California Almond Acreage Drops in 2022 – First Time in Decades

By Rick Kushman, Almond Board of California

Bearing acreage grew but there were fewer new plantings and increased orchard removals

California’s almond acreage decreased for the first time in more than 25 years, according to a new report from Land IQ to the Almond Board of California (ABC).

Total standing acreage as of Aug. 31 was estimated at 1.64 million acres, compared with 1.66 million acres at the same time in 2021. Bearing acres – orchards producing almonds and planted in 2019 or earlier – increased slightly to 1.34 million from 1.31 million last year. But non-bearing acres – new plantings going back to 2020 but not yet bearing almonds – dropped to 294,000 acres from 353,000 acres in 2021.

In addition, the Land IQ 2022 Standing Acreage and Removed Acreage Final Estimate said approximately 30,000 acres are either classified as stressed or abandoned. They were included in the standing acreage total because the orchards “may have the ability to recover,” Land IQ said.

Removed orchards contributed to the drop in total acreage and continued a trend from 2021. Total orchard acreage removed was about 60,400 acres as of Aug. 31 this year compared with 56,900 removed acres in 2021.

“Land IQ’s report may indicate a possible trend towards lower California almond acreage in the year ahead,” said Richard Waycott, ABC president and CEO. “This acreage estimate was based on data collected through Aug. 31, so it does not reflect any additional removals that may have occurred as the harvest and post-harvest seasons progressed this fall. Those data will be incorporated in the next acreage estimate to be published in April 2023.”

The estimate comes from multiple lines of evidence, including extensive examinations on the ground and advanced remote sensing analytics. Land IQ said the 2022 standing acreage estimate is 98.8 percent accurate.

Land IQ’s Final Acreage Estimate in November, along with USDA-NASS’s April Acreage Report, May’s Subjective Estimate and the Objective Report in July are all commissioned by ABC to provide statistical transparency and a robust picture of California almonds to industry stakeholders around the world.

In 2018, ABC first commissioned Land IQ, a Sacramento-based agricultural and environmental scientific research and consulting firm, to develop a comprehensive, living map of California almonds. The map is the result of more than a decade of research.

2022-12-05T08:37:35-08:00December 5th, 2022|

Nominations Open for the 2023 Common Threads Awards

By Rebecca Quist, Common Threads Committee Chair

The Common Threads Committee is pleased to announce
nominations are being accepted for the 27th Annual Common Threads
Awards honoring women in agriculture. Honorees are selected from
Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced and Tulare counties for their
remarkable contributions to agriculture and philanthropic
stewardship.

We invite you to nominate worthy women who have deep roots in
agriculture and have made a significant difference within the
agricultural industry and their communities. The completed
nomination packet, with a cover letter, must be received in the
California Agricultural Leadership Foundation (CALF) office by December 12, 2022:

Attention: Mia Mirassou
CALF
80 Garden Ct, Suite 270
Monterey, CA 93940
Email: mmirassou@agleaders.org

A pdf version of the nomination form is available at www.agleaders.org.
Letters of recommendation are encouraged, but not required; however,
no more than three letters of recommendation may be submitted. If you
need further clarification or additional information, please call Mia
Mirassou at CALF at (831) 585-1030.

A luncheon recognizing the honorees will be scheduled in March or
April 2023. CALF, Ag One Foundation and the Jordan College of
Agricultural Sciences and Technology will host the luncheon.

2022-12-02T16:15:51-08:00December 2nd, 2022|

New Tool Calculates Crop Rotation Costs, Benefits for California Rice Growers

By Mike Hsu, UCANR

Due to severe water shortages, rice acres planted in California plummeted by 37% from 2021 to 2022, according to numbers released recently by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. But now, thanks to University of California researchers, growers have a new tool they could potentially use to cope with droughts and other environmental and socioeconomic changes.

A crop rotation calculator provides farmers in the Sacramento Valley – where 97% of California rice is grown – with projections on the economic impacts of transitioning their fields from rice into four less water-intensive crops: dry beans, safflower, sunflower or tomato.

The tool represents an initial attempt to address the dearth of research on rice crop rotation in California, while giving growers much-needed, science-backed data on whether the practice would make financial sense for their farms.

“I believe more rice growers could benefit from the many advantages of crop rotation, and this new tool is an excellent first step by the UC to help growers look into making such a transition,” said George Tibbitts, a Colusa County rice farmer.

