture technologies. Qualterra, headquartered in Washington State, USA, has three commercial facilities located in the main agricultural production area of the state. Learn more about Qualterra at: www.qualterraag.com.