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Technology for the Food and Ag Economy

Farm-to-Fork Live! is broadening across the region… [it is an] opportunity to show the ag-tech and food-tech assets that we are growing in our community.” City of Woodland Mayor Xóchitl Rodríguez

part i: introductions to ag and food technology innovation in the region

On a balmy August afternoon, Valley Vision — together with Woodland Community College and AgStart — hosted “Farm-to-Fork LIVE! Technology for the Food and Ag Economy.” The event was the Season 1 finale of Valley Vision’s Farm-to-Fork LIVE! series, which features conversations on a range of topics, with leaders who are shaping the future of Farm-to-Fork in the Capital Region.

The event kicked off at Woodland Community College with welcome remarks from Woodland Community College President, Dr. Art Pimentel, and City of Woodland Mayor Xóchitl Rodríguez.President Pimentel highlighted Yolo County as a major agricultural area for the entire region, as well as the College’s role in preparing the region’s youth for the future and ensuring that there are opportunities for them to enter the workforce once they graduate. Mayor Rodríguez likewise emphasized food and agriculture as the base of the community, with food products being one of its top priorities.

Attendees listen to innovative Ag Panel at Farm-to-Fork Live! at Woodland Community College.

Following these welcome remarks,
Gabe Youtsey, Chief Innovation Officer at the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, provided an overview of global trends in food and agriculture technology. Youtsey drew attention to the serious threats facing sustainability in agriculture — climate change, resource challenges, shrinking wilderness, a projected increase in food demand. One of the ways to address these threats, Youtsey asserted, is to pluck at the so-called “low-hanging fruit” in food and agriculture, such as making use of robotics or growing food indoors. In addition, there needs to be an agriculture innovation system in California that brings in and hosts new people; opens up the space for different disciplines to get together and understand each other; and considers how to develop the workforce and its entrepreneurs.

The focal point of Part I was a panel discussion with food and agriculture leaders Dr. Martin Ruebelt, Head of Global Consumer Research and Development at Bayer Crop Science andDr. Amit Vasavada, Chief Technology Officer of Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. Trish Kelly, Valley Vision’s Managing Director, rounded out the panel as its facilitator.

The panel began with self-introductions and overview of their respective companies – one a global life science company and one a home-grown company establishing a global presence. Bayer Crop Science harnesses cutting-edge agricultural and environmental innovations, in pursuit of “Science for a Better Life.” The company strives to deliver solutions that help maximize farm yields, secure harvests from devastating disease and pests, and keep living spaces healthy and vibrant.  In the same respect, Marrone Bio Innovations creates products from microorganisms isolated from samples collected from unique niches and habitats such as flowers, insects, soil and composts. Their proprietary technology enables them to isolate and screen naturally occurring microorganisms and plant extracts to identify those that may have novel, effective and safe pest management or plant health-promoting characteristics.

Led by Kelly, Dr. Ruebelt and Dr. Vasavada discussed the most recent technological advancements in food and agriculture; the implications of these advancements on individuals and society as well as the industry; and the region’s role as one of the world’s hubs for food and agriculture innovation.

on the market rationale for operatilng in the region.

Dr. Vasavada explained that one of the reasons Maronne continues to expand its research and development operations in the region is the education pipeline available at the University of California Davis. UC Davis, one of the leading agricultural universities, provides Maronne with interns who are a perfect fit, many of whom return to work fulltime for the company after graduation. Dr. Ruebelt echoed this sentiment, describing the region as a powerhouse for academia, industry, and farmers to come together. He pointed out that people in the region have a passion and understanding of agriculture, having either grown up immersed in it, or gone to school for it, or perhaps both.

on emerging opportunities in the food and ag industry.

Dr. Vasavada submitted that artificial intelligence (AI) and sustainability are at the forefront of food and agriculture innovation. Additionally, he reflected on how to make use of data and information obtained in the field so that farmers can benefit. Dr. Ruebelt highlighted consumers’ desire for delicious, high-quality, organic food, and developing AI and robotics to address through the roof labor cost.

on current innovation relating to food and ag products.

According to Dr. Vasavada, the focus is likely to be on non-animal based products, such as almond milk and impossible meat. For Dr. Ruebelt, innovation in food will have a lot to do with the creation of new products enabling automation, in order to cut down labor and automize the process of growing and harvesting produce. Genetics can be controlled, but the real challenge in food growth is controlling the environment, especially because of the effects of climate change.

on regional support and the growth of the industry.

