- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
“If UC ANR isn't an incubator, I don't know what is. Furthermore, I would argue that the partnership of our land-grant university system with Cooperative Extension is the original and most productive incubator that the world has ever seen,” VP Glenda Humiston wrote in the October-December 2015 issue of California Agriculture.
Since joining ANR, Humiston has been working to expand UC ANR's incubation activities by joining with diverse partners to develop a much broader innovation infrastructure specifically designed to support intellectual property, innovation, entrepreneurship, tech transfer, startups and commercialization aimed at agriculture, natural resources and rural communities.
“A lot of people have ideas, but they don't know how to be business leaders. An incubator connects them with the things they need to be successful as new entrepreneurs,” said Gabe Youtsey, chief information officer.
To kick off development of such a system, Humiston brought together 40 people on Aug. 30 with a wide range of expertise and representing a variety of sectors: agriculture, banking, business, government, technology and higher education – including leaders of several successful incubators. The purpose of the meeting, held at the ANR building in Davis, was to engage the group in developing a comprehensive strategy to nurture new technologies and innovative businesses for agriculture and natural resources.
“We're not looking to reinvent the wheel or duplicate existing efforts,” Humiston said, explaining that she hopes to support and leverage the strengths and efforts of partners.
Christine Gulbranson, UC senior vice president of research innovation and entrepreneurship, and Reg Kelly of UC San Francisco, who created QB3, – one of UC's best performing incubators – participated in the session. The quantitative biologists at UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco and UC Santa Cruz who comprise QB3 take on challenges in biology using physics, chemistry, and computer science. QB3's Startup in a Box provides legal and grant-writing help for biotech startups.
“We want to take the QB3 model and modify it for ANR,” Humiston said. “But we don't have the resources to build a statewide system by ourselves so we're catalyzing like-minded partners to jointly develop the needed statewide innovation infrastructure.”
Such an innovation system could benefit a wide array of entrepreneurs in rural areas and help to commercialize ideas generated by UC Cooperative Extension specialists and advisors.
“Over the past eight years, ANR researchers have filed 148 patents,” Humiston said. “However, it is unclear if many of those had the support they needed to go the next step.”
At the meeting, the group divided into five tables of eight people. Each table had representatives of UC ANR, various UC campuses, state and federal government, funding institutions, incubators, and different industries. They discussed issues around innovation, place, talent, stewardship and engagement, answering the following questions:
- What exists now?
- Where are the gaps that need to be filled?
- Which of these gaps could UC ANR help catalyze and fill, either with partners or on its own?
- How could this work to fill the gaps be funded?
- How do we measure success?
Conversations were lively and many ideas were brought forth for specific projects and other implementation. “It's really exciting,” said Humiston. “People were jazzed. Virtually all of the participants said they want to work with us on next steps.”
In addition to Humiston and Youtsey, AVP Wendy Powers and UCCE advisors David Doll and Andre Biscaro participated for ANR. Consultant Meg Arnold is writing up a report, which is expected to be released in early October.
“Zoom is the easiest to use high-quality video, phone and web conferencing service on the market,” said Youtsey. “After an extensive analysis, the UC has established a systemwide Zoom contract for a very low cost, which UC ANR IT is covering. Our goal is for Zoom to become the common tool for communication within the division, and for collaboration with campus and external teams worldwide.”
Zoom can replace Skype, Adobe Connect, GoToMeeting and ReadyTalk. Some of Zoom's features include:
- Super easy video conferencing on your computer, mobile device, or room system for up to 50 connections
- Unlimited phone conferencing for up to 50
- Ability to support large meetings with up to 100 and webinars up to 500 participants (see instructions below)
- Enabled for PC, Mac, Android and iOS devices
- Compatible with any existing teleconference phones from Polycom, Tandberg, LifeSize etc.
Additional Zoom features are available to ANR employees:
- ANR has a license for a 100-participant meeting (two-way communication), which can be reserved for occasional use at no cost.
- ANR has a license for 500-participant webinars (one-way communication, which can be reserved for occasional use at no cost.
- There are a range of large meeting and webinar licenses you can purchase as “add-ons” for your exclusive use if needed. Contact the IT Service Desk for more information.
- Zoom Rooms is a great way to connect conference rooms to the Zoom service for high-quality video, phone and web conferencing. Contact the IT Service Desk for more information for equipment and pricing information.
For help to get Zoom up and running, contact the ANR IT Service Desk at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 750-1212.
The Apps for Ag hackathon, which was spearheaded by Gabe Youtsey, chief information officer, brought software developers, designers, entrepreneurs, farmers and others who work in agriculture to the ANR building for a weekend to create apps to address agricultural issues.
The first place team, GivingGarden, took home $7,500 in prize money, custom rodeo belt buckles and a six-month, top-tier membership to the AgStart Incubator in Woodland.