Funded in part by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, through the Western Integrated Pest Management Center, the calculator is a collaborative effort of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, UC Integrated Pest Management and UC Davis to fill a major gap in rice research.

“I do think there are people who would have tried rotational crops in the past, but it’s just so unknown, we didn’t have anything we could give them and be like, ‘Hey, this is the recommended crop for your area,’” said Whitney Brim-DeForest, UC Cooperative Extension rice advisor. “This tool gives them some preliminary data they can use to make a more informed decision.”

Crop Rotation a Potential Boon to Growers, Environment

UC Davis doctoral student Sara Rosenberg and Brim-DeForest, alongside other members of the UC rice research team, surveyed California rice growers in 2020 on their experiences with and perceptions of crop rotation. Although the practice is rare in the Sacramento Valley (only an estimated 10% of rice acreage is under rotation), some farmers reported benefits that could be crucial in a water-scarce future.

“From having conversations with growers who do rotate, one of the biggest benefits they describe is their flexibility in times of drought, where they can keep producing on their land when there isn’t enough water to grow rice,” said Rosenberg, noting that crop rotation could be one option in a “toolbox” of strategies that growers also use to manage fertilizer price shocks, herbicide resistance and other challenges.

During the ongoing drought that caused about half of California’s rice acreage to go fallow in 2022, Tibbitts said his water district was only able to allocate 10% of his usual allotment.
“With such a limited supply, it would have been tough to grow even one field of rice,” he said. “But it was enough water so that we could rent two of our fields to a tomato grower – tomatoes under drip irrigation use much less water than a flooded field of rice. We were also able to grow one field of sunflowers, which doesn’t need any irrigation at all if you can plant the seeds into existing moisture in the early spring.”

While drought is one motivating factor to rotate crops, Tibbitts said that on principle he avoids planting all his acreage in rice and “not have all (his) eggs in one basket.”
“My primary motivation for rotating into and out of rice has been to help with weed and disease control,” he added. “Crop rotation is a primary tool of IPM (integrated pest management), and I feel it has helped me greatly over the years.”

According to Brim-DeForest, rotating cropping systems can allow for the use of different weed control tools, such as different herbicide modes of action, and different cultural controls such as tillage, reducing the chances of selecting for herbicide-resistant weeds – an increasingly pervasive issue in rice systems.

Rosenberg noted that, in some situations – and depending on the crops in rotation – the practice can also disrupt the life cycles of insects and diseases and potentially improve soil structure and increase nutrient cycling and uptake, which may lead to a reduction in inputs such as fertilizer.

More Research on Crop Diversification Needed in Rice Systems

The benefits of crop rotation for California rice growers are largely theoretical and anecdotal, however, so the UC rice team is looking to add evidence-based grounding through a variety of studies – from looking at long-term effects on soil health indicators to testing various cover crops (which may deliver some benefits of diversification, similar to those of rotation).

“In California, there is no quantitative data on crop rotation in rice,” said Brim-DeForest. “You’d think after a hundred and some odd years (of UC agricultural research), all the research would have been done, but, no – there’s tons still to do.”

Through interviews with Sacramento Valley growers, researchers found that cost was frequently mentioned as a barrier to trying crop rotation, along with incompatible soil conditions and a lack of equipment, knowledge and experience.

To help clarify those economic uncertainties, the new calculator tool allows growers to enter baseline information specific to their circumstances – whether they rent or own their own land, whether they contract out the work to plant the rotational crop, and other factors. The calculator then generates potential costs and benefits of staying in rice versus rotating to dry beans, safflower, sunflower or tomato, during the first year and in an “average” year for those crops.

The upfront costs of rotation during “year one” can be daunting. Therefore, the tool only focuses on a short-term profitability perspective. Researchers are currently working on longer term modeling for crop rotation – incorporating the possibility of reduced herbicide use over time, and under different crop yield scenarios, for example – that could significantly change the growers’ calculus.

“You could actually be profitable in the long term, whereas this first, short glimpse is showing you a negative,” said Rosenberg.

In addition, thanks to collaboration with the UC IPM team, the rice rotation calculator is an evolving tool that will be continually improved based on user feedback and additional data. Brim-DeForest also said that it could be adapted to other cropping systems – for example, alfalfa going into another rotational crop.

