Funding (and Other Helpful) Resources
So you’re ready to get started with hydroponics but need some info about funding your dream project?
We’ve collected a sampling of funding sources and other resources that will help you bring your project to fruition. This is certainly not an exhaustive list — it’s merely a starting point for those who are looking for financial or in-kind support.
Many of these resources are specific to New York State and New York City, as that is where the majority of our experience draws from. However, it’s likely that there similar regional opportunities in your area, if you happen to live in the USA.
At the US Federal Level
The all-inclusive website for finding current federal government grant calls and submitting applications is www.grants.gov. This website allows you to customize your search to zero-in on relevant opportunities. It’s a massive database, so use your keywords wisely.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is an umbrella organization for many sub-units that oversee different aspects of national agriculture. Not all of the sub-institutions offer grants or loans, but many do. Here is an overview of all the agencies within the USDA. Below are some of the agencies that may be most useful for funding a hydroponic farm. Please note that some may have funding opportunities (namely loans) that are not listed on the grants.gov site:
- National Institute for Food and Agriculture:
- Farm Service Agency (microloans):
- Agricultural Research Service (access to data):
- Economic Research Service (access to data):
Regional Northeast and New York State
Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NESARE) is actually part of a larger federal agency (www.sare.org) that operates in four regions. (NY falls into the Northeast.) They offer grants for commercial farmers, research partnerships, grad students, etc. Funding is divided between $15,000 or less for one-year projects, and $30,000 – $200,000 for multi-year projects: http://www.nesare.org/grants
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) releases calls for proposals on a wide range of energy issues, some of which can be used towards hydroponics for energy-efficient greenhouse and light research, although not so much for farming operations. You can sign up for a mailing list to get alerted to these opportunities as they come out: http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/Funding-Opportunities.aspx
(Note: If you are an individual homeowner, there are other rebates available from NYSERDA to support home improvements for energy efficiency.)
New York State legislators in the Assembly and Senate get discretionary funding each year that can be allocated to projects in their districts. This is often a slow process, but if you have a good relationship with your representative and can make a strong case for community (read: district) impact, it is a worthwhile source to pursue. Find your district legislators and get in touch with their staff to learn more about what is available through them:
- NYS Assembly: http://assembly.state.ny.us/
- NYS Senators: http://www.nysenate.gov/senators
- NYS Assembly’s Grant Action News: http://assembly.state.ny.us/gan
New York City
The New York City Council is a great resource, both for community outreach and for funding. Like the state level government officials, each city council member has money to allocate to non-profit organizations in their districts. However, each member does not have the same amount available. To see what’s been funded in the past, check out the Schedule C section of the New York City Council Budget.
Expense (Discretionary) Funding from each Council Member:
All done online, the actual application is fairly simple and generic. Usually released February and due in March, some districts will offer workshops for how to fill out the application (and in some cases, for the the capital funding application as well). It’s a good idea to attend one of these workshops to demonstrate commitment to your cause. During this period, and the months leading up to the finalization of the budget, you will want to meet with your Council Member and/or their staff to talk about your organization and pitch your project. Be sure to bring statistics to demonstrate the impact, or anticipated impact, of your organization/project.
Non-Profit Organization Capital Funding:
One of the most complicated funding applications, this is best used for larger scale projects that involve long-term capital investments like land/space acquisition. Usually due in February (for Borough applications) or April (for Council applications). Projects sent to the Borough presidents should have a large impact borough-wide.
A new process taking place in about 9 districts, constituents can pitch projects that will benefit the district and a participatory budgeting council of community members votes to decide which projects will get funded. The process starts up in the fall, with final decisions arriving in May or June. If you want to do a hydroponics project that is open to the public and has a broad impact, this would be a good fit (provided participatory budgeting is happening in your district!).
Other NYC agencies to consider:
- Department of Youth and Community Development:
- NYC Economic Development Corporation:
- Department of Parks and Recreation: Greenthumb (for building materials/supplies):
Major foundations servicing NYC that have demonstrated interest in green projects:
- United Way of NYC
- NY Community Trust
- Citizens Committee for NYC
Want to find more? Head to the Foundation Center Library, it’s free to use if you go in person!
Giving circles are a newer form of foundation funding that is similar in approach to Participatory Budgeting for the City Council. Like-minded groups of people contribute money and create a pool, then vote for the strongest projects a certain points throughout the year that best meet the goals set forth by their organization. For more information, go to http://www.givingcircles.org.
Some of the more active giving circles in our region:
These sites know no regional bounds, but you will want to be fairly confident in your support/fan base before going for a large project. On some sites, like Kickstarter, if you can’t fully fund your project, you will not get any of the money contributed along the way.
If you represent an organization that’s looking to support hydroponic projects, financially or otherwise, please let us know!