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Posts Tagged: innovation

UC innovators sought for Entrepreneur Pitch Competition, apply by Dec. 12

Apply to the 3rd Annual UC Entrepreneur Pitch Competition and win a chance to pitch in front of more than 700 venture capitalists at the Global Corporate Venturing and Innovation Summit and $15,000 in prize money.

The event is a systemwide effort to connect veteran and new UC entrepreneurs with coaching, resources and exposure to a network of investors to advance and scale their startups.

The university's Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship is inviting startups with at least one UC student, staff, academic or alumnus founder to pitch their projects to investors and strategic partners by submitting a pitch video and an associated pitch deck to the competition website. Video submissions will be featured on the university's entrepreneur website, showcasing the impressive entrepreneurial activity and rich innovative spirit of the UC community.

There are two tracks in the competition: an early-stage track for startups in funding round pre-Series A, and a later-stage track for startups in Series A and beyond. A panel of distinguished corporate mentors will review and select a dozen finalists: six startups in the early-stage track and six startups in the later-stage track.

All finalists will receive individualized coaching from their mentors before their final presentations at the 4th Annual Global Corporate Venturing & Innovation Summit in Monterey on Jan. 30-31, 2019.

Finalists will then pitch their startups to more than 700 business leaders and venture capitalists. The winner in each of the two categories will take home a $15,000 prize for his or her company.

If you are interested in competing, submit your materials to the competition website by 11:59 p.m. PST, on Dec. 12, 2018. The 12 finalists will be announced in early January.

UC generates an average of five inventions per day and holds more patents than any other university in the country. In 2013, President Napolitano launched the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative to leverage the scale and diversity of the UC system to build an even more vibrant entrepreneurial culture.

Learn more at https://entrepreneurs.universityofcalifornia.edu.

Posted on Thursday, November 29, 2018 at 6:06 PM

Seed planted to grow Northern California Ag Innovation Hub

Farmers, ag innovators and venture capitalists gathered in Woodland to discuss creating Northern California's Ag Innovation Hub.

On Jan. 30, 2018, another seed was planted for the future of Northern California's agriculture industry. That seed was a commitment to innovation and new technologies in a region where the primary economic driver is agriculture.

Around 200 people, including farmers, ag innovators and venture capitalists, attended an event in Woodland titled “Creating Northern California's Ag Innovation Hub,” presented by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, AgStart, The Food Front and the City of Woodland. 

Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources, gave the keynote speech and talked about the importance of synergy between agriculture, innovation and technology in California, while discussing 21st century challenges, such as rural broadband connectivity, going forward.

“Entrepreneurship in our rural areas is far greater than in our urban areas,” Humiston said on ?ag tech innovation.

She urged ag innovators to use UC institutions and programs, including the UC Integrated Pest Management Program, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, the Agricultural Issues Center, UC Informatics and GIS, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, California 4-H, California Naturalist, the UC Master Gardener Program, the UC Master Food Preserver Program, the California Institute for Water Resources, the UC Nutrition Policy Institute, the UC Cooperative Extension system, the UC Research Extension Center system, Apps for Ag, along with all of the UC campuses.

There were two panel discussions during the event, both of which were moderated by Lon Hatamiya of The Hatamiya Group.

The first panel focused on agriculture in the global and statewide perspective. Panelists included Gabe Youtsey of UC ANR, Seana Day of Better Food Ventures and The Mixing Bowl Hub, Megan Nunes of Vinsight and John Selep of AgStart.

“One of the key innovations that needs to happen is marrying the ‘strange bedfellows' of data science and the grower and ag community,” said Youtsey, UC ANR's chief innovation officer.

He talked about thinking outside the box on public and private partnerships to create a better ecosystem for collaboration in the California ag tech community. Youtsey also noted that rural broadband connectivity was the limiting factor to bridging the gap between the Central Valley and Silicon Valley, and affirmed that UC ANR's Verde Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship (VINE) was working hard to address this.

“We have the opportunity here to create a world-class innovation hub that will be second-to-none,” he said.

Collaboration among public institutions and private companies create an ecosystem to better foster innovation, said Gabe Youtsey.

Nunes of Vinsight, a software for winegrowers, stated that “UC Davis research is kind of the first ‘open source' for ag tech and innovation.”

The second panel focused on the regional and local perspective of agriculture. The panelists were Justin Siegel of the UC Davis Genome Center, Frank Muller of Muller Ranch, Dennis Donohue of Western Growers, and Ken Hiatt of the City of Woodland and The Food Front.

Siegel indicated that the tech industry is beginning to hit a steady state now and doesn't have as much exponential growth as before, but there are still huge numbers of entrepreneurs flooding into it.

“Ag tech needs to capitalize on educating them about ag,” he said.

Muller of Muller Ranch, a Yolo County diversified farm consisting of several thousand acres, touched on the importance of technology in agriculture.

“For me, ag tech is finding new ways to produce more with less and to do it more sustainably,” he said. 

Woodland officials have already identified a 351-acre site for a mixed-use research park about eight miles north of UC Davis, where both commercial and residential development will be modeled after other successful tech parks near research universities in California. The only difference will be that this one will be focused on agricultural technology and will provide a place for new companies to incubate, grow, collaborate and prosper.

Related reading about creating Northern California's Ag Innovation Hub: 

https://www.comstocksmag.com/longreads/woodland-way

http://www.capradio.org/articles/2018/01/30/woodland-hopes-to-create-agriculture-innovation-center-near-uc-davis/

http://www.dailydemocrat.com/business/20180130/woodland-as-ag-hub-topic-of-forum

 

 

 

 

Posted on Monday, February 26, 2018 at 10:12 AM
  • Author: Tyler Ash
Focus Area Tags: Innovation

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

Humiston speaks to House Ag Committee on value of agricultural research

From left, Robert Duncan, Texas Tech University chancellor; Jacqueline Burns, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences dean for research and director; Humiston; Walter H. Hill, Tuskegee University dean of the College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences and vice provost for Land-Grant Affairs; Steven H. Tallant, Texas A&M University president; and Carrie L. Billy, president and CEO of American Indian Higher Education Consortium.

