Posts Tagged: development
University of California Cooperative Extension, 4-H Youth Development Program in Santa Clara County partnered with multiple community organizations to hold a 4-H Nature Explorers Day Camp at Escuela Popular Bilingual Academy in East San Jose from July 17 to July 21.
Organizers wanted to reach more participants this year than they had in the inaugural 2022 camp, so they structured the program for different K-8 grade levels to attend on different days. 79 campers participated, which was a 130% increase over the number of campers last year.
“Everything we did during the week was focused on environmental science,” said Susan Weaver, 4-H Regional Program Coordinator. “We partnered with Project Learning Tree, UC Environmental Stewards, UC Master Gardeners and CalFresh Healthy Living, UC– as well as community agencies related to the natural environment.”
Numerous activities engaged the youths such as field trips; demonstrations; and sessions themed around trees as habitats, birds and bugs, and being “leaf detectives.” 4-H Adult Volunteer, Laura Tiscareno, took charge of the hands-on Project Learning Tree sessions. Craft time included making nature-themed wind chimes and spinning paper snakes.
Bilingual teen camp counselors guided small groups of students for the duration of the day camp. In situations where the adult facilitator did not speak Spanish, teens translated information into Spanish for students with less English confidence.
“These kids call me ‘teacher' and it's awesome,” said Rodrigo, one of the counselors. “The camp benefits me a lot because I connect with children and in the future, I can even be a teacher if I wanted to.”
Another counselor, Andrea, learned about communication. “It's a bit different with kids at different age levels,” she said. “Since we had kindergarten through eighth grade, we had to switch our tactics from grade to grade so that they would understand us and we'd be able to understand them. Also learning how to bond with them so that they would pay more attention.
One highlight of the week was a field trip for third through eighth graders to the Master Gardeners location at Martial Cottle Park, where students learned about vermicomposting and made their own individual countertop worm habitat and composter.
Campers especially enjoyed the interactive demonstrations. “My favorite part is going on all the field trips because we went to a garden, and we've been catching worms and doing stuff about worms,” said one student. “It's really fun going on trips.”
Another camper said, “Something I would like to change about camp is having more time here.”
The program culminated in a Nature Camp Festival at Escuela Popular in partnership with community agencies. Youth enjoyed games, meeting reptiles, outdoor science activities, arborist crafts, a “Rethink Your Drink” table to make a fresh fruit drink, tamales, a nacho bar and more.
Representatives from the Silicon Valley Wildlife Center discussed animals that live in local neighborhoods and how the Center supports people to keep the animals safe. Victor Mortari of Vexotic Me talked about and showed snakes, spiders, scorpions, and other creatures, making the kids squeal while learning about them. As a fun added bonus, 4-H Community Educator Zubia Mahmood arranged to have a local team come to teach soccer skills as a healthy living activity.
The event increased the youth's interest in environmental education and involved Latino youth and adults who are new to 4-H – representing a community that has not historically benefited from the 4-H program. The teen teachers also increased their leadership and career readiness skills; post-camp surveys showed that all the teen counselors see 4-H as a place where they can be a leader and help make group decisions. Some campers noted in the survey that they wanted the camp to be every day, all summer!
National 4-H funded the camp in 2022 and 2023, allowing organizers to provide meals, T-shirts, water bottles and other items to foster belonging and promote healthy living. Community partners, crucial to the program's success, included the Boys and Girls Club of Silicon Valley, Escuela Popular Bilingual Academy, Silicon Valley Water and Silicon Valley Wildlife Center.
Teen counselors and campers working on a nutrition activity.
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>
Historically, date palms are grown along riverbeds or in areas with groundwater because they require an abundance of water to produce a good crop. Unlike lettuce or table grapes, date palms are deceptive in that they do not immediately wilt if underwatered. Eventually, however, the lack of water hurts yields and fruit quality.
The default for date growers is to apply excessive water, but doing so is neither economically nor environmentally sound. To help growers, Ali Montazar, UC Cooperative Extension irrigation and water management advisor for Imperial, Riverside and San Diego counties, has developed knowledge that enables growers in the region to establish irrigation guidelines they can use with confidence.
“Water issues in California's desert are very different than in the Central Valley,” said Montazar. “There is no groundwater to recharge so growers in the desert only have the Colorado River.”
Since 2019, Montazar has been focused on irrigation management for date palms in the Coachella Valley, the largest producer of dates in the United States. Montazar's research identifies how much water is needed for the crop and the best water delivery method according to location, soil type and conditions, and date cultivars.
“Dates require a lot of heat and light, which is why they do well in the desert. But they also need a fair amount of irrigation,” said Robert Krueger, a U.S. Department of Agriculture horticulturist and Montazar's co-author of a paper on date palm irrigation management.
