A small business in northwest Arkansas has received a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture with assistance from the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center based at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
GSS (Grow-Supply-Sustain) Group LLC of Bella Vista, Arkansas, has won a Small Business Innovation Research grant to produce a vertical hydroponic design that can grow crops alongside horizontal hydroponic systems or in a window.
In hydroponics, plants are grown in sand, gravel, or liquid with added nutrients but without soil. Existing hydroponic producers can benefit from the market-ready apparatus by using it to maximize their greenhouse capacity to grow more crops in more spaces.
The GSS Group emphasizes sustainability in every aspect of business and promotes social responsibility through its reduce and reuse policies.
GSS Group President Danielle Dozier began exploring her passion for sustainable food production while attending the University of Arkansas, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture sciences in 2015.
“During my college years, I made friends from Africa, India, and other Eastern countries,” she said. “I began to see a need for sustainable food production in these population-dense areas that are going through major urbanization revolutions. God then came to me and instilled purpose. I must do something, even small, to do my part.”
Dozier contacted the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center for assistance. Innovation Consultant Rebecca Norman helped Dozier navigate the federal funding opportunities available for small tech companies.
“It has been an absolute privilege working with Danielle to develop her SBIR proposal and plan next steps. Her enthusiasm for GSS’s research and dedication to writing competitive SBIR proposals makes her a great asset for Arkansas as well as a wonderful ASBTDC client,” said Norman.
The Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs are specifically designed to support small business innovations with high commercial potential.
“The SBIR/STTR program is the single largest source of funding for technology companies conducting new research and development leading to commercialization. At $2.5 billion annually, these federal awards take the form of grants or contracts and don’t require companies to give up any company ownership,” said Norman.
The ASBTDC provides ongoing consulting, market research and education for entrepreneurs and companies interested in conducting new research to move their innovative ideas to market through the SBIR/STTR program.
“The ASBTDC staff was the key to our success,” Dozier said. “Rebecca Norman is a gem. She never delayed in responding to my many questions and review submissions. She helped me properly register for everything and did not let me forget one syllable,” said Dozier.
With the grant, Dozier will hire an engineer experienced with water apparatuses and another employee who is experienced with computer-aided design and can operate a large-format 3D printer.
“My team is small but fierce. I have dedicated my life to this food production method and to progressing the efficiency and sustainability of hydroponics,” Dozier said.
In the upper right photo, Danielle Dozier serves as president of GSS Group LLC in Bella Vista, Arkansas.