- Author: Saoimanu Sope
National 4-H Council today (Sept. 29, 2023) announced that Michaela Auyeung of Los Gatos, is a runner-up for the 2024 4-H Youth in Action Award. Auyeung is recognized nationally for her commitment to providing STEM access and improving mental and physical well-being for girls in her community.
Auyeung, 17, provides free coding classes and instruction to girls through her program, Girls Who Love to Code. Through partnerships with two school systems, Girls Who Love to Code has engaged more than 250 girls while seeking to close the opportunity and education gap for girls in STEM. Auyeung also provided mental health workshops to aid students in addressing anxiety and created two school pantries to provide hygiene items, school supplies, and snacks to students in need. A senior in high school, Auyeung plans to continue to advocate for gender and socioeconomic equality in education through her outreach and beyond.
The 4-H Youth in Action Awards began in 2010 to recognize 4-H'ers who have overcome challenges and used the knowledge they gained in 4-H to create a lasting impact in their community. To learn more about the 4-H Youth in Action program and the 2024 runners-up, please visit http://4-H.org/YouthInAction.
4-H, the nation's largest youth development organization, grows confident young people who are empowered for life today and prepared for career tomorrow. 4-H programs empower nearly six million young people across the U.S. through experiences that develop critical life skills. 4-H is the youth development program of our nation's Cooperative Extension System and USDA, and serves every county and parish in the U.S. through a network of 110 public universities and more than 3,000 local Extension offices. Globally, 4-H collaborates with independent programs to empower one million youth in 50 countries. The research-backed 4-H experience grows young people who are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civically active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs.
Learn more about 4-H at www.4-H.org, find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/4-H and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/4H. To learn more about the California 4-H Program, visit: https://4h.ucanr.edu/.
- Author: Hanif Houston
Validation of Innovation Program provides supportive ecosystem for startups
The VINE, an initiative by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, is now accepting applications for its VINE Validation of Innovation Program. The program aims to support innovation in the agri-tech sector, particularly in climate-resilient solutions for California food systems.
Made possible with support from a UC Climate Action grant, the program is inviting startups to apply, with a focus on providing comprehensive support for field trials – a critical stage for any agri-tech venture.
"Field trials are vital for validating new innovations in the agri-tech sector,” said Gabe Youtsey, chief innovation officer with UC ANR and founder of The VINE. “The VINE VIP aims to provide a supportive environment for carrying out these essential tests, bridging the gap between innovative concepts and real-world application."
Elif Ceylan, co-founder of OpenGate Partners and head of the VINE VIP, also stressed the importance of field trials.
"Field trials serve as a crucial phase where promising ideas either succeed or require adjustment,” Ceylan said. “We are committed to prioritizing this stage to ensure the effectiveness and relevance of emerging agri-tech solutions."
The VINE VIP offers more than field trials. It provides a supportive ecosystem for startups, including industry connections, access to a broad network of farmers and experts, comprehensive validation results and market entry support. The program is a unique accelerator that pairs startups with project partners in the agri-tech industry, facilitating Proof of Concept projects and commercialization trials for industry-defined challenges in California agriculture.
By connecting startups with farmers, academics and industry experts, the program aims to validate, advance, adopt and amplify innovative technologies, reducing technological risks and accelerating sales through its extensive industry network.
Startups interested in joining the VINE VIP can apply until Sept. 16, 2023. Detailed information about the program and the application process is available on The VINE's website at thevine.io/vip.
The VINE is an initiative of the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, dedicated to fostering agriculture, food, and biotech innovation in California. Our mission is to support industries and entrepreneurs while promoting technology innovation and commercialization for sustainable and equitable food systems. We connect entrepreneurs with public and private sector resources, encourage collaborations to address industry challenges, and promote regional capacity for global innovation as an economic opportunity./h3>
- Author: Hanif Houston, The VINE
UC Davis, University of Nebraska and UC Santa Cruz teams honored for ag tech innovation
[Updated June 9, 2023, to add Guilherme De Moura Araujo to Amiggie advisors.]
A robot designed to reduce farmworker injuries and streamline harvest took the top prize in the Farm Robotics Challenge 2023. The challenge spotlighted the exceptional innovation and technical prowess of students from universities across the United States. Teams from UC Davis, the University of Nebraska and UC Santa Cruz were presented awards in a virtual ceremony June 3. Organized by the AI Institute for Next Gen Food Systems (AIFS), The VINE, Fresno-Merced Future of Food (F3) Innovation and farm-ng, the inaugural annual event celebrated student innovators' contributions to the advancement of agricultural technology.
The Farm Robotics Challenge, sponsored by Beck's Hybrids, provided a platform for students to demonstrate engineering, computer science, critical thinking and business skills. They engaged in real-world farming scenarios, creating and programming farm robots using the farm-ng platform. The contest demonstrated how students can apply technology and innovation against challenges in agriculture.
