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Posts Tagged: Glenda Humiston

UC ANR and AgStart receive $500,000 to cultivate the VINE

The Verde Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship will connect entrepreneurs statewide to resources to commercialize a new product or start a business.

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 VP Glenda Humiston. “They don't have to be a university inventor, they could be a farmer or a young person.”

John Selep of AgStart, left, works with Olivier Jerphagnon and Kevin Langham of Powwow Energy, which uses electric utility smartmeters to help growers measure irrigation water use.

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.  

“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 Gabe Youtsey.
Gabriel Youtsey, UC ANR chief innovation officer, said the VINE won't recreate the wheel. 

 “There are many wonderful regional innovation hubs in food, agriculture and natural resources so we plan to bring value by amplifying their efforts, connecting regions and organizations into a more cohesive ecosystem, and bringing value-added resources that ultimately benefit all Californians through the innovations affecting our economic prosperity, food supply and environment,” Youtsey said.

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.

2017 Apps for Ag hackathon winners Sreejumon Kundilepurayil and Vidya Kannoly are getting help from UC ANR to commercialize their smartphone app.
“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.”

For the last two years, UC ANR has hosted the Apps for Ag hackathon and has introduced the winners to mentors, tech industry advisors, farmers, funders and legal experts who can advise entrepreneurs on business structure.

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.

Posted on Wednesday, September 27, 2017 at 6:45 PM

UC ANR, CropMobster TV partner to share inspiring stories of ag innovation and food system

Using a mobile phone and selfie stick, CropMobster’s Nicky Bobby interviews Sacramento high school students about their start-up: Sangre del Dragón Hot Sauce company.

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.

To learn what goes on before food becomes a meal, CropMobster Nick "Nicky Bobby" Papadopoulos is meeting with folks around California who are responsible for growing, processing and delivering fruits, nuts, vegetables, meat and other foods. Using a low-tech approach to video with a mobile phone and selfie stick attached to a gutter washer, Nicky Bobby interviews people about their roles in our food system.

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.

Scott Oneto, director of UCCE in the Central Sierra, talks about his family's farm with Nicky Bobby for an upcoming episode of CropMobster TV.

“Everybody's into food, but all too often people don't make the connection between food and agriculture,” said Vice President Glenda Humiston. “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.

Jonathan Bravo, left, says this urban garden in Sonoma County is cultivating a cultural salad by introducing people from different countries.

 “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 are posted on:

-       CropMobster's Youtube Channel

-       CropMobster's Facebook Page

Posted on Monday, September 11, 2017 at 3:51 PM

Public relations pro tip: The letter to the editor

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources academics are often asked for interviews as expert sources in the news media. Serving in this capacity is an excellent way to share research-based information with the public and reinforce the important work done by UC ANR scientists.

UC ANR Strategic Communications encourages advisors and specialists to maintain open communications channels and build relationships with reporters, including those writing for small, local outlets, major metropolitan newspapers and trade publications. Another very effective outreach tool that is sometimes overlooked is the letter to the editor.

After an article is printed, academics may wish to praise the media for covering an important topic, provide data to support a point, give clarification on a subject, or suggest a correction on a factual error. This practice gets UC ANR onto a section of the paper that is perennially one of the most frequently read.

An example is a letter submitted last month by vice president Glenda Humiston after an op-ed was published in the Los Angeles Times (“Sacramento shouldn't be trying to get you to eat more beef” op-ed 2017). The musical artist who goes by Moby wrote about proposed legislation that would double the check off program for California beef. In the op-ed, Moby quotes statistics from the United Nations FAO that says global livestock represents nearly 15 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

In her letter, Humiston quoted an Environmental Protection Agency source that says livestock's contribution of greenhouse gas emission is less than 5 percent.

Humiston wrote:

“While it's true that cows emit methane, total livestock production in the U.S. accounts for just 4.2% of all greenhouse gas emissions. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2014, agriculture contributed 9% of the total GHG emissions while industry (21%), transportation (27%) and electricity (29%) contributed the majority of greenhouse gas emissions. Importantly, by eating invasive plants that fuel wildfires and crowd out native wildflowers, grazing can provide numerous ecosystem services.”

Humiston also used the opportunity to emphasize the importance of publicly funded agricultural research:

“Agricultural research improves animal nutrition and health, allowing farmers to reduce the carbon footprint of livestock while producing more food. Beef is a high-quality protein source. As we seek to improve farming practices, excessive focus on livestock as an emission source is the wrong path to optimize solutions for climate change.”

The UC ANR Strategic Communications office can help place letters to the editor and edit letters. For more information, contact Strategic Communications director Michael Janes at

Posted on Monday, September 11, 2017 at 11:17 AM
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