Dr. Vasavada emphasized regional partners need to help bridge the conversation between the people developing technology solutions for farmers and the farmers themselves. Additionally, they should fund students and give scholarships. For Dr. Ruebelt, regional partners need to continue the great effort of educating people on the advancements in agriculture, emphasizing how it is changing and evolving to address issues such as water quality, how to store energy, and how to feed people. This includes bringing science, technology, engineering, and math into schools early on.

part i: wrap-up

In their closing statements, Drs. Vasavada and Ruebelt reiterated the need to use technology in order to minimize inputs and maximize outputs, as well as the importance of sharing ideas, recognizing that one company cannot provide everything. The incredible ecosystem of food and agriculture players and partners in the region should be utilized to the fullest extent. The panel finished with an open forum, with questions and conversations that touched on information sharing; the accessibility of technology to small farmers; urban agriculture; and addressing ethical considerations related to new technology and processes.

Part I concluded with a brief presentation by John Hodgson on the proposed Woodland Research and Technology Park — a new technology hub going through the planning process in the City of Woodland, intended to serve an array of research and technology companies interested in locating and growing near U. C. Davis, and other research and technology institutions within the Sacramento region. 

part ii: the entrepreneur spotlight and reception

It’s not just an office; it’s a family.” Anat Bujanover, Saturas USA, Inc.

Part II of the event was an opportunity for attendees to tour AgStart in Woodland and hear from entrepreneurs about their respective technologies, and the ways that AgStart and other partners have helped them expand their capabilities and the reach of their companies.

AgStart, is a non-profit business incubator that is accelerating the growth of innovative food and agriculture technology companies, and strengthening the region’s innovation ecosystem.  Its network-centric incubation model offers mentorship and connections, providing access to resources that new companies need to thrive. Through Economic Development Administration funding support, AgStart is a partner with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources in the Verde Innovation Network (The VINE), facilitating a statewide network of incubators and accelerators. AgStart Sponsors include Bayer Crop Science and HM. CLAUSE.

AgStart Program Director Leanna Sweha gave an overview of AgStart’s missionKen Hiatt, Assistant City Manager of the City of Woodland, communicated Woodland’s natural resources and culture of innovation have shaped the future of food and agriculture for over a century. He also highlighted The Food Front — a movement dedicated to keeping Woodland at the forefront of food and agricultural responsibility by cultivating existing relationships and warmly welcoming new ones. Supervisor Don Saylor, of District 2, Yolo County, elaborated on Woodland and UC Davis’ extensive network of collaborators, not just in the region, but in several other parts of the world as well. AgStart’s President John Selep introduced some of AgStart’s entrepreneurs and underscored the importance of their work in advancing food and agriculture technology in the region and around the world:

Anat Bujanover, General Manager of Saturas USA, IncSaturas, an Israeli irrigation company, is making its first USA home in Woodland at AgStart.  Eighty percent of farmers irrigate their trees without any scientifically-based information. This causes water waste, affects the quality and quantity of the fruit, and reduces profitability. Although stem water potential (SWP) is scientifically recognized as the most accurate measurement of water status in plants, famers today can only use a manual, labor-intensive procedure for SWP measurement for optimal irrigation. Saturas’ SWP sensor-based precision irrigation system provides a solution that combines accuracy, ease of use, and affordability. It involves embedding sensors in the trunk, which provides direct contact with water tissues for accurate and continuous water status measurement.

Dr. Fatma Kaplan, Chief Executive Officer of Pheronym. Pheronym is a Davis-based ag biotech start-up that relocated to the region from Florida; it develops nontoxic solutions for plant protection. It is a tenant in the UC Davis-HM. CLAUSE Life Science Innovation Center. Without pesticides, there would be 50-80% crop loss globally, representing billions of dollars of financial loss to producers. Farmers have to use pesticides, but toxic chemical pesticides are being removed from the market. Nemastim™, Pheronym’s patented beneficial nematode conditioner, provides a safe and effective way to direct beneficial nematodes to attack target insects in a “pack,” resulting in a 5X insect kill rate as compared untreated nematodes. Pherocoat™, its patented seed treatment, directs plant-parasitic nematodes away from healthy roots

Daniel Cathey,Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Inputs. Daniel is a UC Davis graduate and home-grown entrepreneur. Inputs is an online agricultural marketplace which helps farmers obtain the best prices for their inputs while providing broader market reach, shorter sales cycles, reduced costs, and increased sales for retailers. Inputs addresses key pains facing growers and retailers, while bringing added value to both sides of the marketplace.

