Central Valley Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum, Nov. 1, 2018

Big Event Expands Innovation In Water and Energy Savings

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Following the success of last year’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship event, the Forum will take place on Thursday, November 1, 2018, at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District.

The Forum combines the Central Valley Venture Forum and Central Valley Stock Exchange – two events that in the past have shaped the entrepreneurial landscape in the valley and became the most significant event for innovation and entrepreneurship in the Central Valley.

Laura Ramos is the Communications and Marketing Manager for the Water, Energy, and Technology (WET) Center at CSU Fresno. She noted that Forum has three distinct sections.

“First, we want anybody that’s interested in entrepreneurship and investment to come and learn about entrepreneurship and what technologies and services are available to them and just to learn about investment opportunities for them,” Ramos said.

Secondly, there is the popular Showcase for Ag Tech Entrepreneurs with a goal of saving water and energy on the farm. “Applications are due Sept. 15th. And from those that apply, we’re going to select the top five. And representatives from these five companies are going to get to pitch at the forum,” Ramos said. “And while they pitch, we have a panel of investors and judges that will select the winner. The winner will receive an award either from the investor and the judge’s award, or a potential investment from an angel group.”

Thirdly, is what’s known as the Central Valley Stock Exchange. It’s very similar to a trade show where your company can exhibit. However, the exhibitors are vying for Bulldog dollars from the audience. Ramos said $1 million of bulldog monopoly money is given to each person that attends. “The entrepreneur’s job is to try to get the most investment from the attendees. And at the end of the night, the company with the most bulldog investment dollars gets to win the audience award.

For more information on the Central Valley Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum go to cvieforum.com.

2021-05-12T11:05:09-07:00September 7th, 2018|

Entrepreneurship Forum is Biggest in Valley

Entrepreneurship Forum in Clovis on Nov. 15

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

The Central Valley Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum will be held in Clovis on Nov. 15th. This forum should be the largest event for innovation and entrepreneurship in the Central Valley. Industry leaders, angel investors, entrepreneurs and business owners will be there to share advice and strategies on how to make it in today’s economy.

“We are gearing up for our big event that will be held at Clovis at the Veterans Memorial District in the auditorium,” said Helle Peterson, manager of the Center of Irrigation Technology at California State University Fresno.

“We actually have the whole building because we have multiple things going on. We will have a series of workshops during the day that’s all around financing, investment, entrepreneurship, innovation. We also have five companies that will pitch their technology or their business to a group of potential investors. The whole community will be there, and we’re very excited about that,” Peterson said.

“There’s an evening program attached to that, which we call the stock exchange. It’s where we will have 20 entrepreneurs exhibiting their technology business and then the audience will go around and invest in these businesses with monopoly money. It will create excitement of which company we think will be more successful,” Peterson said.

The keynote speaker will be Paul Singh, the founder of disruption Corporation.

“He’s actually one of the founders of 500 Startup, which is a really well-known accelerator in the Bay area, and he can really talk to that entrepreneurship innovation space,” Peterson said.

Find out more about the event and register for it here.

2017-10-23T16:50:59-07:00October 23rd, 2017|

Fresno State’s WET Center Home to BlueTechValley Entrepreneurs

BlueTechValley Series – Part 3

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

We’re continuing our series on California Ag Today regarding the BlueTechValley Initiative, which was established on the Fresno State campus in 2011, and part of an innovation cluster that provides access to commercialization services that will accelerate innovation and growth of water and energy-oriented companies in 39 counties from central to northern California.

We spoke to Helle Petersen, the manager of the Water, Energy and Technology Center – also known as the WET Center – at Fresno State, where BlueTechValley is centered.

“The WET Center is a physical building located on the Fresno State campus, and it has six offices for entrepreneurs that want to grow their water, energy or agricultural business and be around companies that share those same visions and the same business,” Peterson said. “The WET Center also has a testing lab to test different kind of water technologies.

“The WET Center is very unique. I haven’t really seen anything at any university that’s the same. It was built in 2007 as a partnership between Fresno State and what used to be the Central Valley Business Incubator, but now it has rolled in under the International Center for Water Technology, and it’s part of their program,” Peterson said.