The hyper-local, produce-sharing app provides gardening advice from the UC Master Gardener Program and enables backyard gardeners to connect with others who want to share their produce. The GivingGarden team members are Scott Kirkland, Josh Livni, Deema Tamimi and John Knoll.
The top three teams will also receive complimentary startup incorporation services valued at $2,200 from Royse Law.
All of the participating teams had about 48 hours to develop their apps. Teams that were interested were offered $500 in “cloud credits” to build their solutions and host them on Amazon Web Services' platform. Teams also had access to an IoT kit to incorporate connected devices into their solution.
The top four teams pitched their apps to judges in front of a live audience at the California State Fair.
The event was sponsored by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, the California State Fair and the City of Sacramento.
“It's really important for UC ANR to be involved in app development because as farmers and natural resource managers face ever-increasing challenges – climate change, invasive pests, the need to conserve water – technology is one of the ways to find solutions,” said VP Glenda Humiston.
“Using technology we can find better ways to reduce pesticide use, increase irrigation efficiency, reduce travel into the fields, manage people better, and deal with the fact that we have a huge labor shortage in this state,” said Humiston, who served as one of the Apps for Ag judges.
The other judges included University of California Chief Information Officer Tom Andriola, USDA Chief Data Officer Bobby Jones, and Better Food Ventures and Mixing Bowl Hub founder Rob Trice.
The 4th California Apps for Ag will be held July 15-17. The competitive hackathon to solve real problems in agriculture and food is being hosted by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and the California State Fair.
Software developers, designers, entrepreneurs, farmers, farm consultants and others in the agricultural industry are encouraged to participate in the hackathon, which will be held at the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources building at 2801 Second Street in Davis, from 8 a.m. Friday, July 15 to 11 a.m. Sunday, July 17.
“We would really like to see participants come from all corners of the state,” said Gabe Youtsey, UC ANR's chief information officer, “Let's see what happens when we mix developers from Silicon Valley and Southern California with agricultural experts from the Central Valley, coast and desert regions.”
People who work in agriculture should bring ideas for problems that technology may help solve.
“Apps for Ag Hackathons have already resulted in multiple startups and we want to see this momentum continue to grow,” said Robert Tse, USDA California Rural Development chief strategy officer for agriculture technology and innovation. “There is no better place than the State Fair in the Capitol to showcase the ingenuity of Caifornia's ag tech community.”
One startup that has resulted from a previous ag hackathon is Ag for Hire, which connects farm workers who need jobs with farmers who need workers.
“Hackathons are a great way to spur innovation in industry verticals where technology has not been fully adopted,” said Rob Trice, one of the judges and the founder of the Mixing Bowl and Better Food Ventures.
“All roads already point to the State Fair's competitions for other agricultural commodities,” said Jay Carlson, ag programs manager at the State Fair, “This makes the fair a showcase for agricultural innovations as well.”
ANR's Network Project has officially kicked off, according to Gabe Youtsey, chief information officer. The multimillion-dollar investment will bring to county offices and research and extension centers Internet speeds that are hundreds of times faster than what they currently have, as well as better wireless coverage and modern cabling to many locations.
This will provide a host of new possibilities for ANR including ag tech and big data research, modern cloud-based technology tools and new phone/web/video conferencing capabilities.
“We have a lot of work to do to prepare for and complete this project including equipment upgrades, construction and electrical work and finding new service providers to partner with,” said Youtsey.
In order to complete this complex, important project, ANR IT has partnered with ANR Facilities Planning and Management, the Corporation for Education Initiatives in California (CENIC) and Dimension Data.
“We are currently developing our comprehensive project plan, and my hope is that we can have every UC ANR location upgraded by the end of FY 2017, if not sooner,” Youtsey said.
The REC and UCCE locations planned for upgraded in the first phase are:
◦ Desert REC
◦ Intermountain REC
◦ Kearney Ag REC
◦ Sierra Foothill REC
◦ West Side REC
◦ UCCE Colusa
◦ UCCE Central Sierra MCP (El Dorado office)
◦ UCCE Humboldt
◦ UCCE Imperial
◦ UCCE Inyo-Mono
◦ UCCE Los Angeles
◦ UCCE Madera
◦ UCCE Monterey
◦ UCCE Nevada
◦ UCCE Riverside (Moreno Valley Office)
◦ UCCE San Bernardino
◦ UCCE San Joaquin
◦ UCCE Stanislaus
◦ UCCE Sutter-Yuba
◦ UCCE Yolo
“While these locations are planned for our first phase, we will be creating upgrade plans very soon for the remaining UC ANR locations planned for phase 2, which we hope to begin work in late summer or early fall 2016,” Youtsey said. “Our project team will reach out to offices directly to begin the process, and we will send out regular communications on the progress of the project. You can reach our project team anytime with questions at email@example.com.”