All three entrepreneurs noted the value they receive from being part of the region’s innovation ecosystem – the access to rich resources through UC Davis, AgStart, HM.CLAUSE, farmers, other companies, local jurisdictions, network partners supporting the food and ag economy, and overall community support. Attendees then had the opportunity to converse with one another while enjoying a selection of locally-sourced wines and snacks. 

Valley Vision is grateful to its partners for the opportunity to collaborate in bringing Farm-to-Fork to the forefront of community discussion and engagement. We look forward to continuing our work in this area, and we hope to see you at Season 2 of our series!  If you’d like to receive updates about future events, we invite you to subscribe to our Food and Agriculture newsletter.

Look for information on next Season’s Farm-to-Fork Live Series!

Isa Avancena is Valley Vision Project Associate supporting our Innovation & Infrastructure impact area, as well as an Executive Assistant to Valley Vision CEO Bill Mueller, and Managing Director Trish Kelly.

TechEdge 2019: Innovation and the Internet of Things

Last week, a room full of innovators, entrepreneurs, tech executives, networkers, and overall enthusiasts of tech and innovation within our region was hosted by the Sacramento Business Journal for the annual TechEdge at the Sheraton Grand Hotel. The conference kicked off with Congresswoman Doris Matsui setting the tone – identifying the disruption of tech as central to everything, because it touches everything that we do (i.e. the Internet of Things or IoT).

The Congresswoman further emphasized that as we gear up to be one of the first cities to offer 5G wireless technology,  we must expand access to ensure that everyone in our community has the means to participate in the world via the Internet. Mayor Darrell Steinberg also spoke on the city’s economic divide, but that Sacramento is open to the possibilities connected to the coming economic revolution that technology is bringing.

A series of topical panels with impressive speakers discussed startup funding, Sacramento and the future of mobility, new media technology, the intersection of sports, business, gaming and technology, the Internet of Things (IoT), government efforts to champion innovation through technology, the future of medical technology, and AgTech in the region.

Congresswoman Doris Matsui welcomed attendees

Four leading companies were recognized as this year’s game changers: Engage3 (an artificial intelligence (AI) and pricing innovator), Neurovision(surgical products), Rhombus Systems (security video surveillance), and Thinci (AI). These local companies have recently received significant resources to scale and grow business and jobs. Key themes of the day included entrepreneurship, disruption, utility of technology, access and adoption, and using technology to advance our region’s competitive edge across all industries.

The Sacramento Business Journal will provide articles and transcripts of the panel discussions in their May 3 print edition. If you’d like to learn more about Valley Vision’s work in the Innovation and Infrastructure space, please visit our website.

Sonia Duenas is a Valley Vision Project Associate contributing to the 21st Century Workforce, Innovation and Infrastructure, and Leadership & Civic Engagement impact areas.

FCC Chairman Gets a Taste of California’s Digital Divide

Photo credit: Douglas Taylor

In a quest to understand what the Digital Divide looks like from the vantage point of America’s farmers and rural residents, Federal Communications Chairman, Ajit Pai, spent time on the ground last week in the Sacramento region.

Hosted by Valley Vision and the Sacramento Metro Chamber, the Chairman visited agricultural sites in Yolo County and heard first-hand from farmers, business and community leaders about the Divide, literally 10 miles away (as the crow flies) from the state capitol of California – the fifth largest economy in the world. The tour of the region’s rich agricultural areas kicked off Monday morning at the Muller Ranch just outside of the City of Woodland. A group of about 20 regional, state and federal broadband experts and local business and community leaders was graciously hosted by ranch owner Frank Muller. Frank also serves as Chairman of the Board of Pacific Coast Producers and is a Member of the California State Food and Agriculture Board. In addition, his ranch serves as a site for Valley Vision’s Yolo County agricultural technology (AgTech) pilot funded by the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) and in partnership with California State University, Chico.

Frank welcomed the group and gave an overview of ranch operations, his role on State Ag Board and his work with Pacific Coast Producers. Muller Ranch grows diversified crops such as tomatoes, almonds, walnuts, grapes and vegetables on 10,000 acres in several different fields. Chairman Pai, dressed for a day in the fields in jeans and a hoodie, listened intently and engaged in the discussion as members of the group shared their individual stories. Frank gave examples of the impacts of the lack of high-speed internet, or broadband, from two perspectives. From the business side, the lack of broadband coverage in his fields inhibits the use of AgTech that can help farmers manage operations for increased resource efficiency and productivity.