Petersen said it is a very busy place. “As I mentioned, we have six offices, but we also have about 30 other company startups … [and] also more mature companies that are members of the center, and they really want to be part of the community, if you will, because there’s something synergetic about working with companies or maybe talking about some of the same problems you have when you work in the same industry.”

Peterson said the WET Center is expanding for those entrepreneurs that may be coming out of town.

“Actually what we’re doing is across the street … there’s another smaller building that we are actually incorporating into the WET Center, and we’re going to build an additional six offices there, plus a plug-and-play space,” she explained. “ Let’s say you have a tech company out of the Bay Area and you’ve kind of outgrown that space, because you’ve realized you need to be in the central San Joaquin Valley if you have anything to do with agriculture. So you can come down here for a few days a week or a month, and you have a workspace. You also will have a conference room that you can all use.”

This is part of an ongoing series on the BlueTechValley Innovation Cluster, which includes entrepreneurs at several California State Universities and the Sierra Small Business Development Center. It’s all about finding efficiencies in water and energy.




2021-05-12T11:05:15-07:00September 13th, 2017|

PowWow Energy Thrives Part 2

BlueTech Valley Gives PowWow Energy a Boost

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

The BlueTech Valley Central Valley Regional Innovation Cluster represents an expansion and interconnection of multiple incubators and/or entrepreneurship programs with services located at each of seven designated BlueTechValley Cluster hubscollectively serving 39 counties, covering two-thirds of California’s geographic area.

Olivier Jerphagnon with PowWow Energy is part of the community at Fresno State. “We connected with the BlueTechValley community through the water energy technology incubator,” he said. “We came here three years ago and found a great place where we could take the time to meet growers, listen to their needs. At the same time, we benefit from the fact that people trust Fresno State in the economic community,” said Jerphagnon.

A big part of PowWow Energy is pump monitoring. “Our motto is, ‘Answers to farmers. Not more data.‘ We take existing data and work with agencies on large data sets,” said Jerphagnon. “For example, we have access to all the PG&E and Southern California Edison metering information from the pumps. We have weather data for every acre of California. We have historical aero-images for every foot of farmland.”

“We crunch all the data, and we’re able to create a couple of beneficial products,” noted Jerphagnon. “The first one is a simple compliance product. If you have to report your water usage, you can do that without investing a lot in hardware, because that metering infrastructure is already there for the electrical industry, so why not reuse it?”

“The second product is to identify where there could be more productivity. If one field historically has had issues, we locate it and try to diagnose what’s wrong so the farmer can make adjustments to his operational practices,” Jerphagnon asked. “I think we can find the right answers,” he said.

For more information and testimonials from growers, go to PowWowEnergy.com.

2017-09-11T14:57:23-07:00September 7th, 2017|

New Chair Sought for Fresno State’s VERC

Viticulture Enology Research Center Seeks New Chair

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

California Ag Today met with Dave Zoldoske, director of the Center of Irrigation and Technology and California Water Institute at Fresno State, about finding a chair for the VERC, the Viticulture Enology Research Center. This single position has many titles within it.

“You’re the department chair, faculty member, research director and a researcher. You think you’re busy – try to do those four jobs,” Zoldoske said.

With all of these responsibilities, one person would get stretched too thin in some places and excel in others. Eventually, the job was split in half to lighten the load. The position is now a research director’s position in enology and viticulture and does not require a PhD.

“A master’s with obviously some extensive research experience in the industry would be necessary to lead that,” Zoldoske said.

This is an opportunity for someone that is interested particularly in San Joaquin Valley viticulture because of the different variety of grapes. Many of the trellises are different, and the level of mechanization is much higher. Everything that plays a part for the San Joaquin Valley wine growers would be a focus point for this position.

“Certainly just because of our geographic location, that would be a big part of what that research portfolio might involve,” Zoldoske said.

This prestigious position is geared for somebody who wants to work in the wine industry as a research leader. This position offers growth within its own program.

“You are sort of untethered in the sense that [you can] make it everything you can make it, and just with this regional identity, right?” Zoldoske said.

Many major wineries located in the San Joaquin Valley are supportive of the Viticulture Enology Program at Fresno State and also serve on the advisory board.

