Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of California
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Main story

Apps for Ag Hackathon invites tech ideas to improve the food system


Last year's winners Giving Garden at work. Food and agriculture innovators are invited to compete for $10,000 and other prizes at the 2017 Apps for Ag Hackathon July 28-30 at The Urban Hive in Sacramento.

Winners receive $10,000 for first place, $5,000 for second place and $2,500 for third place 

Food and agriculture innovators, farmers and entrepreneurs are invited to compete for $10,000 and other prizes at the 2017 Apps for Ag Hackathon July 28-30. Contestants will gather at The Urban Hive in Sacramento to create new ways to apply technology to improve the food system.

At the hackathon, anyone with an idea for technology that would simplify a task for farmers or consumers can team up with people who can turn the idea into something functional. It can be a mobile app, device or a machine.

“Apps for Ag is not just about technology and agriculture, it's about bringing together uncommon collaborators from all kinds of backgrounds and organizations to solve problems and create innovation that transform our food supply and the system behind it,” said Gabriel Youtsey, chief information officer for University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, which is hosting the hackathon.

“We're incredibly excited to be working with The Urban Hive to host the event and to collaborate with those in the burgeoning tech and innovation scene in the Sacramento area,” said Youtsey. “Food and agriculture are natural focus areas for innovators and entrepreneurs in our region and we hope to help foster more of that growth.”

Gabriel Youtsey describes how participants will present ideas, form teams, build their software or machines, then pitch their inventions to judges.

To inspire the innovators as they develop their food and agriculture ideas and technology, a few speakers will kick off the hackathon with their perspectives.

Last year's Apps for Ag winner Deema Tamimi, CEO and founder of Giving Garden, will talk about challenges facing the food system. A veteran farmer will discuss the hurdles farmers face today and the potential for technology to meet their needs. Joyce Hunter, former deputy CIO at the USDA will give a brief talk about the power of open data and how it can be used to solve some of our greatest agricultural and food challenges.

Following opening remarks, participants will present their ideas, form teams and begin to build their software applications and pitch decks over the next two days. Expert mentors will assist the teams and food will be provided throughout the event. On Sunday, July 30, at 4 p.m. the teams will present their apps to a panel of judges at the California State Fair. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

Judges include Joshua Tuscher of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Robert Trice, investor and founder of The Mixing Bowl Hub; Jenna Rodriguez Product Manager at Ceres Imaging, Ann Dunkin, CIO of County of Santa Clara, California; Nicole Rogers, director of marketing and communications for Nugget Market; and Jessica Smith, vice president of Strategic Partnerships at AngelHack.

The three top teams will be awarded cash prizes and resources to help turn their technology into a business. The winning team will receive $10,000, second place gets $5,000 and third place gets $2,500.

The Apps for Ag Hackathon will be held at The Urban Hive in Sacramento. Register for free at http://www.apps-for-ag.com.

To learn more about the hackathon, visit http://apps-for-ag.com/hackathon or email questions to info@apps-for-ag.com.

Apps for Ag hackathon finalists in 2016 after judging. The three top teams will be awarded cash prizes and resources to help turn their technology into a business..

Apps for Ag is a food and agriculture innovation event series hosted by University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR) and sponsored by IO Labs, The Urban Hive, California Community Colleges and the California State Fair.

Support for the hackathon is also provided by Sacramento and Davis community businesses and organizations: Valley Vision, The Mixing Bowl, Farmer Veteran Coalition, AngelHack, Nutiva, Google Cloud Platform, Royse Law Firm, Hot Italian, GTS Kombucha, Startup Sac, AgStart, StartupGrind Sacramento, Future Food, Internet Society San Francisco Bay Chapter, Sacramento Food Co-op, Balsamiq and YouNoodle.

The Apps for Ag series will soon become a part of The Verde Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship (The VINE), UC ANR's statewide initiative and network for food and agriculture innovators, researchers, investors and agencies slated to launch in late 2017.