Frank held up two pieces of equipment designed for the purpose of measuring water in the soil. The first, the reliable old tool that pulls a sample of soil that is analyzed for moisture by eye and touch. The second, a rod inserted into the ground with sensors on top that capture measurements for soil moisture and nitrogen level, which along with other data points, are uploaded to ‘the cloud’ for analysis and ability to apply accurate, real-time, prescriptive treatments. The return on investment of such technology is estimated to be 18-19 percent, according to Sunne Wright McPeak, President & CEO of CETF.

Frank described how this type of predictive analysis is the future of farming. The challenge for Frank, however, is access to a reliable broadband signal capable of uploading the information in real-time. Susan Strachan of CSU Chico’s Geographical Information Center, (which conducts broadband mapping for the California Public Utilities Commission), shared an overview of the Yolo County on-farm mobile broadband mapping project of 155 farms that she conducted for the AgTech Pilot and the results of tests on Muller Ranch. This granular mapping of coverage highlights where signals are clearly lacking as compared to higher level coverage maps. These types of tests and mapping help make broadband coverage and availability mapping much more accurate. This is vital for several reasons, including that eligibility for federal and state funding is based on the mapping data. This is the first project of its kind in the country. The Chairman also experienced first-hand the lack of cell phone coverage in Frank’s conference room, underscoring the disadvantage that ag businesses experience on a daily basis.

The second perspective Frank shared with the Chairman related to personal impacts of the lack of broadband. At his grandson’s home, a family with three school-age children who live a half-mile away, only one person at a time can effectively use the Internet at home. Fortunately, for his grandson, he has only to travel a half-mile away to his grandpa’s place to get online and get his homework done. But Frank and many others in community are concerned about those who aren’t quite as fortunate. The impact of the Digital Divide is felt heavily by those without reliable, high-speed internet access at home. How far will this Divide leave them behind in today’s digital economy?

The group then took a quick drive into the City of Woodland to visit AgStart, an innovative AgTech incubator where the group was welcomed by John Selep, President of AgStart; Leanna Sweha, Program Manager, AgStart; and Ken Hiatt, Assistant City Manager, City of Woodland. John provided an overview of the incubator, the programs, and participation in the VINE (Verde Innovation Network, funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration i-6 Innovation grant), a partnership with the University of California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources. The incubator helps local entrepreneurs grow and thrive in the food and agricultural space; these entrepreneurs provided the ag technologies used for the AgTech Pilot. The potential of innovative AgTech to improve the efficiency and productivity of the food system is exciting and seemingly unlimited. However, even in a state considered a power-house of technology, the lack of adequate broadband coverage, with adequate download and upload speeds to meet today’s business needs – let alone tomorrow’s – is a major barrier. This connectivity is essential not only on-farm but in town. Ken noted that Woodland is home to more than 100 food and ag companies, including processors and R&D – a vital part of the regional economy. Yet an updated map showing broadband grades across region, based on speed, number of providers, cost, and reliability of service, among other factors, had dismal showings for Yolo County.

The final stop for Chairman Pai was Wilson Vineyards in Clarksburg. There, the group was greeted by David Ogilvie, Vineyard Manager, Wilson Vineyards, Director of Production, Muddy Boot Wine and Silt Wine Co. David’s fields are also a site for the AgTech Pilot. David provided a tour of the vineyards and described a new project with soil moisture probes and solar panels.  Similar to Muller Ranch, Wilson Vineyards is also challenged with access to broadband coverage capable of supporting his ambitions for advancing efficiencies through AgTech which are providing a 10-15% improvement. Some of the fields also lack cell phone coverage, stalling real time decision making and management. These challenges have spurred David’s involvement helping to solve the issue. For several years running, and in addition to serving the demands of farming and family, David has been an active leader of the Metro Chamber’s Cap-to-Cap federal advocacy program’s Food & Agriculture Committee. The meetings the Food & Ag team leaders held with the FCC while in Washington DC over the past two years, and the innovative AgTech Pilot, were the catalysts for the Chairman’s visit to Yolo County.

The evening before the field tours, the Chairman participated in a small roundtable discussion with local broadband, food and ag and rural development leaders. The evening included a signature Farm to Fork dining experience at Mulvaney’s B&L. Special thanks to broadband champions Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor, and California State Food and Agriculture and California Broadband Councilmember Joy Sterling, for their dedicated commitment to making sure all Californians have true connectivity.

Chairman Pai said he was very impressed by the level of collaboration and partnership shown at each stop along the visit, showcasing the special connectedness of our region across all aspects of the food and ag economy and the community. Valley Vision and the Metro Chamber, in partnership with the FCC, and all the leaders who joined in hosting the FCC Chairman and telling our story, look forward to delivering on our shared mission to close the Digital Divide. Valley Vision manages the CPUC-funded Connected Capital Broadband Consortium. Materials on the AgTech Pilot project, broadband mapping and grades by county and community, and the Yolo County on-farm mapping project can be found on Valley Vision’s website.