“I think there’s just a lot of ups to this job and we’re real excited that it’s been split in half, so that we’ve got a pure researcher and then we’ve got someone on the other side that’ll be more academic with the department chair position and help with the teaching and other things,” Zoldoske said.

2017-06-22T14:19:55-07:00June 22nd, 2017|

Red Wave Sale a Success

Red Wave Sale is a Hit at Fresno State

By Melissa Moe and Jessie Theisman, Associate Editors

Every January, Fresno State hosts a large lamb and goat sale, known as the Red Wave Sale. Typically, around 60 lambs and 45 goats are sold in the sale, many of which were bred and raised by students on campus at the Fresno State Sheep Unit. The remaining sheep and all of the goats are consigned to the Red Wave Sale by Fresno State Alumni.

Red Wave Goats Ready for Sale

Red Wave Goats Ready for Sale

Student involvement is a huge part of the Red Wave Sale. Fresno State offers a class in which students learn to manage and run a livestock sale and show. The Red Wave Sale is entirely hands on and involves months of preparation to run smoothly. Cameron Rocha is a student at Fresno State who is very involved in the Red Wave Sale and helps manage the Sheep Unit.

”It really starts months and months before – almost before the lambs are even born,” Rocha said. “Getting the sale ready. ‘How we want to do our sale order?’ Dates, times and ideal weights that we want for the lambs. The Red Wave Sale benefits me, as a student. I spend a lot more time, here on campus. It keeps me on campus, keeps me more involved, keeps me out of trouble.”

Not only does the sale benefit students, but it also helps support Fresno State’s Jordan College of Ag. The sale contributes to the Sheep Unit, as well as other programs within the animal science and agriculture education departments.

The Red Wave Lamb and Goat Sale would not be possible without the support of alumni and affiliates. The Pavletich family of Pavletich Club Lambs has been breeding sheep in the Central Valley since 1971, and Scott Pavletich has been bringing lambs to the Red Wave sale for years.

“We’ve been here every year for the past eight or ten years, bringing a consignment. Every year the sale keeps getting better and better. Just like the sheep at Fresno State – they keep getting better and better,” Pavletich said.

Sheep and goats bought at the sale will be hauled to county fairs all around the state, from San Diego to Shasta and everywhere in between. Many of the sheep and goats were also bought by youth exhibitors who compete with their livestock in jackpot-style shows all across the state and in other parts of the nation.

Fresno State’s Red Wave Sale not only has a history of producing happy customers, it produces champions as well. Next month, many of the animals sold in the livestock sale will be shown at the Red Wave Classic, a livestock show put on by the students at Fresno State. The show will feature classes for sheep, goats, hogs and cattle, as well as a futurity class for exhibitors who are showing animals that were bought at the Red Wave Sale.

2021-05-12T11:17:11-07:00January 18th, 2017|

WANTED: New Director, Fresno State Viticulture and Enology Department

Fresno State Viticulture and Enology Department Shines, But Needs New Director


By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director


No doubt, the Fresno State Viticulture and Enology Department is important not only to the Central San Joaquin Valley, but also to all of California’s agricultural areas. Nat DiBuduo, president, Fresno-based Allied Grape Growers, and a 1973 Fresno State alumnus, said Fresno State’s top administration is exceptionally dedicated to the department.


Research Buildings at Viticulture and Enology Research Center VERC

Research Buildings at Viticulture and Enology Research Center VERC

“It is really critical that we highlight the fact that Joseph Castro, president of Fresno State, and Sandra Witte, dean of Fresno State’s Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, as well as the entire Industry Advisory Board for the Viticulture and Enology Research Center (VERC), are committed to the department,” said DiBuduo. “The entire board is committed to continuing the world-class program at the Viticulture and Enology Research Center that Vincent Petrucci (1985-1994) started so many years ago and has been continued on through Robert Wample (2000-2009) and James Kennedy (2010-2015).”

DiBuduo, who studied plant science and viticulture as a student, said, “We’re committed to providing this first class program for our students and for the industry. We’re in the midst of the search for the right person to head the program so that he or she can bring on the faculty and support staff who will continue that progress into the next century and beyond.”