“The general public and, in particular, large funders tend to not view agriculture as a particularly sexy topic. We've done such a great job for over 150 years of providing a safe, secure, wonderful, bountiful food supply that people take it for granted,” VP Glenda Humiston told members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture, explaining the challenges of fundraising for public agricultural research.

A vital component of federal support for agricultural research has been capacity funding, Humiston told U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture.
Humiston was among the six higher education leaders invited to Washington, D.C., to speak on the importance of university agricultural research and innovation on June 22.

“Agricultural research has been essential to U.S. gains in productivity over the past century,” said Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (TX-11) when he announced the hearing on The Next Farm Bill: University Research. “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. 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.”

Conaway asked why the universities' agriculture programs lack infrastructure like labs and greenhouses and have $8.4 billion in deferred maintenance.

“As we've dealt with cuts and increased costs, it's been easy to say, ‘We can put off fixing that roof or put off buying that new piece of equipment a few more years if we can keep those researchers doing their work,'” Humiston explained. “Unfortunately, I think that's been going on for decades rather than a few years and that's why it's gotten so critical."

Humiston and the other guests described how their institutions partner with private industry and other government agencies to leverage federal funding.

Highlights of Humiston's remarks

  • A vital component of federal support for agricultural research has been capacity funding specifically dedicated to supporting research and Cooperative Extension programs at America's land-grant universities.
  • The current mix of federal and state capacity funds is generally leveraged many-fold by federal competitive grants, grants from private industry, and other types of unrestricted gifts and awards to faculty conducting research at the nation's land-grant universities.
  • 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 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 1,800 peer-reviewed journal articles and filed more than 20 patents.
  • 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.

To watch a recording of the hearing, visit YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckbfCTTuZs0. Humiston appears at the 24:45 mark.

For a transcript of Humiston's full prepared remarks, visit http://ucanr.edu/files/264186.pdf.

The committee has scheduled listening sessions, “The Next Farm Bill, Conversations in the Field,” to gather input from farmers, ranchers and stakeholders across the country. They will be in California on Aug. 5 in Modesto.

Posted on Thursday, July 6, 2017 at 5:00 PM

Eric Natwick, UCCE Imperial County advisor, hangs up his insect net after 36 years

Imperial County Agricultural Commissioner Carlos Ortiz presents Eric Natwick a plaque on behalf of the Board of Supervisors.
After a long and distinguished career with the UC Cooperative Extension office in Imperial County, entomologist Eric Natwick has decided to hang up his insect net. Natwick graduated from the University of Wyoming in 1980 and began work with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in their insect lab in Tucson, Ariz. On July 1, 1981 he moved to the Imperial Valley where he joined the UCCE Imperial County office as the entomology advisor.

Since then, he has been a critical resource for pest management needs in field crops, alfalfa and vegetables. Besides alfalfa, his main focus has been on cotton, cole crops, lettuce, melons, onions and bell peppers. His most recent work has been working to spot and send out important information to growers and pest control advisers (PCAs) on the potentially devastating sugarcane aphid. Some of his other important projects include whitefly host plant resistance in cotton, insecticidal control of cotton pests and whitefly control in melons, and the tomato yellow leaf curly virus, a disease that threatens both commercial tomato production fields as well as home gardens.

Back in the 1990s, Natwick's work and research on the pink bollworm, which was invading the region's cotton fields, was instrumental in changing growers' practices by restricting cotton planting and terminating dates. The pink bollworm is no longer as severe a pest as it once was.

He has also put in an enormous amount of work into combatting the sweetpotato whitefly, for which he has been recognized locally, statewide and nationally. He worked on pesticide evaluations for short-term control of the pest and tested alfalfa varieties for whitefly resistance. Natwick also helped develop an alfalfa irrigation management strategy to reduce whitefly numbers.

UCCE Imperial County director Oli Bachie presents to Natwick a plaque recognizing 35 years of contributions to UC.
During his time at UCCE Imperial County, Natwick's expertise in entomology was sought out all over the world. He has given presentations and provided consulting to more than 25 countries, including Australia, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and most recently Spain. In 1994, he received a distinguished service award as outstanding research advisor.

Former UCCE Imperial County director Khaled Bali said, “Eric has always been a hard worker and is one of the top one percent of advisors in having achieved the highest step (Step 9) in the UC system six years ago.”

Another former colleague, Michael Rethwisch of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln said, “It takes a special person to be a successful low-desert cooperative extension entomology advisor. It takes grit, perseverance, self-motivation, leadership and an expert eye for new insect pests and resulting challenges when diseases are involved. Eric, you not only survived, but thrived!”

UCCE Imperial County director Oli Bachie said, “Because of his great knowledge, Eric has been our ‘go-to' person for our new advisors when they had questions or needed ideas. I can say that Eric has been a great artist of research in the field of entomology whose position will not easily be filled.”

In addition to his research, Natwick served two terms on the Holtville City Council, was mayor in 1988-89 and was director of UCCE Imperial County for five years. He has also done extensive mission work internationally.

Natwick was recently honored at a retirement party. About 70 of his colleagues, friends and employees turned out to say thanks for his years of service. He and his wife, Lisa, recently moved to Cedar City, Utah, where they plan to enjoy their “golden years”.

This article was published in the Imperial Valley Press on July 6, 2017.

Posted on Thursday, July 6, 2017 at 10:29 AM
  • Author: Trish Burich-McNeece
 
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