The rice calculator tool can be found at: https://rice-rotation-calculator.ipm.ucanr.edu/.

Other contributors to the project include Bruce Linquist, Luis Espino, Ellen Bruno, Kassim Al-Khatib and Michelle Leinfelder-Miles of UCCE; Cameron Pittelkow of UC Davis; as well as UC IPM team members Chinh Lam, Tunyalee Martin and Hanna Zorlu; and the California rice growers and industry members who participated in the research.

2022-12-01T13:56:46-08:00December 1st, 2022|

Conversion to Organics Could Increase Food Prices, Shrink Farm Profits

By Peter Hecht, California Farm Bureau

A European Union policy goal to exponentially increase organic farming to 30% of all agricultural production by 2030 is expected to be considered by Gov. Gavin Newsom for next year’s budget. However, a new economic analysis says such a plan would dramatically increase the price of food for many consumers and jeopardize the solvency of organic farms.

California currently has an estimated 7.35 million acres of irrigated cropland, of which 460,000 acres—or 6%—is certified as organic and not all of that is farmed in any given year.

A preliminary analysis by ERA Economics, a Davis-based consultancy specializing in the economics of agriculture and water resources in California, focused on the potential challenges of applying the EU standards to one California crop: tomatoes. The state produces 95% of America’s processing tomatoes and the total annual tomato crop is valued at $1.2 billion.

Only 5% of California’s 228,000 processing tomato acreage is currently needed to meet consumer demand for organic. The study found that reaching 30% organic production by 2030 would cause substantial disruptions to the market. The farmgate price of conventional tomatoes was estimated to rise by more than 11%. And, importantly, the price for organic tomatoes was estimated to fall by 28% at the farmgate level—potentially putting the market price below the cost of production.

That could mean organic farmers would be forced to cease production, sell, or farm something else—a result that could potentially crash the organic market and ultimately drive-up consumer prices. Mandating an increase in organic acreage without a clear connection to consumer demand could result in market disruptions that would hurt farmers, farm employees and consumers alike, the study noted.

Any initial organic price drop would mostly benefit wealthier consumers who purchase organically grown products, with lower-income customers paying more for traditionally grown products. All tomato farmers, organic or not, could see reduced profits, according to the analysis.

“Farming works when we are able to grow what the consumer actually wants and not what government mandates. California consumers are already struggling to afford higher prices for food than other states because of government mandates and these types of proposals just make things worse,” said Jamie Johansson, president of the California Farm Bureau. “When the government increases the price of food, it acts like a regressive tax, hurting lower- and middle-income families the hardest. At the end of the day, the government needs to let organic markets grow organically.”

The study was funded by Californians for Smart Pesticide Policy, a coalition of farmers and businesses the rely on farmers, focused on educating policymakers on the benefits of modern scientific agricultural tools. It was undertaken on behalf of the California Bountiful Foundation, the 501(c)(3) science and research arm of the California Farm Bureau. The full report may be found at https://www.californiabountifulfoundation.com/research/.

A recently released report (https://www.fb.org/newsroom/farm-bureau-survey-shows-thanksgiving-dinner-cost-up-20) by the American Farm Bureau Federation shows that the average cost of a family’s Thanksgiving dinner—now $64.05—is up 20% from 2021 and nearly 36% from 2020.

The findings by ERA Economics include the following:

• To increase organic acreage for processing tomatoes from an average of 4% to 30% would represent a five- to six-fold increase in current acreage. Tomato growers and processors interviewed for the analysis confirmed industry data regarding consumers’ finite desire to purchase organic tomato products.

• Tomato growers may specialize in organic, non-organic or both, depending on market demands and conditions. By mandating a specific growing method, it could greatly impact the ability of farmers to keep their operation sustainable, both financially and as they encounter other challenges, such as climate change and pests and disease.

• Both conventional and organic farmers of processing tomatoes face risks of economic losses. Conventional growers, with likely reduced acreage, could see a 17% potential downside cost from expected earnings.

• Organic production presents greater risk of crop failure, higher production costs and lower crop yields. As a result, organic farmers are likely to see less stability. They face a potential downside cost of 36% of anticipated net returns, making it potentially unprofitable to grow organic processing tomatoes.

