Propel Center Awards DSU $300,000 for Agri-tech project

By Delaware State University

The Propel Center, committed to advancing equity in education by serving as a global leadership and innovation hub for HBCUs, has selected Delaware State University to be among 15 institutions to collectively share $3 million for student and research-centered projects.

The University has been awarded a grant of $300,000 that will support its Vertical Agriculture and Sustainable Urban Ecosystems project.

The University will use the grant funding to develop a vertical farm to positively impact produce supply chain and sustainable urban agriculture in underserved communities. The vertical farm will employ innovative programming in areas such as plant genomics, precision agriculture, as well as the emerging technologies of artificial intelligence, data science, and machine learning.

DSU President Tony Allen said the University is well-positioned for such agri-tech research.

‚ÄúOur College of Agriculture, Science¬†and Technology not only has the expertise between the life sciences and agriculture, but they are merging those disciplines with unique business opportunities that could have material effect on many low-resource communities,‚ÄĚ Dr. Allen said. ‚ÄúAt Delaware State University, we have high bars for our own sense of excellence and support. We expect the same from our partners. Propel, and its founders Apple and Southern Company, have been strong¬†examples.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúWe were blown away by the innovation in the projects these institutions presented, and we are super excited about the tremendous expansion and exposure the students at these institutions will gain from their involvement in these groundbreaking initiatives,‚ÄĚ revealed Dr. Cortney Harris, Vice President of Impact and Engagement at Propel. Dr. Harris embraces Propel‚Äôs mission to prepare generations of black leaders who will leverage technology, creativity and dynamic problem solving to accelerate educational¬†equity.

‚ÄúWe believe all students should have access to the tools, resources, and opportunities to change the world,‚ÄĚ said Lisa Jackson, Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives at Apple. ‚ÄúThe HBCU community is full of creativity and vision, and we‚Äôre proud to support new programming and pathways to drive meaningful change through the Propel Impact¬†Grants.

Dr. Charles Gibbs, President of the HBCU Consortium, Propel Center, said Delaware State University‚Äôs proposal stood apart from over 50 research proposals that were received. ‚ÄúThe team lead by Dr. Winstead and the proposal that was submitted demonstrated the gravitas, the intellect and most importantly, the enthusiasm to address a major issue across our global landscape of food insecurities in our urban communities,‚ÄĚ Dr. Gibbs said. ‚ÄúIt is our intent to amplify the great work that is being done at Delaware State University.‚ÄĚ

Dr. Cherese Winstead Casson, the principal investigator of the grant and the Dean of the College of Agriculture, Science¬†and Technology, said that in coming decades, the world population is projected to grow significantly increasing the demand for food, water, energy, and other resources.¬†She added that conventional technologies will not solve these ubiquitous challenges; ‚ÄúAgriculture 4.0‚ÄĚ will play a critical important role in addressing these challenges moving¬†forward.

‚ÄúDSU Propel AgTech aims to advance vertical agriculture and sustainable urban ecosystems to impact our local supply chain with the overall goal of improving yield, efficiency, and profitability while educating our next generation workforce focused on the development of agricultural innovation, deployment of technology products, services and applications,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúDue to our rich history in agriculture, DSU will demonstrate a vertical farm to impact supply chain and sustainable urban agriculture in underserved¬†communities.‚ÄĚ

Imagined in January 2021 by founding partners Apple and Southern Company, the Propel Center is a first-of-its-kind innovation and learning hub for the entire HBCU community that leverages technology to advance education equity and transform the nation’s talent pipeline and workforce. Through a robust virtual learning platform, on-campus activations at partner institutions and a physical campus to be located in Georgia’s Atlanta University Center, Propel represents education now, designed for the future. The state-of-the-art edifice, featuring floating classrooms, ideation labs and common areas promoting interactive collaboration is slated for completion in 2023. To learn more, visit