As California’s agricultural industry feeds the world, it is important the industry supports this search for a new department chair. “It is important the University gets the right person in there, so we’re asking everyone out there who knows anyone qualified, [to encourage them] to apply for this position,” said DiBuduo. “We need to have the right person to provide the education, research and leadership into the future.”

Fresno State Winery Bottling Line

Fresno State Winery Bottling Line

Fresno State agricultural programs are unique due to a hands-on approach designed to give students the practical knowledge they need to get out and work. “They will know how to farm,”DiBuduo said. “They will know how to apply their teachings and their education to become managers, foremen and operators, and supervisors of field operations.”

Students come from all over the Central Valley and beyond the Valley because of Fresno State’s excellent reputation. “If students have enough units in the program, they can become Pest Control Advisors (PCAs),” said DiBuduo. “In fact, I was a PCA myself.”

fresno_state_makes_winemakers, Fresno State Viticulture and Enology Department“But the problem we’re having in agriculture today is that many in the industry are an aging society,” DiBuduo said. “So we need to get young entrepreneurs, young farmers and ranchers who want to become PCAs or farm managers or viticulturists or winemakers,” DiBuduo said. “We need these trained students to run the farms and ranches in the future.”

NEW! FACULTY POSITION VACANCY: Chair of the Department of Viticulture & Enology and Director of the Viticulture & Enology Research Center.   Vacancy #12978  (7/20/16) Review of applications will begin September 19, 2016 and continue until the position is filled.


Allied Grape Growers

California State University (Fresno State)

Fresno State’s Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology

Fresno State’s Viticulture and Enology Department

Industry Advisory Board for the Viticulture and Enology Research Center

2021-05-12T11:05:43-07:00November 30th, 2016|

USDA NRCS Works To Increase Diversity

NRCS Conducts Outreach for Diversity


By Emily McKay Johnson, Associate Editor


The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with local growers across America to conserve the nation’s soil, water, air and other natural resources. Elisabeth “Elise” Miller, is an area engineer for the entire Southern California region. “I also serve my agency as the NRCS-California LGBT Special Emphasis Program Manager, a collateral duty that I perform on several levels to increase diversity,” said Miller.


“First, I work to educate employees within my agency, to make them better informed and more in tune to language,” Miller explained. “Then, I work to get a more diversified workforce within the USDA,” she added, to make the organization stronger and better.


Unlock the secrets in the soil diversity

“My efforts might include going to a university,” she elaborated, “trying to tie in with their resource center and encouraging more people who identify as LGBT to apply for federal jobs. Our colleges, the University of California (UC) and the California State (Cal State) University system, have a lot of really good, positive and powerful resource centers that I’m hoping will continue to help us with our outreach and pull more people in who want to work for us.”


“Certainly we do have human resources,” commented Miller. “And we do a lot of outreach. With California being so large and so diverse,” Miller said, “it is hard to reach out to everybody. We have to start with the big UC schools first. We also try to reach out to universities such as Fresno State, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo or Pomona or UC Davis, or Humboldt State. Those would be schools that certainly we want to outreach to and try to bring more of those graduating students in under our fold.”


“My agency is a very technical agency,” said Miller. “We work on conservation-type issues—resource issues that farmers, ranchers or private landowners might deal with—requiring an agronomist, biologist or soil scientist. I often go out with a multi-disciplinary team and meet with a farmer, rancher, or just a landowner.”


“Every farmer I meet has some kind of issue,” Miller commented, “whether it’s pest management, whether it’s dealing with manure management or an erosion issue that’s going on. If they have a hillside orchard, they have to deal with that.”


“And obviously they focus a lot on drought management and water conservation,” Miller explained, “A lot of these farmers of course are forced to use groundwater, which is depleting the groundwater sources and may be causing irreparable damage.


We work cooperatively to try to help them resolve their land issues. That’s what I like about my agency—that we’re invited there. We’re not there to push a regulation. We’re there to help them to better manage. They always maintain control of their decision making. We try to give them options available and we have cost share programs to assist them, if something is identified. We work towards developing conservation plans on the property.”


