By Pam Kan-Rice
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) has been awarded a $1 million UC Climate Action Innovation & Entrepreneurship grant for its VINE Climate-Smart Agrifood Innovation Program. The VINE, a UC ANR program advancing sustainable agriculture and food innovation, will use the grant to develop new technologies and techniques that help California farmers adapt to climate change.
“Expanded programming from The VINE will improve UC ANR’s overall ability to serve our mission of improving the lives of all Californians,” said Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
California’s agricultural sector is the largest in the United States, producing over 400 crops that account for 25% of the nation’s food production and 40% of its fruits, vegetables and tree nuts.
However, climate change is expected to have a significant impact on the productivity and resilience of California’s working landscapes. Higher temperatures and changing precipitation patterns are projected to increase water demand for crops and create a more limited growing season that will produce lower yields in some crops. Additionally, climate change may increase weed growth and insect damage, leading to higher uses of herbicides and pesticides.
“We are thrilled to receive the UC Climate Action Innovation & Entrepreneurship Award,” said Gabe Youtsey, UC ANR’s chief innovation officer. “With this grant, we will be able to support even more entrepreneurs and innovators in developing climate-resilient solutions for California’s agriculture and food systems.”
“Our ultimate goal is to build a bioeconomy in California’s food valleys that rivals Silicon Valley in size and importance to the future U.S. economy, while also addressing urgent climate crises and advancing equity for underserved populations,” Youtsey said.
The VINE Climate Smart Agrifood Innovation Program is designed to identify, commercialize, and scale science and technology breakthroughs that make food production more sustainable. The VINE team has already supported entrepreneurs in the areas of controlled environment agriculture, precision agriculture, robotics, biologicals, climate-resilient crops, livestock health, and other topics that have direct or indirect mitigating effects on climate change.
The UC Climate Action grant will enable The VINE program to expand its support for startups and entrepreneurs developing climate-resilient solutions for California’s food system. The program will include the creation of a VINE Climate Solutions Seed Fund, which will provide project support for testing, trialing and demonstrating agrifood technology products or services to support commercial expansion.
The VINE Navigator Service will be expanded to provide matchmaking, mentoring, talent identification, finance connections and technical assistance to entrepreneurs from UC campuses, across California, or startups around the globe that have climate solutions in the agrifood sector.
An example of this work is farm-ng, a farm robotics start-up based in Watsonville that The VINE has been advising. With the networking opportunities facilitated by The VINE, farm-ng was able to secure 20 new customers, generating an estimated $500,000 in revenue. The VINE’s involvement also enabled farm-ng to establish a professional manufacturing facility and employ local talent from disadvantaged communities.
The UC Climate Action award is part of a historic $185 million partnership between UC and the state of California to tackle the climate crisis, from developing new methods for carbon capture to creating innovative coping strategies for drought, wildfire and other impacts of a warming planet.
The VINE program aims to create a next-generation agrifood technology bioeconomy in California’s food valleys to promote sustainable economic growth, address climate crises, and advance equity for underserved regions and populations. The VINE team will work closely with local and regional partners to identify key industry-driven gaps and opportunities across the food system and provide critical support to startups and entrepreneurs developing new solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation.
For more information, please visit The VINE website: thevine.io.