Posted on Tuesday, July 18, 2017 at 3:04 PM

UC helps cattle ranchers estimate costs and returns of beef production

A red angus cow grazes in a pasture with her calf.
The cattle industry in California has undergone dramatic changes over the last few decades. International competition and opportunities, new regulatory requirements, fluctuating feed costs, changing consumer demand, economies of scale and competing land uses all affect the bottomline in cattle ranching. Ranchers have experienced increasing production costs while revenue has not kept pace with costs.

To help ranchers make business decisions, new cost studies for beef cattle production have been released by UC ANR Agricultural Issues Center and UC Cooperative Extension.

Sample costs and returns for beef cattle production in the northern Sacramento Valley are presented in these studies. The studies are titled “Sample Costs for Beef Cattle, Cow–Calf Production,” “Sample Costs for Beef Cattle, Yearling/Stocker Production” and “Sample Costs for Beef Cattle, Finished on Grass.”

"These studies are useful to new and experienced ranchers, lenders and other agribusiness companies, as well as government officials, researcher and students who want to know basics of ranch practices and the costs and returns that can be expected for a well-managed operation,” said Daniel Sumner, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center. “The studies show ranges of net returns under alternative price scenarios to help indicate sensitivity of returns to cattle market conditions."

The analyses are based on a hypothetical well-managed ranching operation using practices common to the northern Sacramento Valley. The three studies are based on a herd of 300 cows and bred heifers, 60 yearling heifers and 15 bulls. An 11 percent cull rate is applied to the herd. An 89 percent calf crop with three percent mortality before weaning is assumed.

All rangeland and pasture is rented per animal unit month. Ranging analysis tables show net revenue over a range of prices. The costs, materials and operations shown in this study will not apply to all ranches. Ranchers, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors, and other agricultural associates provided input and reviewed the methods and findings of the study.

Free copies of these studies and other sample cost of production studies for additional commodities are also available. To download the cost studies, visit the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at https://coststudies.ucdavis.edu.

The cost studies program is funded by the UC Agricultural Issues Center and UC Cooperative Extension, both of which are part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

For more information or an explanation of the calculations used in the studies, contact Donald Stewart at the Agricultural Issues Center at (530) 752-4651 or destewart@ucdavis.edu; Larry Forero, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor for  Shasta and Trinity counties, at lcforero@ucanr.edu, or Jeff Stackhouse, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties, at jwstackhouse@ucanr.edu.

NOTE: Corrections were made on July 19, 2017, to “2017 Beef Cattle Yearling/Stocker Production in the Sacramento Valley” and “2017 Beef Cattle Finished on Grass in the Sacramento Valley” to show interest calculated for 6 months as stated in the narratives of both studies, instead of 12 months.





Posted on Tuesday, July 18, 2017 at 10:43 AM

UC puts high science online in easy-to-read citrus research updates

California citrus farmers have their ears perked for all news related to Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and huanglongbing (HLB) disease, but the very latest advances have been available only in highly technical research journals, often by subscription only.

UC Cooperative Extension scientists are now translating the high science into readable summaries and posting them on a new website called Science for Citrus Health to inform farmers, the media and interested members of the public.

“The future of the California citrus depends on scientists finding a solution to this pest and disease before they destroy the industry,” said Beth Grafton-Cardwell, UC Cooperative Extension citrus entomology specialist. “Our farmers want to stay on top of all the efforts to stop this threat.”

The new 'Science for Citrus Health' website can be found at http://ucanr.edu/sites/scienceforcitrushealth/

Grafton-Cardwell and UC Cooperative Extension biotechnology specialist Peggy Lemaux are the two scientists behind the new website. When scientists make progress toward their goals, Grafton-Cardwell and Lemaux craft one-page summaries with graphics and pictures to provide readers with the basics.

For example, the website outlines scientific endeavors aimed at stopping the spread of huanglongbing disease by eliminating the psyllid's ability to transfer the bacterial infection. This section is titled NuPsyllid, and contains summaries of three research papers including one by UC Davis plant pathologist Bryce Falk.

Falk is collecting viruses found in Asian citrus psyllid; so far he has identified five. He is looking into the potential to utilize one of the viruses as is or modify one of the viruses to block the psyllid's ability to transmit the bacterium.  For example, the virus might out compete the bacterium in the psyllid's body.   