Trish Kelly is Managing Director at Valley Vision working on Food & Ag, the 21st Century Workforce and Broadband Access and Adoption.

Trish Kelly Talks “The Business of Food and Ag”

On Thursday, March 14th Sacramento Business Journal hosted the second Business of Food and Ag event at the Milagro Center in Fair Oaks. The event, sponsored by Bank of America, was a moment for regional leaders and those vested in the progress of this industry sector, to come together and dive into some of the most pressing issues relating to food and Ag.

Valley Vision’s Managing Director Trish Kelly was invited to participate as a research expert on the food and ag industry cluster, as well as on related workforce issues. Trish joined Thaddeus Barsotti, Chief Farmer and Co-CEO of Farm Fresh to YouBill Easton, President and Winemaker of Terre Rouge & Easton Wines, and Joel Wilkerson, Food Safety Manager for Produce Express on a panel called “Food for Thought: Challenges and Changes in the Sacramento Agricultural Industry.” The conversation was an opportunity to identify situations affecting the landscape, understand how we can better support the region’s food economy, and the steps we can we take to do so.

One of the most significant changes happening in agricultural, as well as other industries, has been the adoption of increased technology in response to new labor regulations, labor shortages, and the decline of farm owners and operators, given that the average age of farmers is 58 years old. But for Bill Easton, whose wine grapes sit high in the Sierra Foothills, mostly inaccessible to large farm equipment, he depends heavily on a migrant labor force to pick and sort his vines. Thaddeus, who is supportive of the new minimum wage, notes that increased labor costs mean farmers, like himself, must adjust and offset those costs to continue business. “Labor is an issue for all companies, even at the large scale farming operations we see crop selection move away from things that require hand harvesting or certain crops leave the state entirely.” It is no secret that the Central Valley provides a considerable portion of the country’s fresh produce. Understanding that the landscape is changing, organizations like Valley Vision, and the Sacramento Area Council of Government (SACOG), are working to provide research and information on which crops could be better value replacement options and how to create more localized supply chains that will support the region’s food economy.

Trish cited the opportunity for increased purchasing of locally grown produce and new market opportunities for farmers through institutional procurement by schools, hospitals, and other entities such as the Golden 1 Center. Valley Vision is conducting a case study on the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD)’s successful food procurement model. SCUSD is working to increase the amount of locally purchased food products directly from both growers and local food distributors for their student meal programs. So far, they have been highly cost-effective in serving 45,000 meals a day, which has allowed the SCUSD to expand its sourcing of locally grown food, qualify more families for free and reduced-cost meals, and provide fresher, from scratch, meals to the students.

Likewise, at UC Davis Health, Executive Chef Santana Diaz is shifting the procurement process to locally sourced products, providing healthier and fresher foods to patients, staff, and visitors, and doing their part to support the regional economy. In the last year, Chef Diaz increased the amount of locally purchased food by 40%, reducing its greenhouse gas emission along the way! Similarly, Produce Express, which is a supplier of fresh produce to both SCUSD and UC Davis Health, has recognized the potential for serving institutional clients, expanding its operations from serving primarily restaurants to also serving local institutions like hospitals and schools, which often have more challenging procurement processes.  According to Joel: “These places have huge commitment to feed a lot of people… We hang our hat on the Farm to Fork model and are committed to helping it grow.”

Connecting the conversation to future opportunities, Trish noted that the Brooking Institutionwhich conducted an analysis of the Capital region economy in 2018, identified the food and Ag cluster is a cornerstone for growth and leadership in sustainability. In response, Valley Vision, the Greater Sacramento Economic Council, the Sacramento Metro Chamber, and SACOG, along with other partners, are developing a more cohesive strategy to catalyze the cluster. As part of this effort, Valley Vision is assisting the region’s community colleges, workforce boards, and employers strengthen the region’s ag-related education and workforce programs. See research and proceedings from the recent workforce forum held at Woodland Community College that presented new data from the Center of Excellence at Los Rios. As technology becomes an even greater aspect of the business of ag, the workforce will need new skills to be ready for the future of work. Programs like the newly-certified farm and farm manager apprenticeship program developed by the Center for Land-Based Learning are including technology skills in this non-traditional training program. Ag is truly a sector that is rooted in our history while looking toward a dynamic future.