The agency is also responsible for the soil survey work. “We map the soils five feet deep,” said Miller, “to gather information, resource information, which has worked fantastically well for a farmer to know what kind of soil he’s dealing with. It may make a difference on how a farmer irrigates. It may be why he’s having a problem with a crop or many other areas that could be helpful to them.”


“We are in the community. We’re very much aware; we know who the farmers are, we know what the issues are and we work with farmers to try to address their land problems. We don’t just pop in and then pop out,” Miller said.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRSC) works with local growers across America to conserve the nation’s soil, water, air and other natural resources with voluntary programs and science-based solutions that benefit both the landowner and the environment. 

2021-05-12T11:05:47-07:00September 12th, 2016|

Ryan Metzler Juggles Many Farm Operations

Ryan Metzler Juggles Farm Operations—Large and Small


By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director


Ryan Metzler grew up as a fourth generation California farmer, as his dad and uncle had a fairly big farming operation producing tree fruit and winegrapes in the Fresno area throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Eventually, Ryan’s dad spun off on his own, enabling Ryan to work with his dad for many years.


Today, Metzler is a graduate of Fresno State, lives in Fresno, and as vice-president of Capital Agricultural Property Services—the property management division of Prudential Ag Investments—he manages many farm operations in the West. “Most of our clients are large investment groups,” said Metzler, “so these clients will typically look at large agricultural properties as an investment.”


As these investment companies typically know little about farming, Metzler explained, “our role is to not only make recommendations about what to plant, but also how to diversify, how many acres, how to process, and who gets to buy the fruit. So we end up growing fruits, nuts and vegetables and just about anything that is consumed,” he said.


“My charge is the western region of the U.S., but we manage farms in the Midwest and the East,” Metzler said. “It does give me opportunities to be involved with a lot of different commodities, but I have to say that growing winegrapes is probably my favorite.”


Managing many properties takes a very strong team. “I work directly with some managers and then we hire a secondary layer of management to do the tractor work and the day to day operations. We have both the economic responsibility, but also the practical farming responsibility to maintain these properties because they do change over time.”

California Cabernet Winegrapes


Metzler also farms 200 acres of winegrapes and tree fruit in the Fresno/ Sanger area. “What I find the most interesting, is that I get to be a small grower and deal with small grower issues, and I also get to be a large grower and deal with large grower issues. And I love to marry up those two challenges because it gives me a great perspective on decision making. Sometimes you have to make a strategy choice and other times you have to make a tactical choice, and I find that mix to be really rewarding,” said Metzler.


Metzler summed up farming as “an absolute thrill. I wake up everyday and pinch myself to be lucky enough to do something like this for a living.”

2016-08-26T12:05:07-07:00August 26th, 2016|

Solving Central Valley Water Salinity

Mizuno on Water Salinity Solutions

By Laurie Greene, Editor


According to a Central Valley Salinity Alternatives for Long Term Sustainability (CV-SALTS) report, rising salt levels in the soil and groundwater threaten the potable water supply and agricultural productivity for the entire region. Walter Mizuno, longtime lecturer in mechanical engineering at Fresno State and director, Valley Industry Partnership for Cooperative Education (VIP) Program, researches increasing salinity conditions in Central Valley soil and groundwater, as well as methods of desalination.

Mizuno explained, “As the salt level rises, and if the soil salts aren’t leached out periodically, the ground becomes unsuitable for cultivating several crops. Growers either shift to high salt-tolerant crops or essentially idle that land.”CV Salts

Central Valley salinity conditions are serious, according to Mizuno. “Growers have already taken a lot of land out of production on the Westside,” he said, “and they’ll continue to do that until the salt mitigation measures have been implemented. Essentially, we need to get back to where we can currently sustain the amount of farming we have with the type of water that we have.”

“We are looking at desalination of agricultural drainage water,” Mizuno stated. “We’re trying to reclaim water that’s suitable for even human consumption; but right now, we’re looking at reclaiming water that is suitable for Ag use through a desalination process called vapor compression distillation, which takes drainage water from the Ag fields, distills it to make it pure and recovers some of the salts on the backside.”