2022-11-23T09:00:36-08:00November 23rd, 2022|

USDA Invites Ag Producers to Respond Online to the 2022 Census of Agriculture

By Jodi Halvorson, USDA

Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) mailed survey codes to all known agriculture producers across the 50 states with an invitation to respond online to the 2022 Census of Agriculture at agcounts.usda.gov. The ag census is the nation’s only comprehensive and impartial agriculture data for every state, county, and territory. By completing the survey, producers across the nation can tell their story and help generate impactful opportunities that better serve them and future generations of producers.

The 2022 Census of Agriculture will be mailed in phases, with paper questionnaires following in December. Producers need only respond once, whether securely online or by mail. The online option offers timesaving features ideal for busy producers. All responses are due Feb. 6, 2023. Farm operations of all sizes, urban and rural, which produced and sold, or normally would have sold, $1,000 or more of agricultural products in 2022, are included in the ag census.

“The 2022 Census of Agriculture is a powerful voice for American agriculture. The information gathered through the ag census influences policy decisions that will have a tremendous impact on ag producers and their communities for years to come,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “I strongly encourage all farmers, no matter how large or small their operation, to promptly complete and return their ag census. This is your opportunity to share your voice, uplift the value and showcase the uniqueness of American agriculture.”

Collected in service to American agriculture since 1840 and now conducted every five years by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the Census of Agriculture is a complete picture of American agriculture today. It highlights land use and ownership, producer characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures, among other topics.

“Our farmers and ranchers have an incredible impact on our nation and the world. I want to thank them in advance for responding to the ag census,” said NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer. “We recognize how valuable their time is, so we have made responding more convenient and modern than ever before.”

Between ag census years, NASS considers revisions to the questionnaire to document changes and emerging trends in the industry. Changes to the 2022 questionnaire include new questions about the use of precision agriculture, hemp production, hair sheep and updates to internet access questions.

Responding to the Census of Agriculture is required by law under Title 7 USC 2204(g) Public Law 105-113. The same law requires NASS to keep all information confidential, to use the data only for statistical purposes, and only publish in aggregate form to prevent disclosing the identity of any individual producer or farm operation. NASS will release the results of the ag census in early 2024.

To learn more about the Census of Agriculture, visit nass.usda.gov/AgCensus. On the website, producers and other data users can access frequently asked questions, past ag census data, special study information, and more. For highlights of these and the latest information, follow USDA NASS on twitter @usda_nass.

2022-11-23T08:55:01-08:00November 23rd, 2022|

New Proposed Decision Released for Net-Energy Metering (NEM) 3.0

This month, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) released a new Proposed Decision (PD) for the Net Energy Metering Program, which they are now referring to as Net Billing Tariff (NEM 3.0). Below is a summary of some of the key points:

• The PD proposes to maintain an annual true-up.

• The PD proposes no changes to the NEM 1.0 or NEM 2.0 tariffs and customers will be able to remain on those tariffs as long as they do not significantly add to the existing project for 20 years from their initial interconnection date.

• The NEM 3.0 start date is a little vague, but if a completed application (that does not have significant and substantial errors) is submitted within 120 days of the final decision, the project will be  able to take service under the NEM 2.0 program.

• The PD proposes for non-residential customers to get credited for excess power based on the “avoided cost calculator.” This rate will be approximately between $0.06-$0.08/kWh. Projects that  have an energy storage component, such as a battery, will get a higher compensation rate.

• The PD proposes no changes to the NEM Aggregation program.

The CPUC hearing is set for next month. The Association will continue to closely monitor the issue. Click here for the full proposed decision.

2022-11-22T08:09:54-08:00November 22nd, 2022|

UCCE Water Management Expert Helps Save Water, Increase Supply in SoCal

By Saoimanu Sope, UCANR

Earlier this year, officials in Southern California declared a water shortage emergency resulting in restrictions such as limiting outdoor water use to one day of the week. While mandatory restrictions vary across the region, Amir Haghverdi, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and associate professor of agricultural and urban water management at UC Riverside, is using research to pinpoint irrigation strategies that will help communities reduce their demand for water and increase supply.

Haghverdi and his team are responding to a hotter and drier California by working to identify changes that can make a substantial difference in water savings.

While behavioral changes such as preventing leaks and turning the faucet off while brushing teeth can help, Haghverdi’s research focuses on methodical changes like stressing green spaces, planting drought-tolerant plant species, using non-traditional water sources, and investing in technology to better control water use.

