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Posts Tagged: Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative

AgPlus Funders Forum aims to improve access to agricultural business financing

In a working session, AgPlus Funders Forum participants split into groups to focus on identifying opportunities for supporting economic development, supporting small business, effective intermediaries and regional finance funds.

To enhance funding for food and agriculture businesses in the Central Valley, more than 60 people involved in small business finance gathered at the AgPlus Funders Forum Dec. 12 to contribute ideas.

Representatives from financial institutions, economic development organizations, universities, government agencies and innovative funders like community development financial institutions (CDFI) attended. Participants shared innovative financing tools for business and discussed obstacles for people in rural communities to access capital at the forum at the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources building in Davis.

Two primary challenges faced by people trying to start a new business are figuring out how to get started – such as their supply chain – and gaining access to capital to finance their endeavor, according to keynote speaker Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

There are many funding sources that people aren't aware of, says Glenda Humiston

“There are actually an array of sources of capital beyond just the traditional bank loan, the problem is people don't know about them or how to access them,” Humiston said. She added that much more capital could be available to Central Valley businesses if residents would invest locally. “If you had brought home just one percent of the retirement accounts held by people in the AgPLUS region back in 2010, you would have had over $1 billion to invest in this region,” she said.

Marc Nemanic of 3CORE, Carrie Ellinwood of U.S. Small Business Administration, Ismael Herrero of Fresno State's Office of Community and Economic Development, and Catherine Howard of Northern California Community Loan Fund discussed some of the challenges for financing new businesses and alternatives to traditional bank loans.

Nemanic noted that many millennials are carrying student loan debt, which may make them averse to taking on more debt or prevent them from qualifying for business loans.

Howard said her organization is creating a tool to help people satisfy collateral requirements for credit.

To build their businesses, entrepreneurs often need technical assistance so Herrera's office pairs young companies with experienced mentors and other services. Herrera said he is working to create public and private partnerships in rural communities, such as commercial kitchens for people to turn farm produce into value-added products to sell at farmers markets.

Panelists pointed out that jobs in the gig economy, such as driving for Uber or Lyft, don't provide the stable income that tradition lenders seek in borrowers so they need to create a flexible product.

Meg Arnold, far left, moderated a panel discussion on challenges for financing new businesses. From left, Marc Nemanic, Carrie Ellinwood, Ismael Herrero and Catherine Howard.

In the afternoon, participants split into four groups to focus on identifying opportunities for supporting economic development, supporting small business and microenterprises, effective intermediaries to connect investors with entrepreneurs, and regional finance funds. Each topic was discussed by a diverse group of people as peers and experts, bringing their own expertise to the table.

To address the interplay between higher education, student debt and the structural changes in the nation's economy, Meg Arnold, who moderated the session, said she could foresee policy implications.

“Student debt is not forgivable,” said Arnold, managing director of Valley Vision. “At the same time we are making a four-year university degree both more necessary and less affordable, the economy is also changing, to the point that some graduates may need to think of self-employment or gig economy employment.

The 2012 Access to Capital Report by California Financial Opportunities Roundtable lists 34 ways to access capital.
The discussions identified many other challenges for the food and agriculture sectors in rural parts of the state that need to be overcome to access capital.

“We need everybody who participated today to share those examples of where something kind of unique or innovative is really working,” said Humiston.

Ideas generated during the forum will be used to inform the work of the Central Valley AgPLUS Food and Beverage Manufacturing Consortium, which hosted the AgPlus Funders Forum. The information will also be used by Humiston to update the 2012 Capital Access Report by California Financial Opportunities Roundtable (CalFOR). The report highlights financial needs for businesses in California, reviews financial tools and capital sources and provides policy recommendations. Humiston will also convey the outcomes to the California Economic Summit.

The AgPlus Funders Forum was sponsored by Chase Bank, Valley Vision, the Center for Economic Development, First Northern Bank, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Employment Training Panel, Blue Tech Valley, Fresno State Community and Economic Development and UC ANR.

Posted on Monday, December 18, 2017 at 5:03 PM

FOOD IT explores applying IT to food and agriculture challenges

UC ANR is a sponsoring partner of The Mixing Bowl's FOOD IT event taking place Tuesday, June 27, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. 

Participants will explore the different ways in which information technology is being applied to a broad range of food and agriculture challenges. 

VP Glenda Humiston will be moderating a panel called “The Deans' List of Food/AgTech Topics” that will feature food and agriculture university deans Helene Dillard from UC Davis, Andrew Thulin from Cal Poly and Wendy Wintersteen from Iowa State.

"Overall, FOOD IT will gather 300 people, from food producers, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, venture capitalists, industry executives, researchers and non-profits, representing all aspects of the food system for a highly interactive day," said Gabe Youtsey, chief innovation officer.

Speakers and participants include representatives from food and retail companies including Airbnb, Analog Devices, AT&T, Bowles Farming Company, Forbes, Campbell's, Coca-Cola, Driscoll's, Google, Land O' Lakes, Mattson, Rabobank, Recology, Syngenta, Upfront Ventures, Walmart, Western Digital, Yamaha and many more. You can read more about the event at http://mixingbowlhub.com/events/food-fork-farm

To register for FOOD IT, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/food-it-fork-to-farm-tickets-30230557411. Use discount code “17STMB" for 70 percent off (just $75 for the day).

Calling all UC entrepreneurs: The University of California wants to shine a light on your story

The University of California has launched the “I am a UC Entrepreneur” campaign to highlight entrepreneurship across the UC system.