Mizuno explained salt recovery would enhance the economic viability of this project by eliminating the cost of trucking or disposing the resulting brine and by possibly converting it into a revenue stream. “We’re trying concentrate that brine to a point, using solar evaporation, where we can find other uses for the highly concentrated form or maybe even sell it to a chemical processing company. We are also focusing on minimizing the energy cost to distill the water, to make the process more efficient.”

“We’re trying to combine multiple technologies, using ion exchange as our front end process,” Mizuno explained, “to get rid of some of the hardness in the water. We get rid of calcium and magnesium in the water, which helps the distillation process and protects the equipment for a longer period of time before requiring cleaning or eventual replacement. We’re using the brine stream of the distillation process to actually regenerate, upfront, the ion exchange units—similar to a home water softener.”

Pipe without waterMizuno explained, “When you look at the reasons why desal isn’t used more often—just the cost of energy makes the cost of the water expensive. So, we do a lot of energy recovery. Just take the basic process of distillation in which you heat up the water solution, boil it off, and condense the residue. A lot of that water you use, or a lot of the energy used to boil off the water, is lost; so we recover the heat from that steam to save energy. In other words, we don’t discard that energy; we try to reuse it.”

“We have been conducting studies on some Westside ranches,” he continued, “with our pilot plant that processes only one thousand gallons per hour. A series of ditches on those ranches collect the drainage water to be purified. Now, we have moved everything back to the Fresno State Center for Irrigation Technology (CIT),” said Mizuno, “because we’re building a brand new redesigned unit, which should be operating by the end of this year.

“The second phase of the project,” Mizuno commented, “is to move the unit out to Panoche, and conduct field testing out there. We will evaluate the energy efficacy and also the economics of the unit and process, and we will field-test to determine how rugged and dependable it is out in the actual service area.”

“This is actually a research project,” Mizuno clarified. “We’re still fairly far away from commercializing it. Basically, we will evaluate the scalability of these units so that depending on the size of the farm and everything else, you can either put multiple units out there or design a single-unit system very similar to ours. You could size the system to meet whatever the demands are, but you need a reservoir or holding area, and you’d like to be able to operate 24/7.”

“We are considering using solar to power this,” Mizuno mentioned. “The issue with solar is, obviously, it tends to work during the daylight hours but doesn’t do much during the evening hours. We’re looking at using batteries, electricity, natural gas or some other energy source to keep the process running when the sun goes down, but it’s a matter of economics.”

Mizuno said the research team is optimistiCIT Logoc about the process itself, but he does not anticipate it will be a cure-all. “It is a research project,” Mizuno reiterated, “and we’re trying to see if we can drop the energy cost, and lower the water cost. I think the economics will change though. Water will cost more for everybody in the next few years. As that changes, I think some of these technologies are going to become feasible from an economic standpoint.”

The entire state shoud be aware of these water issues, according to Mizuno. “I think there are still a lot of issues that the common person isn’t aware of and how they fit in, and Ag is no exception. I would like people to understand that we are working to stretch the available amount of water supplies we have and we are working on technologies that are yet unproven. But some of these technologies will require a few more years—to many years to solve. Others are not economically feasible today, but they may be in the future as water supplies get tighter.”

Mizuno has observed that farmers are already doing a lot to conserve water, particularly employing the use of new technologies such as drones to evaluate water stress and nutrient stress in plants. “Right now,” he offered, “we are looking at another piece of the puzzle; we’re trying to stretch the amount of water supply we have, utilize it in multiple-use scenarios, and use it more intelligently to make some waste streams into revenue streams.”

Mizuno urges the general population to just be aware. “Conservation is the first step for a lot of people,” he said. “That’s the easiest way to stretch water supplies, and so I think people need to understand that water is a finite resource in the state of California. The water situation is not likely to get better anytime soon, even if we have normal rainfall and so forth. We are in an overdraft situation with our water supply.”

CV-SALTS participants collaborate to develop a workable, comprehensive plan to address salinity, including nitrates, throughout the region in a comprehensive, consistent, and sustainable manner.

Center for Irrigation Technology (CIT) celebrates 35 years!


2021-05-12T11:05:52-07:00July 18th, 2016|
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