Testing a lawn’s limits

For six years, Haghverdi and his team have performed stress tests on turfgrass to identify the lowest percent of evapotranspiration rate (ETo) that it can withstand and still survive. To do this, Haghverdi’s team applies different percentages of ETo, obtained from weather stations, and monitors the performance of each landscape species over time.
While both cool-season and warm-season species can be stressed and still maintain their aesthetic value for a few weeks to several months, Haghverdi’s results showed that warm-season turfgrass species require less water and can withstand water stress better.

The actual duration that people can apply less water depends on the type of turfgrass, the weather conditions and the stress level. For example, results showed that hybrid bermudagrass (a warm-season turfgrass) during summer in inland Southern California could keep its aesthetic value above the minimum threshold for 30 to 50 days, depending on the weather conditions, with irrigation application as low as 40% ETo.

In contrast, tall fescue, a cool-season turfgrass, even with 20% more water, showed signs of stress after only a few weeks and could not maintain its minimum acceptable quality.

Plant drought-tolerant species

Haghverdi’s work demonstrates that when water conservation is the goal, alternative groundcover species are clearly superior to all turfgrass species and cultivars that they have tested so far. In fact, his team has identified drought-tolerant species that can maintain their aesthetic values with a third to a quarter less water than cool-season turfgrass (as low as 20% ETo) and can even withstand no-irrigation periods.

Furthermore, extensive field trials showed that new plant species from different regions could be as resilient as native species in withstanding drought and heat stress while maintaining their aesthetic beauty and cool canopy. Occasionally, they have outperformed native species, underscoring the advantages of drought- and heat-tolerant species that are non-native.
Based on Haghverdi’s preliminary results for minimum irrigation requirement in inland Southern California, creeping Australian saltbush, a non-native species originally from Australia, and coyote bush, native to California, were top performers. Considering cooling benefits, drought tolerance and sensitivity to over-irrigation, creeping Australian saltbush performed the best.
Ph.D. students Anish Sapkota and Jean Claude Iradukunda collect plant physiological data to understand how native and non-native irrigated groundcover species respond to periods of water stress and limited irrigation applications in inland Southern California.

Counties are already using recycled water

Although he recommends renewing your landscape with drought-tolerant or low-water use greenery and identifying how long your green spaces can live without water, Haghverdi acknowledges that, while contradictory, the cooling benefits of landscape irrigation are essential in Southern California.

“This is one of the tradeoffs of water conservation,” said Haghverdi. “If the only goal is to conserve water, maybe people will conclude that we don’t have enough water to irrigate landscape.”

Water conservation efforts could influence counties to stop or reduce landscape irrigation. The consequences, however, would result in hotter environments due to the heat island effect. The loss of landscapes means that the sun’s energy will be absorbed into the ground, instead of prompting transpiration in plants, which helps keep environments cool.

Thus, stressing green spaces and investing in drought-tolerant plant species help reduce the demand for water, but increasing water supply is just as vital. Haghverdi urges Southern California counties to prioritize a supplemental water supply such as recycled water – an approach already implemented in Ventura, Orange and San Diego counties.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s Pure Water Southern California Program, formerly known as the Regional Recycled Water Program, aims to do just that. In partnership with the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, the program will further purify wastewater to produce a sustainable source of high-quality water for the region.

According to the program’s website, this would “produce up to 150 million gallons of water daily when completed and provide purified water for up to 15 million people, making it one of the largest water reuse programs in the world.”

Smart controllers save time, money and water

Making the best use of the water you already have relies on efficiency. Sprinklers that are poorly placed, for example, are not as effective as they could be.

“What I see often while walking my dog in the neighborhood is that there’s a lot of runoff, bad irrigation and bad timing like when it’s windy,” Haghverdi observed. “People usually set their irrigation timer and then forget it, but they don’t adjust it based on the season or weather parameters. That’s not going to help us conserve water, a precious resource, in California.”

Thankfully, Haghverdi and his team have done extensive research on smart irrigation controllers, which, simply put, are irrigation timers with a sensor built in. Generally, there are two types of smart irrigation controllers: weather- and soil-based controllers.

Weather-based controllers use evapotranspiration data to automatically adjust their watering schedule according to local weather conditions. Soil-based controllers measure moisture at the root zone and start irrigating whenever the reading falls below a programmed threshold.

