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WVSU Partners with Other HBCUs for Agriculture Business Innovation Center

INSTITUTE, W.Va. – West Virginia State University (WVSU) is partnering with three other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to create an Agriculture Business Innovation Center (ABIC) through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The $1.92 million grant will help establish the center to serve as a technical assistance hub to enhance agriculture-based business development opportunities nationwide.

“West Virginia State University is excited to partner with our sister HBCUs to provide this much-needed regional innovation center to support agricultural entrepreneurs and serve socially disadvantaged populations,” said WVSU President Ericke Cage.

The innovation center, which will be located at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, North Carolina, will:
Provide technical assistance to food and agricultural producers, offering production scale assessments, market planning and development, business planning and other advisory services;
Assist startups in agribusiness including planning and obtaining funding;
Provide workforce development and educational experiences for students interested in careers in agriculture business;
Offer outreach services and activities such as training, workshops and dissemination of information and materials.
The goal of the ABIC is to increase the number of successful agricultural businesses by providing these services through collaborative efforts across the four HBCUs: WVSU, North Carolina A&T State University, Alabama A&M University, and Kentucky State University.

The grant will fund a new WVSU Extension Agent working in agribusiness for three years.

“This grant offers such incredible potential for success because we will be working alongside three well established 1890 institutions with robust agribusiness programs,” said Adam Hodges, Assistant Program Director, Community and Economic Development, WVSU Extension Service. “I am excited for the new directions this grant will lead our extension service.”

Hodges said the WVSU College of Business and Social Sciences assisted with the grant proposal and will be close collaborators with the new extension agent position as well.

Development of an entrepreneurial academy is part of the collaborative efforts. The academy will offer:
A professional development certification program providing entrepreneurial training, consultation, workshops, and other educational resources and activities;
A “tournament of ideas” competitive scholarship program for socially disadvantaged farms, firms, and students for business startup, marketing, and fundraising assistance;
A model for supervised agribusiness entrepreneurship beyond training to incubate business ideas.

The work is supported by a grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education and Extension across the nation to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. In 2021, NIFA’s total investment was $1.96 billion.


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