Overall, events like the Business of Food and Ag are imperative if we are to move forward and to bridge the divide between people and helping them understand the food they eat. Making these connections, that otherwise would go unnoticed and misunderstood, is critical if we are going to ensure our region remains the Farm to Fork Capital.

Emma Koefoed is a Valley Vision Project Associate contributing to the 21st Century Workforce and Food and Agriculture impact areas. 

Valley Vision Cohosts Americas Competitiveness Exchange 10

The tenth Americas Competitiveness Exchange arrived in Sacramento on Thursday, following five days of exploring sites across Northern California representing a broad swathe of the Megaregion’s robust innovation ecosystem.

Before arriving in Sacramento, the delegation of 50 high-level decision makers representing 23 different countries across the Western Hemisphere and beyond, visited multiple sites in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Salinas, Los Banos and Fresno. The purpose of the ACE program is for participants to make connections with the local community and explore opportunities for ongoing partnerships in research, trade, economic development, and more. Valley Vision‘s strong connections to federal partners through AgPlus and other initiatives were key to Northern California being the location of the exchange, with Valley Vision and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources serving as organizers and hosts.

Click here for video highlights from the ACE 10 delegation’s activities in the Sacramento region!

Upon arriving in Sacramento, the group was hosted by the Sacramento Kings in the Golden 1 Center Assembly room, where they were welcomed by Congresswoman Doris Matsui, Sacramento City Mayor Darrell Steinberg, and President of Business Operations for the Sacramento Kings, John Rinehart. A panel discussion, moderated by Valley Vision’s Chief Executive, Bill Mueller, explored the public-private partnerships involved in building the arena as an anchor asset for community revitalization and economic development. Featured panelists were Arlen Orchard, General Manager and CEO of SMUD; Danielle Casey, a new Executive Vice President with the Greater Sacramento Economic Council; and Louis Stewart, Chief Innovation Officer for the City of Sacramento. Each of the speakers and panelists shared their perspectives on why it was important to work together in bringing the arena to downtown Sacramento and how it serves as a regional and community asset. After the panel discussion, participants were treated to a tour of the most technologically advanced and sustainably operated sports arena in the world by Ryan Montoya, Chief Technology Officer for the Sacramento Kings and member of the Valley Vision Board of Directors.

The next stop in Sacramento was the Urban Hive at the Cannery where the participants saw another urban revitalization project in the former cannery transformed into a sleek and creative co-working and event space. A panel discussion of nine women leaders representing various aspects of the Sacramento region’s innovation ecosystem was masterfully moderated by Valley Vision’s Meg Arnold. As noted by Meg, the job of moderating was made easier by the powerhouse of talent serving on the panel including Amanda Blackwood, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce; Cynthia Carrillo, Regional Director for the Greater Sacramento Economic Council; Katherine Cota, Executive Director for the new Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at California State University Sacramento; Kathy Kossick, Executive Director with the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency; Debbie Lowe Muramoto, Director of the Women’s Business Center, California Capital Financial Development Corporation; Gina Lujan, Founder and CEO of Hacker Lab; Tracey Schaal, Executive Director for Power Inn Alliance; Dr. Amy Schultz, Dean of Career, Continuing, and Technical Education at Sierra College; and Molly Weber, Founder and CXO of the Urban Hive. Additional speakers included Evan Schmidt, Director of Evaluation and Strategy for Valley Vision, Brooks Ohlson, Director of the Los Rios Community College District Center for International Trade and Development, and Ian Steff, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing with the Department of Commerce International Trade Administration. Local farmer David Ogilvie also warmly welcomed the group to Sacramento and reflected that many of the challenges he faces as a farmer in a small community are similar to the challenges ACE 10 participants face in their own home countries.

After the event at the Urban Hive, ACE 10 participants and local community leaders split into tables of ten at farm-to-fork restaurants in Sacramento for small group discussion dinners. The Dinner Discussion sponsors were the City of Davis, the City of Elk Grove, the City of Sacramento, Los Rios Community College District, Center for International Trade and Development, Sacramento State University, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, Sierra College, and Raley’s. The small group discussion dinners received rave reviews, with many ACE 10 participants commenting that these dinners allowed for in-depth conversations to occur and strong connections to develop – not to mention the best Farm-to-Fork food experience of the entire trip!