Another focus of the website is HLB early detection techniques (EDTs). If HLB-infected trees are found and destroyed before they show symptoms, ACP is less likely to spread the disease to other trees. EDT research described on the website includes efforts to detect subtle changes in the tree that take place soon after infection, such as alterations in the scents that waft from the tree (studied by UC Davis engineer Cristina Davis), changes in the proteins in the tree (studied by UC Davis food scientist Carolyn Slupsky) and starch accumulation in the leaves (studied by UC farm advisor Ali Pourreza).

Other research areas on the Science for Citrus Health website are solutions for established orchards and replants.

As more research is published, more one-page descriptions will be added to the website. The website contains a feedback form to comment on the science and the summaries.

UC Cooperative Extension specialist Beth Grafton-Cardwell is one of two UC ANR scientists who have developed the Science for Citrus Health website.
Posted on Tuesday, July 18, 2017 at 8:54 AM

Caging kids! The next generation of wildlife biologists

Mikayla McWilliams shows a tiny frog at the Sustainable You Summer Camp, UC Hopland Research and Extension Center.

As 10-year-old Dominic Vargas crouched on the ground, in a cage not much larger than himself, trying to forage for tasty treats (candy) on the woodland floor...CRASH! The cage door came falling down and he realized that he had inadvertently tripped a tiny fishing line in his efforts to reach that candy - he was now trapped. Dominic seemed to accept his fate with good humor, shrugging, smiling and getting to work on that candy. Wildlife biologist, Jessie Roughgarden, commented that Dominic will now be collared, tagged and measured before returning him to the wild ... or in this case his parents.

This seemingly terrifying experience is in fact all part of the new "Sustainable You - 4-H Summer Camp" held at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center. Sustainable You is a five-day camp allowing students to experience science and nature while learning about ways in which to conserve the land, water, air and energy.

View Dominic's experience in this 44-second video:

The camp is conducted at three of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Research and Extension Centers across the state and each center tweaks the curriculum to suit their landscape and the kinds of research conducted at their sites. At Hopland this means getting the chance to meet with wildlife biologists from the UC Berkeley "Brashares Lab," led by professor Justin Brashares. It's an amazing opportunity for these kids to meet and ask questions of scientists conducting experiments in the countryside that surrounds them. Dominic may not be collared, but more than 10 deer on the property went through the same experience last week (minus the candy) as they were carefully captured by researchers and fitted with collars to better understand their movements and population across the 5,358-acre center.

The young team of scientists enjoying summer camp were also working to understand what wildlife shares the landscape with them by setting wildlife cameras daily and improving their positioning and locations each day. Advice from Brashares and Jessie Roughgarden helped the students improve their chance of catching footage of raccoons, foxes and maybe even a mountain lion. Day one  produced fox video footage and shots of raccoons feeling around in the last pools of creek water to catch some of the tiny young frogs currently in residence.

Hear what Ahmae saw on her wildlife camera in the 59-second video below:

A raccoon captured on one of the wildlife cameras set up by campers.

Exposure for these kids not only to hands-on activities exploring sustainability, but also to wildlife biologists, young researchers and professors working on today's wildlife and land management challenges, gives them an open door to explore their own future careers and interests.

Local Americorps watershed steward Alejandara Prendergast disects a salmon with campers

As 9-year-old Ahmae Munday so sweetly put it, when asked what her favorite part of the Sustainable You Summer Camp was, "Everything! Especially the cameras."

The UC ANR network of Research and Extension Centers provide the perfect location to offer exposure to youth and communities to better understand and interact with the science going on in their own back yards and to inspire the next generation of researchers - as camp attendee and scholarship recipient Kaiden Stalnaker described in his scholarship application, "When I grow up I dream of a career in science and your camp would be a boost in the right direction."

Thanks to the researchers, camp counselors and students who have allowed the Sustainable You summer camp to inspire young people like Kaiden.

Campers enjoy a woodland hike and discover slender salamanders and a discarded lizard skin.
Posted on Monday, July 17, 2017 at 9:19 AM

Food waste is an ethical and environmental issue

Summer brings an abundance of luscious and healthy fruits and vegetables. It's easy to buy more than we can eat, which sometimes results in #foodwaste.

