PARLIER, Calif. — The University of California and a nonprofit organization will share a $500,000 grant to develop a network for agricultural entrepreneurs.
The UC’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources and AgStart, which seeks to connect start-up businesses with researchers and investors, were awarded the grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
The money will go toward cultivating the Verde Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship (VINE), which will link businesses with mentors, advisers, collaborators, events, competitions and other services, according to the UCANR’s website.
“We want to make sure every Californian has the support system to take a novel idea and commercialize a new product or start a new business,” Glenda Humiston, the UC’s vice president for ag and natural resources, said in a statement. “They don’t have to be a university inventor. They could be a farmer or a young person.”
AgStart itself was established with federal grant funds and has supported more than 50 entrepreneurs and their companies since 2012. Last year the group helped 16 companies, including eight from outside the Central Valley region, explained John Selep, president of AgTech Innovation Alliance, AgStart’s sponsor.
Among the VINE’s contributors will be the UC’s nine research and extension centers, which can provide places to field-test products, university officials said. For instance, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Blue River Technology is testing its data-collecting ability by flying a drone over sorghum crops at the UC’s Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier.
The VINE will complement other innovation resource “clusters” around the state, including the Fresno-based BlueTechValley Regional Innovation Cluster, Western Growers’ Innovation and Technology Lab in Salinas and UC-Merced’s VentureLab, officials said.