The awards ceremony recognized the following teams for their exceptional contributions:
Grand Prize Winner: Amiggie from UC Davis, a robot designed to assist human pickers and streamline harvest operations. The robot monitors risky postures, carries harvested crops, and streamlines the unloading process for increased efficiency.
Team advisors: Juan Fernando Villacres, Guilherme De Moura Araujo, Lance Halsted
- Kaiming Fu
- Yuankai Zhu
- Xuchang Tang
- Qikai Gao
- Shuchen Ye
- Hualong Yu
- Yihan Wu
- Jinduo Guo
- Hang Ji
- Xiaotan “Molly” Mo
Complexity in Design Prize: Huskerbot from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, an innovative robot that combines machine learning and precise herbicide application for more sustainable farming.
Team advisor: Santosh K. Pitla
- Amlan Balabantaray
- Shaswati Behera
- Nipuna Chamara Abeysinghe Herath Mudiyanselag
- Krishna Muvva
- Kaden Monk
- Kashish Syed
- Zane Rikli
- Ryleigh Grove
Elegance in Design Prize:Robo-ag from UC Davis, an autonomous robot designed to target pesticide application to minimize chemical waste and environmental impact.
Team advisors: Mason Earles, Alex Olenskyj, Vivian Vuong
- Heesup Yun
- Earl Ranario
- Nishi Bhagat
- Riya Desai
- Connor Davainis
- Summer Reeves
- Amir Mazraawi
Small Farms Robot Design Prize: Electrified Slugs from UC Santa Cruz, autonomous navigation software that efficiently weeds plant lines on small organic farms.
Team advisors: Dejan Milutinovic, Darryl Wong
- Oliver Fuchs
- Joshua Gamlen
- Katherine Rogacheva
Gabe Youtsey, chief innovation officer of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources and founder of the VINE, commended the competition's success.
"The Farm Robotics Challenge is about shaping the future of agriculture by inspiring the next generation of ag tech pioneers," said Youtsey. "The ideas that emerged from this competition are solutions for today's farming challenges, highlighting how technology can contribute to a more sustainable, productive and resilient food system."
Ethan Rublee, CEO/Founder of farm-ng, was highly impressed by the dedication, creativity and vision demonstrated by the student teams.
"The innovative solutions these students have engineered is a testament to their determination and ingenuity," Rublee noted. "They're not just addressing the challenges facing agriculture today — they're proactively anticipating the problems of tomorrow. It's truly exciting to imagine where their ideas will take us in the future."
Steve Brown, AIFS associate director, commended the students for being a part of a meaningful moment in the history of agriculture.
“With 2 billion more people to feed in the next 25 years, there are grand challenges that this generation realizes are directly in front of them, and they are meeting those challenges,” Brown said. “It was encouraging to see the imagination of this generation of makers of all talents leveraging technology, which is now able to bring their ideas to life.”
In addition to recognition and prize money — $10,000 for the Grand Prize Winner and $5,000 for each category winner — the Farm Robotics Challenge winners will have the opportunity to showcase their innovative projects at FIRA USA 2023 in September. This premier event in Salinas California serves as a global stage for agricultural technology innovation, presenting an opportunity for these young innovators to make their mark on an international level. Learn more about FIRA USA 2023 and register at https://fira-usa.com
“All participating teams deserve recognition for their dedication, hard work and innovative solutions,” said Youtsey.
Other competitors included Autonomous Pasture Weeding Robot and Autonomous Lettuce Weeding Robot from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo; Team Klaatu from UC Santa Barbara; The Maize Runners from Brigham Young University; Team 307, Team 306, and Bobcats from UC Merced; TartanPest from Carnegie Mellon University; Children of the Corn, Dig Doug, and PruneScape from Purdue University; and SARDOG from Fresno State.
For more information about the Farm Robotics Challenge and future events, please visit https://farmbot.ai.
[Updated June 9, 2023, to add Guilherme De Moura Araujo to Amiggie advisors.]/h3>
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
“After a nationwide search, Brent emerged as a proven and respected leader who will help us to strengthen partnerships, build trust, address challenges and define our 2040 strategic vision,” said Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
Hales brings over 20 years of higher education research and leadership experience, including at land grant institutions and in Cooperative Extension. He currently serves as an associate dean of Pennsylvania State University's College of Agricultural Sciences and director of Penn State Extension.
“I am very excited to join the UC ANR family,” Hales said. “My grandfather was a 1939 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and both of my parents grew up in California.”
Before joining Penn State in 2019, he served as the senior associate dean and chief financial officer of the University of Minnesota Extension, associate dean for the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality, and the director of the Economic Development Authority Center at University of Minnesota, Crookston.