Students, faculty, staff, postdocs and alumni are invited to submit a 30-second video sharing what makes them an entrepreneur to: https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/entrepreneurs. The videos will be used to highlight and publicize individual stories, as well as the breadth and depth of entrepreneurial efforts across the UC system.

Everyone who submits a video will receive a "UC Entrepreneur" T-shirt. In addition, one eligible student from each campus will be selected at random to attend a special lunch with Christine Gulbranson, senior vice president of innovation and entrepreneurship, and UC President Janet Napolitano.

“This campaign is about celebrating and recognizing the creativity and passion that makes UC an innovation powerhouse,” Gulbranson said. “Entrepreneurial activity is booming across the UC system. I can't wait to see everyone's stories.”

The campaign launched during Global Entrepreneurship Week (Nov. 14-20), an annual celebration in over 160 countries that aims to inspire people around the world to explore their entrepreneurial potential. In the United States, Global Entrepreneurship Week has fostered more than 2,000 local events. 

UC has a growing focus on entrepreneurship, with more than two dozen incubators and accelerators across the system and myriad student clubs devoted to the topic. Student entrepreneurship groups and clubs are encouraged to promote the campaign, host video parties and assist budding UC entrepreneurs in making their 30-second video.

Videos submitted as part of the campaign will be featured on the website. Participants who want to be in the drawing for lunch with Gulbranson and Napolitano must submit their video by 11:59 p.m. PST, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. The site will continue to accept and feature video submissions through 2017, however, with participants continuing to receive T-shirts.

Posted on Friday, December 16, 2016 at 6:27 PM

ANR develops innovation incubation strategy

Fred Mendez (center), of Union Bank, was among the 40 people who met on Aug. 30 to develop a comprehensive strategy to nurture new technologies and innovative businesses for agriculture and natural resources.

“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.

"We're catalyzing like-minded partners to jointly develop the needed statewide innovation infrastructure,” Humiston said.

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.”

Participants identified resources available and gaps around innovation, place, talent, stewardship and engagement.

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. 

Names in the News

Konrad Mathesius
Mathesius named UCCE agronomy advisor in Capitol Corridor

Konrad Mathesius (pronounced “Muh-tay-zee-us”) is the new UCCE agronomy advisor for Yolo, Sacramento and Solano counties.

Mathesius, who joined ANR on June 27, will be working with growers and pest control advisers in the Capitol Corridor area to address issues related to soils, pests, diseases and production efficiency. In addition to collaborating on a few projects with UCCE advisor Rachael Long in alfalfa, dry beans and sunflowers, he will work on a wide range of agronomic crops including corn, wheat, barley and safflower. 

Mathesius will work with growers and PCAs to mitigate crop losses by addressing pest and disease pressures and to help them comply with nitrogen, pesticide and water regulations. He also plans to develop crop guidelines based on difficulties associated with specific soils in the Capitol Corridor.

The native of Logan, Utah, earned his undergraduate degree at Utah State and his master's degrees in soil science and international agricultural development at UC Davis.

“After graduation, I spent a few years working in the private sector, where I gained a sense of respect for bottom lines and the hustle to make ends meet,” Mathesius said. “I intend to bring the question of cost and efficiency into most, if not all of my work.”

Based in Woodland, Mathesius can be reached at kpmathesius@ucanr.edu and (530) 666-8704.

Kathryn Stein
Stein joins ANR as AVP executive assistant

Kathryn Stein has joined ANR as executive assistant to Wendy Powers, Associate Vice President 

Prior to joining ANR, Stein worked in the College of Engineering Dean's office at UC Berkeley for three and a half years. She earned a B.S. in environmental horticulture and urban forestry from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis. While in Davis, she worked for the Whole Earth Festival, an annual sustainability festival on the UC Davis campus.  

Stein is based on the 10th floor of UCOP and can be reached at Kathryn.Stein@ucop.edu  and (510) 587-6240.

Martinez and Au receive NIH Career Development Awards

Two researchers at the Nutrition Policy Institute have been awarded K01 Career Development Awards by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Lauren Au will research disparities in the relationship between the school nutrition environment and childhood obesity and Suzanna Martinez will study sleep duration and risk for obesity in Mexican-American children.

Martinez will receive $895,620 and Au will receive $840,871. Martinez has also been accepted into the K Scholars Program at UC San Francisco, which will provide her with peer support and mentorship to conduct the study.

Barbara Allen-Diaz
Allen-Diaz honored by APLU

Barbara Allen-Diaz, who retired as ANR vice president in 2015, is among five Land Grant university leaders recognized for Excellence in National Leadership by the Experiment Station Section of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU).

The other individuals honored with Allen-Diaz were:

  • Walter A. Hill, Dean, College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences, Tuskegee University
  • Steve Slack, formerly associate vice president for agricultural administration and director of OARDC, The Ohio State University (recently retired)
  • Daniel Rossi, formerly executive director, Northeastern Regional Association of State Agricultural Experiment Station Directors (recently retired)
  • William (Bill) Brown, dean of research and director of the Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Tennessee

The resolution reads in part: “These leaders have personified the highest level of excellence by enhancing the cause and performance of the Regional Associations and Experiment Station Section in achieving their mission and the Land-grant ideal.”

The awards were announced at the annual Experiment Station Section meeting on Sept. 21 in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Posted on Thursday, September 22, 2016 at 5:00 PM
 
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