Project is a Joint Effort of the University of California, Merced; Fresno State; the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources; and the Central Valley Community Foundation
- Felicia Matlosz
SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday, September 23, signed a bill that includes allocating $30 million in State funds to establish the Fresno Future of Food Corridor, a project to establish an innovative, worldclass center devoted to promoting sustainable agriculture and jobs in the Central Valley.
The project, also known as “F3” and “The Fresno-Merced Future of Food Innovation Corridor,” is a joint
collaboration of the University of California, Merced; Fresno State; the University of California Division of
Agriculture and Natural Resources; and the Central Valley Community Foundation. The effort is a product of the Fresno D.R.I.V.E. initiative led by the Central Valley Community Foundation.
The San Joaquin Valley is the top agriculture producer in the nation and impacts agriculture on a global scale. The Fresno Future of Food Corridor will spark advancements that continue to modernize the industry and expand its influence and importance.
Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) and State Senator Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) pushed for the project and its funding to be included in Senate Bill 170, one of the budget bills for 2021. The bill becomes law on January 1, 2022.
Assemblymember Arambula said: “I’m deeply grateful for Governor Newsom’s stalwart support for projects that will impact the Central Valley. The Fresno Future of Food Corridor will bring together innovation, technology, and creativity in advancing sustainable agriculture in our region. This will benefit not only our region but California and beyond. The project also will help fuel the economic development of the Valley by creating 21st century jobs for future generations.”
Arambula also said he greatly appreciated the support for the project from State Senator Melissa Hurtado, DSanger; State Senator Andreas Borgeas, R-Fresno; Assemblymember Devon Mathis, R-Visalia; Assemblymember Frank Bigelow, R-Madera; and Assemblymember Robert Rivas, D-Hollister.
State Senator Caballero said: “This historic investment in a sustainable, eco-friendly agricultural program will allow California to remain one of the top food-producing regions in the country. As the environment changes and the agricultural industry faces new challenges, innovation is key. Supporting research and the development of new techniques will protect livelihoods, introduce new economic opportunities, and secure the future of California produce.”
The F3 project will combine the research expertise of the University of California and the California State
University systems with the knowledge of leaders in agri-business, research, and development in the Central San
Ashley Swearengin, CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation, also welcomed news: “The State of California’s financial support for the Future of Food Innovation is a significant investment in the future of the Central Valley economy – an economy that is vibrant, diverse, and developed in partnership with industry, small businesses, academic, and community stakeholders. It would not have been possible but for the work of the Newsom Administration, Assemblymember Arambula, Senator Caballero, and legislative leadership.”
Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, President of Fresno State, said: “Fresno State’s 100-plus years of legacy in agriculture and engineering research, education, and innovation uniquely position the university to co-lead this important regional economic and human development endeavor in partnership with the University of California, the Central Valley Community Foundation and industry and community partners. F3’s robust goals to develop the Innovation Center for Research in Engineering, Ag-Food Technology and Entrepreneurship (iCREATE), a new jointly developed and jointly offered Ph.D. program between Fresno State and UC Merced, and many other human development initiatives will have immediate, palpable and lasting positive socio-economic impacts in our region. This initiative is essential to California’s continued and future economic ascendency, and to securing a reliable food supply for the world’s growing population.”
The initial investment from the State allocation will allow the partners to establish a nonprofit organization to house the Innovation Center for Research in Engineering, Ag-Food Technology and Entrepreneurship (iCREATE). The center is envisioned as a space where ideas can flow and develop into real technologies and products, where academia and industry can collaborate, where experimental demonstrations can take place. As such, the goal is that the site becomes a premier center for the applied research, development, and commercialization of next-generation “precision food systems” and related technologies.
More specifically, this would involve cross-disciplinary applications in areas that include: digitalization and data science; mechatronics (such as drones and robots); equipment and manufacturing; business, economics, workforce and social science; infrastructure and distribution; and systems integration and validation.
Juan Sánchez Muñoz, Chancellor of the University of California, Merced, commented: “We are thrilled the state legislature has made this critical next investment in the health and sustainability of our Valley’s people, natural resources, and our economy. This investment is both a timely reminder of the urgency of the research being done by our faculty and researchers at UC Merced, and that of our partner institutions, and a reflection both of the world-class work they have already done, and can build upon as we lead the global revolution in agriculture while combatting the already present effects of climate change.”
The Fresno D.R.I.V.E. Initiative (Developing the Region’s Inclusive and Vibrant Economy) is a 10-year
Community Investment Plan drafted with input from a 300-person steering committee representing over
150 organizations in the Greater Fresno Region. The composition and scope of the DRIVE coalition is
unprecedented, representing a diverse group of civic, community, and business leaders who collectively
sought to answer the question.