His research focuses on holistic community and economic development and entrepreneurship. He has spent his career working across the United States and the globe with underrepresented communities. Since 1998, Hales has worked with Native American Nations in asset development and capacity building.
“I am excited to collaborate with California's Native Nations, urban residents and underinvolved Californians as they seek to achieve their goals,” Hales said. “Some notable areas are tackling climate change, food security and workforce development.”
“What excites me most is to be part of the leadership team for the premier institution of Ag and Natural Resources research and extension in the United States,” Hales said. “The people, the facilities, the opportunities and the engagement with the communities and organizations of California is second to none.”
Hales earned a Ph.D. in rural sociology from Iowa State University, a master's degree in sociology from Middle Tennessee State University and a bachelor's degree in sociology from Brigham Young University in Utah.
He is the father of six children, is the grandfather of six grandchildren, and has been married to his best friend Candy for over 30 years.
Deanne Meyer, UC Cooperative Extension livestock specialist, has been serving UC ANR as interim associate vice president for research and Cooperative Extension over the past year and is assisting Hales with the transition.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced selections for the USDA Regional Food Business Centers. Twelve organizations, including University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, have been selected to establish Regional Food Centers that will provide coordination, technical assistance and capacity building to help farmers, ranchers, and other food businesses access new markets and navigate federal, state and local resources, thereby closing the gaps to success.
In September 2022, USDA announced $400 million available to fund this initiative. In total, USDA will establish 12 Regional Food Business Centers that will serve all areas of the country, including U.S. territories. Regional Food Centers will target their work to historically underinvested communities in their region.
USDA and University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources will enter into a cooperative agreement to establish a Southwest USDA Regional Food Business Center that will serve California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah. The $35 million project will have a particular focus on the Colonias communities – communities within the mainly rural U.S.-Mexico border region with marginal conditions related to housing and infrastructure – of southern Arizona and California. (See Colonia-Community-Map at hudexchange.info.)
“USDA is excited to be partnering with the UC ANR on this innovative and unprecedented initiative,” said Jenny Lester Moffitt, USDA under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs. “By leveraging the expertise now available through these Regional Food Centers, USDA can offer unique support for local food systems development across the country.”
UC ANR will primarily serve to coordinate technical assistance offerings across the multi-state region, managing the timing, frequency and delivery of the Southwest USDA Regional Food Business Center's overall portfolio of technical assistance providers, educational courses, workshops and trainings to reduce the potential for competing and duplicated content.
“It is so exciting to see 16 organizations, across four states, coming together with us to enhance and expand much-needed business support services to our food and farm businesses,” said Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
“Our strategy of quickly scaling existing successful programs offers quick returns on this investment, as does a focus on ensuring service for disadvantaged and historically underrepresented communities of producers, farmers and agrifood businesses.”
Collectively, the organizations selected reflect an impressive cross-section of the varied institutions, organizations and associations that must cooperate to achieve genuinely strong and distributed food systems. UC ANR and the other selected organizations are already engaging with grassroots food and farm organizations and employing a range of creative strategies to build food system resiliency in their regions.
The University of California will provide technical assistance throughout the state through its Cooperative Extension programs, consisting of the Small Farms Program, Regional Food Systems, Urban Agriculture Program, Community and Economic Development Network, and UC campus-based subject matter experts covering food safety, economics and cooperatives.
Partners include California Department of Food and Agriculture; California State University – Chico; California State University – Fresno; Occidental College; Riverside Food System Alliance; San Diego Food System Alliance; UC Santa Cruz; UC Davis; Valley Vision; Arizona Department of Agriculture; Local First Arizona Foundation; University of Arizona; Nevada Department of Agriculture; University of Nevada – Reno; Utah Department of Agriculture and Food; and Utah State University.
Collaborators include Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Center for Good Food Purchasing, Agriculture & Land-based Training Association, Prosperity Market, Farmer Ken, California FarmLink, BAR-C, The Farmers Marketplace, Lost Sierra Food Project, Northern California Chamber of Commerce, 3CORE, Chico-based consulting firm Morrison, Glenn County Resource Conservation District, Kitchen Table Advisors, Diaspora Groceries, The Larta Institute, Los Angeles County Food Equity Roundtable, Los Angeles Food Policy Council, Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles, Growing Communities Inc., Health Care Without Harm, Community Investment Corp, Pinnacle Prevention, Arizona State University, White Mountain Economic Development, Food Bank of Northern Nevada, Nevada Farm Bureau Federation, Zion United Methodist Church, Reno Food Systems, Three Square, Blue Lizard Farms, Garden Farms of Nevada, Churchill Entrepreneur Development Association, UNR Desert Farming Initiative, Utah Farm Bureau, International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City, Utah Small Business Development Centers, and Utah Cattlemen's Association.
More information is available on the Agricultural Marketing Service's Regional Food Business Centers webpage: https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/local-regional/rfbcp.