Smart controllers that have flowmeters can detect leaks and be activated automatically, whereas rain sensors can stop irrigation during rainfall. Although both additions are ideal for large irrigation landscapes such as parks and publicly maintained green spaces, rain sensors are easy to install and effective for residential areas too.

When asked about cost being a hindrance, Haghverdi responded, “Not a lot of people know that there are grants for smart controllers – some that will pay either all or a majority of the cost.”

To check if grants are available in your area, interested individuals are encouraged to contact their local water provider.

“We need to move towards autonomous and smart irrigation [strategies], and water management in urban areas. That’s the future. If we can build autonomous cars, why can’t we build smart water management systems that apply the right amount of water to each plant species, can detect leaks and prevent water waste?” said Haghverdi.

To learn more about or stay updated on Haghverdi’s research, visit www.ucrwater.com.

2022-11-15T13:09:22-08:00November 15th, 2022|

Farm Robotics Competition Challenges Students to Solve Real-World Problems

By Hanif Houston

College students are invited to develop a robot that makes farm work easier while competing for cash prizes and bragging rights in the Farm Robotics Challenge, a three-month robotics development competition running from Feb. 1 to May 13, 2023.

The challenge is being sponsored by The VINE, an initiative of the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources focused on agricultural innovation, in partnership with the AI Institute for Next Generation Food Systems (AIFS), farm-ng robotics company, and the Fresno-Merced Future of Food (F3) Innovation coalition.

“Our primary objective for the Farm Robotics Challenge is to empower young innovators to explore careers in agriculture technology and innovation,” said Gabe Youtsey, chief innovation officer for UC ANR and head of the VINE. “The agrifood technology industry is one of the most exciting and fastest-growing sectors in the economy right now, estimated to reach $30.5 billion by 2050. Yet, because of a lack of exposure or access, our brightest minds end up entering other sectors, taking their talents and abilities with them. We hope this new competition changes that and reverses the talent flow back into agriculture.”

“In order to have a next-generation food system, we need next-generation agricultural robotics developers,” said Steve Brown, AIFS associate director. “There is tremendous innovation potential in this domain that just needs more connecting points to the coders and makers.”

The Farm Robotics Challenge is open to any university or college in the U.S. Student teams will be asked to address a production farming topic on any crop or size of farm, with a desired focus on small farms, by automating an essential farm-related task using the farm-ng robotics platform. Each campus will need to purchase a farm-ng robot or borrow one to participate in the challenge.

Specific challenges will either be pre-identified for teams to choose from, or teams may choose to create additional or custom functionality to solve a self-identified challenge. Challenges will fit into one or more of the following categories: autonomy, artificial intelligence or attachment. Virtual training sessions will be offered throughout the competition to provide teams with expert guidance and technical help from AIFS, farm-ng, The VINE and other partners.

Student teams will be judged on the following criteria, with a grand prize and several specific prizes for top teams in each category: accuracy and completeness, market fit and commercial potential, design elegance and ease of use, cost-effectiveness, safety, interdisciplinary inclusion, and social and economic impact. Winners will receive cash prizes and connections to robotic companies for internships and jobs, among other benefits.

For more information, please visit the Farm Robotics Challenge website at https://farmbot.ai. If you have questions, contact Hanna Bartram, AI Institute for Next Generation Food Systems project coordinator, at hcbartram@ucdavis.edu.

2022-11-11T09:04:22-08:00November 11th, 2022|

Nutjobs Wins AgSharks Pitch Competition

Nutjobs earned a record funding offer of $6 million during the fifth annual AgSharks Pitch Competition

Western Growers and S2G Ventures have announced the winner of the 2022 AgSharks Pitch Competition, with Nutjobs earning a record equity investment offer of $6 million from the event’s judges.

Nutjobs transforms nutshell waste into bio-benign plastic alternative products that are bio-based, compostable and derived from secondary agricultural waste. By transforming nutshell waste into bio-benign plastics, Nutjobs creates plastic substitutes that are cost effective and environmentally sustainable.

“We are thrilled to win the AgSharks competition, among such a strong group of finalists,” said Paul Kephart, Founder, CEO and CTO of Nutjobs. “It is opportunities like these that not only help companies spread the word about new ag-focused technologies, but also support our efforts to innovate further and scale our business. The network of growers, investors and industry leaders at this event is incredible, and many of these conversations are just the beginning of partnerships that will make a long-term difference across the food supply chain. We are grateful to S2G and Western Growers for hosting an outstanding event.”

