California is constantly being challenged by pest invasions, obesity, labor shortages, water scarcity, food insecurity, climate change and more. To accelerate the development and adoption of technologies that address these challenges and advance food, agriculture and natural resources in California, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and AgStart will receive a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to cultivate the Verde Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship (the VINE)
Like a grapevine, the VINE will connect existing clusters of innovation across California and link entrepreneurs with mentors, advisors, collaborators, events, competitions, education and other services to turn good ideas into products and services people can use.
“We want to make sure every Californian has the support system to take a novel idea and commercialize a new product or start a new business,” said Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “They don't have to be a university inventor, they could be a farmer or a young person.”
AgStart itself was established with an EDA i6 Challenge grant to assist agriculture and food technology entrepreneurs in the Sacramento Valley region. Since 2012, AgStart has supported more than 58 entrepreneurs and their companies.
“In 2016, of the 16 entrepreneurial companies that AgStart assisted, eight resided outside our region, and leveraged AgStart's program to make connections into our Sacramento Valley region,” said John Selep, president of AgTech Innovation Alliance, AgStart's sponsor.
“The VINE will expand this AgStart model of connecting entrepreneurs to the resources they need to be successful, to enable entrepreneurs residing anywhere in California to connect to the clusters of resources, contacts, mentors and potential partners that have emerged across the state,” said Selep.
UC Cooperative Extension specialists and advisors, who work in every county, can provide insight into real-world conditions that entrepreneurs should consider in the development stage. UC ANR's nine research and extension centers can provide locations to field-test products and demonstrate their effectiveness. For example, start-up Blue River is testing its technology by flying a drone over sorghum crops to collect data at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier.
“The VINE is really exciting because of its potential to unite all the regions of California in an innovation ecosystem for food, agriculture and natural resources,” said Youtsey. “Not only will it help bridge the Silicon Valley and Bay Area with California's food-producing valleys, but it will bring opportunities for our innovators and entrepreneurs in rural communities in every part of California to participate.”
The VINE, which is working with UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health and Valley Vision, is being structured to complement other efforts to establish food, agriculture, and natural resources incubation and innovation resources in cluster locations around the state, such as the BlueTechValley Regional Innovation Cluster, the Western Growers Innovation & Technology Center, UC Merced's VentureLab and others.
Youtsey and Selep are seeking more VINE partners with expertise across the business spectrum.
“If our vision is successful, the VINE will make California the most fertile region in the world for entrepreneurs in ag and food technology to establish themselves, to prosper and grow,” Selep said.
CropMobster TV's Season 2 takes viewers on a journey throug every county of California, meeting food and ag leaders and seeing how they carve out their livelihoods while feeding their communities.
Most consumers' first encounter with their food is in a grocery store or on a plate served in a restaurant, and they give little thought to how the food got there.
As a sponsor of CropMobster TV Season 2, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources is pleased to help introduce some of the Californians who toil behind the scenes to provide consumers the delicious and nutritious food we eat.
Nicky Bobby chats with farmers, people at nonprofit organizations that work to reduce food waste and hunger, scientists, land managers who steward our natural resources and business owners.
“Everybody's into food, but all too often people don't make the connection between food and agriculture,” said Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “When you talk about agriculture, people think of two jobs – farmer and farmworker. There are thousands of jobs in the agricultural ecosystem.
“UC ANR is happy to support CropMobster in telling the stories of the men and women who supply us with safe and abundant food, the challenges that they face and the efforts being made to make the food system even better.”
CropMobster TV is a nonprofit storytelling and video project by CropMobster in collaboration with Food Tank and many other individual and organizational supporters to highlight the crucial work of everyday heroes working to feed their communities.
“Sponsorship and support from UC ANR, which does agricultural research and outreach in every California county, is helping us connect with communities throughout the state,” said Papadopoulos, CropMobster CEO. “We are also grateful for Food Tank and so many other individuals and organizations who are pitching in.”
“This is such a unique, energetic and needed effort to engage our populace on food and agriculture issues,” said Danielle Nierenberg, Food Tank president. “We are thrilled to partner with CropMobster and UC ANR and hope to see the CropMobster vision grow and spread!”
CropMobster TV episodes will be published on:
Episode One: Sangre del Dragón Hot Sauce! (Season 2, Ep 1)
Nicky Bobby attempts to ride Ginger, a horse from Rockney Farms in El Dorado County, then interviews Sacramento high school students at the Alice Waters-inspired Edible Sac High school garden program about their start-up: Sangre del Dragón Hot Sauce company.
To watch and share, https://youtu.be/oyiVQ9AIusM
About CropMobster https://cropmobster.com/
CropMobster partners with bold community leaders to grow high-impact local food networks and community sharing exchanges. The goals are to spark local food economies, engage communities to reduce food waste, support hunger relief and food security efforts and to facilitate sharing of resources.
Humiston is one of six higher education witnesses who will speak at the hearing, which is being held as Congress considers provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill.
The hearing takes place at the Longworth House office Building in Washington, D.C., and will be streamed live and recorded on YouTube.
In announcing the hearing, the chair of the House Committee on Agriculture, Michael Conaway of Texas, said ag research has been essential to U.S. gains in productivity over the past century.
"With the global population expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, U.S. production agriculture will continue to be asked to produce more with fewer resources and the best way to do that will be through strategic investments in agricultural research," Conaway said. "I look forward to hearing from university leaders about the opportunities and challenges they face in ensuring American agriculture remains a world leader in cutting-edge technology and research.”
Following are highlights from Humiston's prepared remarks:
- A recent study found the return on investment for federal funding of the public land-grant system averages 21:1, corresponding to annual rates of return between 9 percent and 10 percent.