Friday morning kicked off with a welcome breakfast hosted by Sacramento State University at the Leland Stanford Mansion, where university President, Dr. Robert Nelsen welcomed the group and shared his pride in Sacramento State. His pride is well placed in the recognition the university received from the American Association of State Colleges for Excellence in Innovation for successful strategies to increase graduation rates and reduce achievement gaps. Following Dr. Nelsen’s remarks, Brian Lenihan, the newly appointed Executive Director for SelectUSA with the U.S. Department of Commerce had an opportunity to address the group and share the importance of building strong trade relationships.

Following the welcome breakfast, the group relocated to the first floor ballroom where Congressman Ami Bera, California’s 7th District, welcomed the ACE 10 participants to Sacramento. The group then had an opportunity to hear an interactive policy dialogue with state and local policy leaders. The discussion was moderated by Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry, California District 4. The panelists were Secretary Karen Ross, California Department of Food and Agriculture; Awinash Bawle, Deputy Director of International Affairs with the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development; and Dr. Alberto Ayala, Executive Director with the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District. The aim of the panel discussion was to highlight how, by working together, we can address some of the most significant challenges we face globally through embracing the new connections, partnerships, and possibilities.

The welcome breakfast and policy dialogue were following by a full afternoon at UC Davis that will require another entire blog to cover. On the way back to Sacramento from UC Davis the group stopped in West Sacramento for a tour of the Bayer Crop Science facility where they were welcomed by West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon.

ACE 10 culminated with a closing dinner at the California Museum attended by local community partners. Dr. Stacy MacAfee with the University of the Pacific provided closing remarks along with Assistant City Manager, Mike Jasso, with the City of Sacramento. The Honorable Manuel Laboy, Secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce for Puerto Rico was on hand for Puerto Rico to receive the hand-off for ACE 11.

Overall, the ACE 10 event was an opportunity to raise the profile of the Capital region’s innovation ecosystem assets nationally and internationally. This objective was well accomplished, along with making new connections and becoming part of a network of global innovators seeking a brighter, more prosperous future for all. A big shout out to our sponsors for their support in accomplishing this objective. Many thanks to CALED, Los Rios Community College District, Center for International Trade Development, California State University Sacramento, Carlsen Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, SMUD, Power Inn Alliance, Sacramento State University, University of the Pacific and Visit Sacramento for helping us warming welcome our international guests to the Capital region.

To see video highlights from the ACE 10 delegation’s activities in the Capital region, see the videos for Day 5 and Day 6! See also the ACE 10 Website and Trip Book!

Tammy Cronin is a Valley Vision Project Leader working in the 21st Century Workforce and Innovation and Infrastructure strategies.

California to Host Tenth Americas Competitiveness Exchange

Senior Officials from Across the Western Hemisphere and other Nations to Visit Northern California’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hubs.

Valley Vision and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, along with other partners are hosting the 10th Americas Competitiveness Exchange on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ACE 10) October 21 – 27. The selected ACE 10 participants will be visiting innovation ecosystem assets at several sites across the Northern California megaregion. The ACE 10 program will be coming through the Capital region on October 25th and 26th.  Sites the ACE 10 delegation will visit in the Capital region include the Golden 1 Center, the Urban Hive, and UC Davis.

October 12, 2018 – WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) and Economic Development Administration (EDA), in coordination with the U.S. Department of State and the Organization of American States (OAS), announced that 50 high-level representatives from 24 countries will participate in the Tenth Americas Competitiveness Exchange (ACE) on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. ACE 10 will take place on October 21-27, 2018, in Northern California.

ACE brings together decision-makers from the Western Hemisphere and beyond to explore global and regional partnerships, and economic development opportunities to establish new global commercial relationships.

ACE 10 will showcase Northern California’s unique entrepreneurial and innovation assets. This year, the program will focus on the intersection of these assets across four global areas of opportunity: improving health, feeding the world, maximizing economic resources, and fostering resiliency.

The delegation will tour leading innovation clusters in San Francisco, Salinas, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Fresno, Davis and Sacramento built around industries such as information technology; food and agriculture; energy and clean technologies; life and environmental sciences, including marine technologies and manufacturing.

“ACE continues to succeed in its goal of advancing commerce and accelerating business opportunities throughout the Western Hemisphere,” said John Andersen, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere. “We’re excited to host the tenth iteration of this program in Northern California, where the delegation will have the unique opportunity to forge partnerships with California’s leaders in advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, aerospace, and agriculture technology.”

“ACE has been instrumental in showcasing the incredible innovation capacity of U.S. regions and has proven critical in establishing global commercial relationships that can support U.S. business objectives,” said Dennis Alvord, EDA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Affairs. “Northern California is a world-renowned center of innovation and entrepreneurship activity and we look forward to showcasing the incredible work that the Department of Commerce and regional leaders are doing to advance the innovation economy.”