In addition to investment capital, Nutjobs will receive international recognition, mentoring from WG and S2G, potential access to farm acreage to pilot their technologies and exposure to WG’s expansive network of leading fresh produce companies.

“Once again, the AgSharks competition has brought together top growers and entrepreneurs making advancements in the agriculture sector,” said Aaron Rudberg, Managing Director and COO at S2G Ventures. “We congratulate Nutjobs on being selected as the winner of this year’s competition. With increasing concerns about plastics in our soil systems, along with the prevalence of wasted food byproducts, Nutjobs’ upcycled solution addresses these issues in a unique way. We look forward to partnering with Paul and the team as they continue to make inroads in the space.”

“I’m excited because Nutjobs got a chance to pitch in front of the entire Western Growers membership, to show off their wares and brag about their tech,” said Walt Duflock, VP of Innovation at Western Growers. “That will accelerate their success – and we know that they are ready.”

The funding offer was awarded by S2G Ventures after Nutjobs competed against two other finalists inventing new technology solutions to solve agriculture’s most pressing issues. Besides Nutjobs, the finalists were:

En Solucion works in the agtech sector to improve food safety through development of novel methods for cleaning and sanitizing. Current projects include exploring the feasibility of employing nanotechnology to replace traditional post-harvest chlorine wash.
SWAN Systems helps water managers make the most out of every drop of water. The company’s configurable water and nutrient management software helps farmers make data-driven decisions about how much and when to irrigate; enabling them to apply only what is needed for optimal plant growth.

These startups pitched their inventions in front of an audience of more than 300 fresh produce farmers and industry leaders during the 96th WG Annual Meeting in Las Vegas on Nov. 2-5, 2022. In addition, Nutjobs was the Audience Choice Winner, as determined by the votes of those in attendance.

The competition was hosted by Stuart Woolf, President and CEO of Woolf Farming & Processing, and judged by Neill Callis, the General Manager of Turlock Fruit Company; Audre Kapacinskas, Principal at S2G Ventures; Rudberg; and Kristen Smith Eschaya, President of JV Smith Cos.

AgSharks was first held in 2017, and through the competition, past winners Hazel Technologies and Burro have since brought their products from development to market. Hazel Technologies has raised over $87.8 million in funding over six rounds and is advancing the industry with sachets that extend the shelf life of fresh produce by as much as three times. Burro raised a $10.9 million Series A round in September 2021 led by S2G Ventures and Toyota Ventures and continues to help solve farmers’ labor woes with the expansion of its fleet of autonomous robots to farms across the west.

2022-11-08T08:58:54-08:00November 8th, 2022|

CDFA Announces Recall of Raw Goat Milk Produced at Valley Milk Simply Bottled of Stanislaus County

By Steve Lyle, Director of Public Affairs, CDFA

Raw goat milk produced and packaged by Valley Milk Simply Bottled of Stanislaus County is the subject of a statewide recall and quarantine order announced by California State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones. The quarantine order came following the confirmed detection of the bacteria Campylobacter jejuni in the farm’s packaged raw whole goat milk sampled and tested by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

The order applies to “Valley Milk Simply Bottled Raw Goat Milk” and “DESI MILK Raw Goat Milk” distributed in half-gallon (64 oz) plastic jugs with a code date marked on the container of OCT 21 2022 through OCT 31 2022.

Consumers are strongly urged to dispose of any product remaining in their refrigerators, and retailers are to pull the product immediately from their shelves. The current order does not include the farm’s raw cow milk.

CDFA found the campylobacter bacteria in a routine sample collected at the Valley Milk Simply Bottled production and packaging facility. No illnesses have been reported.

Symptoms of campylobacteriosis include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever. Most people with camplylobacteriosis recover completely. Illness usually occurs 2 to 5 days after exposure to campylobacter and lasts about a week. The illness is usually mild and some people with campylobacteriosis have no symptoms at all. However, in some persons with compromised immune systems, it can cause a serious, life-threatening infection. A small percentage of people may have joint pain and swelling after infection. In addition, a rare disease called Guillian-Barre syndrome that causes weakness and paralysis can occur several weeks after the initial illness.

2022-10-25T08:11:48-07:00October 25th, 2022|
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