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.




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