For more information about the ACE program please visit: For more information on ACE 10, please visit:

International Trade Administration (
The International Trade Administration (ITA) is the premier resource for American companies competing in the global marketplace. ITA has more than 2,200 employees assisting U.S. exporters in more than 100 U.S. cities and 75 markets worldwide.

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration (

The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.

International Delegation Will be Looking for Trade, Research, Partners

By Mark Anderson – Staff Writer, Sacramento Business Journal

An international delegation for entrepreneurship and innovation will tour Northern California this fall, ending with a week-long tour of Davis and Sacramento to study advanced food and agricultural business ecosystems.

The tour will also focus on innovation, science and research, said Trish Kelly, managing director of the local research and advocacy group Valley Vision. “This is food and ag in a big sense.”

This is the first time the Americas Competitiveness Exchange has visited Northern California. The 50 members of its tour group will include government ministers, academics and entrepreneurs looking to forge trade, business ties and research partnerships, she said.

“These events are very focused on outcomes. They want to make connections,” Kelly said.

The tour group will include members from Canada, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America, as well as Germany and Israel.

The University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, which is based in Davis, is a primary sponsor of the tour, along with Valley Vision.

Some of the highlights of the local tour will be the University of California Davis, the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Sciences and Golden 1 Center, as well as some local food companies, beverage purveyors and briefings on local food systems, Kelly said.

Read full article on the Sacramento Business Journal website.

Touring the Region’s Food and Ag Ecosystem

August kicked off with a focus on many aspects of our region’s food and ag systems, including a site visit from Bryan Zulko, our USDA Rural Development federal representative for the Central Valley AgPlus Food and Beverage Manufacturing Consortium. The visit was a follow up to the Metro Chamber’s May Cap-to-Cap trip, where the Food and Ag Committee connected with our federal agency partners as well as congressional delegation to advance our regional food economy. Valley Vision hosted Bryan for a week-long tour showcasing some of the region’s diverse assets, with opportunities to discuss some of our key challenges and brainstorm strategies and approaches given the still evolving changes in Washington, and taste some of our delicious farm-to-fork bounty.

Site visit highlights included: a special meeting of the Chamber’s Food and Ag Committee to discuss our policy priorities, especially pervasive rural broadband gaps and workforce needs, and upcoming topics for the 2018 Farm Bill; a meeting with Woodland city leaders and tour of Boundary Bend Olive Oil company; a visit with Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry in Winters to discuss broadband and food hub development topics; a tour of the Delta hosted by Muddy Boot Wine’s David Ogilvie, Food and Ag Committee Co-Chair, which included a visit to Greene and Hemly in Courtland where packing of the pear harvest was underway; a meeting of the several nonprofit partners at Leataata Floyd School, future site of the Food Literacy Center’s learning center, including the Food Literacy Center, the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services, River City Food Bank, Alchemist CDC (which has a USDA grant for a food business incubator feasibility study), and Sacramento City Unified School District; and a tour of the future site of the Food Factory incubator in downtown Sacramento.

The Week culminated with the Metro Chamber’s annual State of Agriculture event – Crushing It: How the Wine Industry is Influencing AgricultureFour hundred regional food and ag supporters had the opportunity to network along “Winery Row,” sampling wines from 15 local wineries and meeting winemakers, then hearing about the important impact of the wine industry on the regional economy from wine industry leaders.

As noted by Congresswoman Doris Matsui, “A little less than five years ago, our region planted a flag in the ground and proclaimed ourselves the Farm-to-Fork Capital of America. While it was an acknowledgement of what we already knew, Sacramento is the heart of the breadbasket for the world, the designation recognized that we should play to our strengths and be proud of our heritage. The greater Sacramento region has over 200 wineries and that is something to celebrate. In our 21st century economy the intersection of agriculture and technology continues to be pivotal and I want Sacramento to embrace its agricultural heritage as a way to tap into this economic boom.”

Keynote speaker John Aguirre, President of the California Winegrape Growers Association, and a stellar panel discussed some of the major trends and challenges the industry is facing as it seeks to maintain a competitive edge in both California and the Capital region. Click here for a video by KVIE!

We closed the week with a continuing appreciation for the incredible people and places that make our region a center of ongoing collaboration, innovation and support for all aspects of our regional food system. Thanks to Bryan, we have new resources and connections for our mission and look forward to seeing him on Cap to Cap 2018!


Trish Kelly is Managing Director of Valley Vision, leading the food system, workforce, and broadband portfolios.