Much of what we know about date palm production comes from the Middle East, which has a climate similar to the low desert of California. “That information is from many, many years ago though,” explained Montazar, whose research shows that drip irrigation cannot be the only form of irrigation for date palms.
“Ali is the first to really look at micro-sprinklers and flood irrigation for date palms,” said Krueger, adding that the other advantage of Montazar's research is that it prepares growers for production during times of reduced water supply.
Albert Keck, president of Hadley Date Gardens, Inc. and chairman of the California Date Commission, described Montazar's research efforts as “subtle yet incredible and profound,” adding that his findings not only benefit other farmers but also cities relying on water from the Colorado River.
Keck, one of the largest date growers in California, is well aware of how disruptive, expensive and time-consuming irrigation for date palms can be. Montazar has enabled growers like Keck to irrigate less without sacrificing yield or quality.
“Ali might save us a tiny percentage of the amount of water we're using. It might be a 5 or 10% savings. It doesn't seem like much, but it's an incremental improvement in efficiency,” said Keck. “And if you add all of these improvements up, say, along the U.S. Southwest, then that has a pretty profound impact.”
Montazar recommends that date growers in his region use a combination of drip and two to three flood irrigation events to manage salinity levels derived from the Colorado River. “We cannot maintain salinity issues over time if we're only relying on drip irrigation in date palms,” explained Montazar.
Flood irrigation pushes the salts below the root zone, when they would otherwise build up within the root zone preventing efficient water uptake. It also aids in refilling soil profiles quickly and more effectively since drip has a lower capacity of delivering sufficient water.
“Growers know what they need to water their crop within a broader parameter. But Ali has narrowed that window and helped us become more precise with our irrigation,” Keck said. “There's still room for improvement but we're spending less money, wasting less time and using less water now, and we're still getting the same positive results.”
Currently,Montazar is collaborating with the California Date Commission on developing guidelines for best irrigation management practices in the desert for date palms, which should be available by the end of 2023. These guidelines are based on a four-year data set from six monitoring stations and extensive soil and plant samples from commercial fields located in theCoachella Valley, Imperial Valley and near Yuma, Arizona. Additionally, Montazar is working to quantify how water conservation impacts growers economically.
“Growers from United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Tunisia and Mexico have already reached out asking for this information,” Montazar said, while reflecting on a presentation he made to a group of international date growers in Mexico late last year.
To read the paper on date palm irrigation, published in MDPI's Water journal, visit: https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4441/12/8/2253.
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>
Land use change in agricultural frontiers can have far-reaching social and environmental implications, such as habitat loss, water contamination, or worker demographic shifts — particularly when it involves the rapid expansion of a new industry such as cannabis production. A recent study published in Landscape and Urban Planning offers an interdisciplinary perspective on the drivers of cannabis production in rural areas, using interviews with farmers and spatial modeling to uncover key factors.
Led by researchers from UC Berkeley's Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM) and the Cannabis Research Center, the article “Where money grows on trees: a socio-ecological assessment of land use change in an agricultural frontier” provides a social-ecological systems approach for assessing drivers of cannabis production in Southern Oregon, using interviews with farmers and spatial modeling to uncover key factors.
"Unlike other crops, we have less understanding of where and how cannabis is grown, making it an important area of ongoing research," said Van Butsic, a professor of cooperative extension in ESPM and the senior author of the study.
The researchers interviewed 14 cannabis farmers to identify major themes around their relationships with land use, and used those themes to generate predictors for models of land use change. Most of the interview-derived drivers were significantly associated with cannabis distribution and development, including parcel size, human footprint, distance to the nearest cannabis farm, the density of local cannabis production, clearable land cover, farm zoning, elevation, roughness, and distance to rivers. The interview data also provided insights into the relationship of cannabis with social and environmental dynamics.
“We gained many insights from the interview data,” said lead author and ESPM postdoctoral scholar Phoebe Parker-Shames. “For example, we knew from previous research that cannabis development tends to be clustered, but we understand a little better now that this is related to the ways in which cannabis farmers rely on each other to share knowledge, labor, and navigate uncertainty during difficult policy changes.”
One of the major themes that emerged from the interview data was the environmental stewardship values of the farmers. “There is a large untapped potential for education and management outreach to target farmers who got into this industry in part because of their ability to connect with the land,” Parker-Shames said. “The farmers we spoke to had a genuine desire to learn best practices in an industry without a lot of formal standards for production. I'm grateful that they were willing to share their experiences and insights with us.”
Additional Berkeley co-authors include ESPM professor Justin Brashares and alumni Hekia Bodwitch (PhD '17 ESPM). The study's findings provide valuable insights into the drivers of cannabis production and the environmental stewardship values of cannabis farmers, which can inform environmental policy, regulation, and best practices for sustainable cannabis production.