Agricultural biotech Ceres Inc. has received a $3.5 million grant to fund further research in Asia for the U.S. Agency for International Development. The Thousand Oaks company received an initial $3 million grant in 2009 to fund a project to increase rice yields on the continent, specifically in India, where the crop yields are far behind other developing countries. The company said the new grant will be used to finance additional breeding and development programs during the next four years, beginning at its local facility before heading to field trials in Asia. Ceres will work with Asian biotech companies on the project. “Domestic rice yields in India are insufficient to reliably feed the growing population, especially under drought conditions and on soils with depleted nitrogen or high amounts of salt contamination,” said Roger Pennell, project lead and Ceres’ vice president of trait development. The company wants to begin field evaluations of the first commercial hybrids by the middle of next year. Pennell said the company intends to license the biotech traits it has developed to established seed companies. Shares lost 13 cents, or more than 3 percent, on Monday to close at $4.02 on the Nasdaq.