In a guest blog post for the UC Food Observer, UC researcher Wendi Gosliner (part of the team at UC ANR's Nutrition Policy Institute, a cutting-edge unit that's using research to transform public policy) shared this observation:

“Food waste presents a major challenge in the United States. Estimates suggest that up to 40% of the food produced nationally never gets consumed, causing substantial economic and environmental harms. Wasted food utilizes vast quantities of precious land, water and human resources, yet rather than nourishing people, it feeds landfills, producing methane gasses that poison the environment. Much of the food waste (43%) occurs at the household level."


This poster played an important role in discouraging food waste and encouraging food conservation on the American home front during World War I. Noted artist Edward Penfield created the poster. It's held in the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

What history can teach us

Here's my take on food waste. It goes back in part to lessons I've learned from studying World War I (WWI), when the American government set food conservation goals (along with goals for local food production via Liberty – later Victory – Gardens). I'm a big proponent of both reducing food waste and producing more food in communities via school, home and community gardens. Big point: the World War I poster included in this post has advice we'd be well served to heed today.

It's an iconic poster from World War 1. Food…don't waste it. The image is regularly shared on Twitter and Facebook.

Poster from the collection of the Museum of Ventura County. (Credit: Aysen Tan)

Period piece or photoshopped image?

The original was produced in 1919 by the United States Food Administration, under the direction of the newly appointed food “czar” – Herbert Hoover.

The poster was reissued during World War II. It's been revised in recent years by individuals and organizations interested in encouraging an ethos incorporating local foods and sustainability.

While I'm the UC Food Observer, I also dabble in the history of wartime poster art. I'm often asked if this is a contemporary mock-up made to look and feel vintage.

It's not a mock-up. It's the real deal, produced 95 years ago, with messages we should embrace today.

The original poster: Yes: ‘buy local foods' is rule 4

The original poster has six rules that we'd be well served to follow today. The fourth rule – buy local foods – is somewhat of a surprise to people today, because the notion of buying local seems somewhat modern. But in WWI, the U.S. government encouraged the local production and consumption of food, in part, to free trains to more effectively ship troops and war matériel.

Tackling food waste through preservation: today's Master Food Preserver Program

Many land grant institutions, including the University of California, host master food preserver programs. These programs teach best practices on food safety and preservation to volunteers. The extensive training program prepares the volunteers to work in their community educating others on the safe practices of food preservation, including pickling, drying, freezing, canning and fruit preserves.

Thinking about gardening? Do we have resources for you!

The University of California sponsors the state's Master Gardener Program, which fields more than 5,000 volunteers in communities across the state. The Master Gardener Program is a national program, housed at the land grant institution in each state, but it's also connected to the USDA. Free gardening resources are available here. Advice to grow by…just ask.

Takeaway message?

Food waste is both an ethical and environmental issue. It should concern us that we waste nearly 40% of the food we produce and purchase in this food-abundant nation.

For an interesting comparative statistic, consider this: our nation produced about 40% of the fruits and vegetables we consumed on the American home front in World War II in school, home, community and workplace gardens. That was the result of the iconic Victory Garden program (which actually got its start in WW1).

Three messages then: participate in the national effort, commit to wasting less food, and if you can, produce some food of your own.

Notes: There are many additional resources about #foodwaste.

Connect: ReFED, a collaboration of nonprofit, government, business and foundation leaders, released a report in 2016 that identifies a number of potential solutions to the food waste challenge.

Read: Dana Gunders of the National Resource Defense Council authored a 2012 report called Wasted that sparked much of this work. Dana also authored a book called Waste Free Kitchen Handbook: A Guide to Eating Well and Saving Money by Wasting Less Food, both of which are great reads. 

Read this piece about the relationships between food, farming and the environment (including food waste).

Eating what's on your plate is one of the best ways to tackle climate change. View this episode of Climate Lab, a six-part series produced by the University of California in partnership with Vox. 

Posted on Friday, July 14, 2017 at 11:46 AM

Next 5 stories | Last story

Webmaster Email: jewarnert@ucanr.edu