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SVHEC is one of only six grants awarded for the southeastern US region

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) a three-year, $250,000 Wood Traditional White Oak Wine Barrel. Photo Credit:  Gerard PrinsInnovations Grant award. The award was granted for the SVHEC’s R&D Center for Advanced Manufacturing & Energy Efficiency (R&DCAMEE) project “Innovations in the Design and Fabrication of Wood Barrels: Design, Prototype, and Testing of a Unique Reusable/Recyclable Wood Barrel.”

The SVHEC received one of only six grants awarded for the southeastern region of the United States. Other recipients include the notable research institutions of Louisiana State University, Clemson University, and N.C. State University.

“We are thrilled to be one of only six in the southeast to receive the USDA Wood Innovations Grant. Another example of how SVHEC is advancing our region’s economic potential, this project supports our region’s growing wine industry by reducing production costs through the design of a reusable wine barrel,” said Dr. Betty Adams, SVHEC Executive Director.

For the wood barrel project, staff at R&D CAMEE and DB Global, Inc., will use several undervalued wood species including gum, hickory, and red oak to produce a reusable, recyclable wood barrel for aging wine and other spirits. The barrel will be produced using a unique mechanical joining system instead of the fixed metal hoops that are currently used in traditional, white oak barrels. If research proves this innovative barrel design is viable there is great potential for economic growth.

According to the grant application, “Successful commercialization of this product has potential to 1) provide a cost-effective and highly utilitarian barrel option for wineries and potentially other spirits producers; 2) open a new market for currently undervalued wood species; and 3) reduce the current pressure on white oak timber stocks in the US, which are not adequate to meet current and projected demands.”

R&D CAMEE and DB Global, Inc., will produce up to 30 prototypes. These prototypes will be given to regional wine and spirit producers for field-testing. Based upon the results, the barrel design and manufacturing processes will be refined.

For more information on the USDA Forest Service Wood Innovations grant please visit

For more information on the SVHEC’s R&D Center for Advanced Manufacturing & Energy Efficiency please visit, email, or call 434-572-5557.