- With the University of California (UC) Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) serving as a vital partner, California's $47 billion agricultural sector continues to make California the nation's top agricultural state.
- In the past fiscal year, UC ANR has served more than 1.4 million adults and youth directly, published about 1,800 peer-reviewed journal articles and filed more than 20 patents.
- Federal and state funds are leveraged to secure federal competitive grants, grants from private industry, and other gifts and awards for research at the nation's land-grant universities.
- Although progress is being made to incrementally increase appropriations to the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, it remains funded at considerably less than the $700 million authorized in the previous two Farm Bills.
Humiston will explain that universities are uniquely set up to allow collaboration among experts in different subjects to solve complex problems and she will give a few examples of multidisciplinary projects, including development of a product to improve the shelf-life of fresh produce and reduce food waste:
“James Rogers studied flexible solar cells at UC Santa Barbara and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. A radio program on world hunger gave the materials scientist his “aha!” moment in 2012. His work on thin-film polymers from solar cells, coupled with information from UC Cooperative Extension, led to an invisible, edible and tasteless barrier that can protect food crops and dramatically improve longevity of produce freshness – using waste plant parts often left on the farm. Apeel Sciences now supports 71 employees and hits shelves this summer, when some of the world's largest avocado producers start using it.”
For a transcript of Humiston's full prepared remarks, see http://ucanr.edu/files/264186.pdf.
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources researchers and educators draw on local expertise to conduct agricultural, environmental, economic, youth development and nutrition research that helps California thrive. Learn more at ucanr.edu.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
The University of California today launches Sustainable California, a new media-rich web portal to share its efforts to sustain the world's sixth largest economy, a site of unequal natural resources and provider of more than half the nation's fruits, nuts and vegetables. The portal is hosted by University of California Television (UCTV).
Principal project partners are UC Water, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), CITRIS and the Banatao Institute, the Sierra Nevada Research Institute and UC Merced School of Engineering, among others.
“California has a tremendous diversity of plants, animals, ecosystems and people,” said Glenda Humiston, vice president of UC ANR. “The state also plays an important role in feeding the nation and the world. We are now facing climate change, increasing conversion of agricultural land to urban uses, introductions of invasive diseases and pests, and other threats. UC ANR will share its science-based solutions for California sustainability on this new outlet.”
Sustainable California will broadcast stories of sustainability research and outreach conducted by University of California faculty, scientists and student.
“This is what UCTV is about, connecting Californians to the real-world, inestimable values that the UC provides all of California,” said UCTV Director Lynn Burnstan. “We are very excited to be able to join these partners and give the public direct access to what they are doing for all our benefit.”
As well as a video introduction to the portal, the launch features three fresh videos, spanning natural resources and agriculture. Water in the Balance, from UCWater, is a five-minute journey from Sierra Nevada snowpack through the state's system of dams and reservoirs to groundwater storage. The first in a series of six episodes, Introduction to Conservation Agriculture Cropping Systems, from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, features California farmers and UC scientists working together to develop sustainable farming practices. Taking technology to the mountains, Sierra-Net highlights the development of innovative cyber-infrastructure to provide real-time monitoring of the state's water resources and forest health. Produced by the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute, viewers will gain a deeper understanding of natural resources management and innovation.
The channel's content is appropriate for audiences of all ages and freely accessible to the public online at uctv.tv/sustainable-cal. The integrated video, article and curriculum format of the channel, in addition to its focus on biodiversity, natural resources and low-impact living, provides users both a look at and connection to practical solutions and approaches the UC is developing, making it a valuable resource for professional practitioners, educators, and media outlets.
Innovation is key to keeping California farmers globally competitive. On Friday, May 5, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Farm Bureau Federation, California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, UC Davis and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources will forge a formal agreement to better connect the state's farmers with each other and with science-based information sources to assure the sustainability of the state's agricultural systems. Representatives of the six organizations will sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to form the California Farm Demonstration Network.
The scarcity of water, fossil fuel use, carbon emissions, groundwater quality, labor cost and availability, air quality and loss of soil fertility are some of the challenges to the long-term viability of farming in California. Soils and their sustained health play a major role in keeping California's agriculture viable for future generations.
“What we are striving to accomplish with the California Farm Demonstration Network is to create a means for farmers to learn, to discover and to innovate,” said Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension cropping systems specialist, who is leading the effort with technical and funding assistance from MOU partners.
- Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture
- Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation
- Ron Tjeerdema, associate dean of UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
- Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Karen Buhr, executive director of California Association of Resource Conservation Districts
- Carlos Suarez, state conservationist for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
WHEN: Friday, May 5
12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. – Demonstration of differences in soil function resulting from management practices.
1 p.m. to 2 p.m. – Network partners describe their respective roles.
WHERE: Dixon Ridge Farms, 5430 Putah Creek Road, Winters, CA
VISUALS: A rainfall simulator will spray water over trays of different soils to show how on-farm management practices help the soil hold together.
Network partners will sign the memorandum of understanding.
The statewide farm demonstration network builds upon and connects efforts across California including one created in Glenn County last year.
In Glenn County, the farmer-driven effort has provided the opportunity for local farmers to share innovative practices and hold honest discussions about opportunities and challenges related to these systems.
“The collaborative effort of the partners presents the opportunity to leverage resources based on local needs and increases the likelihood that innovative agricultural practices will be adopted sooner than they might have been without the networking opportunity,” said Betsy Karle, UC Cooperative Extension director in Glenn County.
With the California Farm Demonstration Network, the organizers hope to create more opportunities to connect local people, showcase existing farmer innovation, engage in new local demonstration evaluations of improved performance practices and systems, evaluate the demonstration practices, and share information with partners. They also hope to expand and connect other local farm-demonstration hubs throughout the state via educational events, video narratives and a web-based information portal.