Fowler farming couple donates $1.5 million to Cal Poly Ag tech center

The Fresno Bee
By Robert Rodriguez

Jim and Michelle Marderosian, owners of Bee Sweet Citrus in Fowler, have pledged $1.5 million to Cal Poly’s new J.G. Boswell Agricultural Technology Center.

The Marderosians are longtime supporters of Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and wanted to further their commitment to the university by funding a new plant-pathology lab. The lab will be used to diagnose and explore plant diseases and disease-control strategies.

“The plant-pathology lab in the J.G. Boswell Agricultural Technology Center will give Cal Poly students the ability to research different environmental effects, diseases and agricultural pest issues to compete with the ever-changing world conditions,” Jim Marderosian said. “When students graduate, they will be prepared to handle the industry challenges happening now and in the future.”

Bee Sweet Citrus, founded in 1987, is a packer and shipper of California citrus and has become an industry leader, shipping navel and Valencia oranges, lemons, grapefruit and mandarins throughout the United States and overseas through export.

The Applied Sciences Innovation Labs within the J.G. Boswell Agricultural Technology Center, expected to be complete in 2021, will feature 11 labs, each dedicated to an important emerging issue in agriculture, nutrition and the food industry.

Go to full story at The Fresno Bee

Above: Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences Dean Andrew Thulin, left, with Jim and Michelle Marderosian as they sign the gift agreement pledging $1.5 million to the college’s new J.G. Boswell Agricultural Technology Center. Bee Sweet Citrus Special to the Bee.

Tiny worms tackle manure from dairy farm near Hilmar

The Modesto Bee
By John Holland

HILMAR- Two years into an experiment in dairy manure handling, the worms are proving their worth.

A $483,950 federal grant helped pay for a system where these creatures break down most of the nitrogen in water used to flush out dairy stalls. The partners aim to reduce the risk of water and air pollution.

As a bonus, the worms leave their own manure, known as castings, a pleasant-smelling fertilizer that can be sold to home gardeners and farmers.

“Worms are eating and they’re pooping and they’re producing worm castings, which is a highly beneficial soil amendment,” said Mai Ann Healy, regional manager for Biofiltro, the Chilean company that created the system.

The federal Natural Resources Conservation Service provided the grant for the project, taking place at Fanelli Dairy. An equal amount came from partners that include the dairy and Sustainable Conservation, a group based in San Francisco that helps businesses protect the planet.

The Modesto Bee on Tuesday paid its second visit since 2015 to the project, off Washington Road about 2 miles west of Hilmar. The worms do their work in a concrete box 160 feet long and 35 feet wide, and filled 3.5 feet deep with wood shavings. The wastewater is sprayed onto the top, and the worms wriggle through the shavings as they carry out the process over four hours.

Milk is the top-grossing farm product in the Northern San Joaquin Valley and statewide, but farmers also have to contend with the manure left behind. The standard practice is to irrigate feed crops at a rate that assures the nitrogen is taken up by the plants, rather than reaching streams or aquifers. This is done under permits from the state, which could someday require more cropland to dilute the contaminants.

Fanelli Dairy has 104 acres growing feed for its 750 cows, which produce milk for Hilmar Cheese Co. Co-owner Vic Fanelli said additional land would be too expensive, so he was happy to give the worms a try.

“This pretty much takes the place of 50 acres,” he said. “If it helps us and helps the industry, we’re all for it.”

The worm system has removed 75 percent to 98 percent of the nitrogen per day, said Joseph Choperena, a senior project manager at Sustainable Conservation. The range is so wide because the makeup of manure can change daily, he said.

The process also releases a nonpolluting form of nitrogen into the atmosphere while cutting down on nitrates, the form that can cause pollution.

Above: Mai Ann Healy, left, regional manager for Biofiltro, and Marsha Campbell, a farm advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension in Stanislaus County, take a tour of Fanelli Dairy near Hilmar on Tuesday, checking out a pile of worm castings, which can be used as fertilizer. John Holland 209-578-2385

Go to full story at The Modesto Bee

‘Fast pitch’ for Getting Water Tech Flowing for Ag before Mar 16

A Western Growers “deeper dive” on AgTech Innovation, in partnership with the City of Fresno, Fresno County Farm Bureau, Fresno State Center for Irrigation Technology, Fresno Food Expo, Fresno County Chamber of Commerce, AT&T, and Forbes.

If your venture can provide a novel impact on water technology in the agriculture sector, check this out. Up to eight ventures will be selected on a first-come, first-serve basis to present at 4 PM, March 27 at the Fresno Convention Center.

Presenters will have the opportunity to give a “fast pitch” of up to four minutes and will get real-time feedback from growers. If you’re interested, email Helle Petersen at before Mar. 16.

Panelists scheduled to attend the “Getting Water Tech Flowing for Agriculture” event include:

A.G. Kawamura, former California Secretary of Agriculture
Mayor Lee Brand, Mayor of Fresno
Stuart Woolf, Woolf Farming
Don Cameron, Terranova Farms
Steve Patricio, Westside Produce
Cannon Michael, Bowles Farms
Kevin France, SWIIM
Manu Pillai, Waterbit
Rich Bernier, Simplot
Jedd Forbes, WIldeye
John Jefferson, AT&T
Aaron Magenheim, AgTech Industries
Paul Noglows, Forbes
David Zoldoske, Center for Irrigation Technology & California Water Institute at CSU Fresno
Ryan Jacobson, Fresno County Farm Bureau
Hank Giclas, Western Growers Association

Again, to be considered to pitch at the “Getting Water Tech Flowing for Agriculture,” email Helle Petersen at before Mar. 16.

Donation will help south San Joaquin Valley keep packing fresh fruit

The Modesto Bee
By John Holland

On Friday morning, in the dead of winter, I tasted fresh fruit as sweet as anything picked in summer.

It was a mandarin from the southern half of the San Joaquin Valley, which produces citrus at a time of year when most of our fruit-growing regions are out of season. Consumers around the nation and beyond can enjoy the flavors and health benefits of oranges, grapefruit and their kin.

The wintry bounty could keep flowing for years to come, thanks in part to a donation of fruit-processing equipment to California State University, Fresno by Bee Sweet Citrus, based in nearby Fowler.

Ag students will use the $600,000 packing line to learn how to clean, inspect, sort and pack up to 16 pieces of fruit per second from the 1,000-acre farm. Along with citrus, it will handle peaches and nectarines in winter and pomegranates in fall.

Above: Fresno State students empty oranges onto the Bee Sweet Fresh Fruit packing line for processing. Cresencio Rodriguez Delgado –

Go to full story at The Modesto Bee

AgPLUS, partners kick off 2017 Food Processing Expo at Workforce Summit

News Release

February 13, 2017

SACRAMENTO – Central Valley AgPLUS in partnership with California League of Food Processors and Zenith Insurance kicked off the 2017 Food Processing Expo with the Food Processing Workforce Summit on February 7. More than 70 participants attended the event, which addressed the many challenges for Central Valley food processors, including recruiting, training and retaining a strong workforce as well as how human resource managers can keep up with various regulation requirements. Trish Kelly, representing AgPLUS, moderated the morning session which featured an overview of the AgPlus Consortium and the IMCP designation.

Summit panel discussions were represented by industry, education and government, and featured keynote speakers Tim Rainey, executive director of California Workforce Board, and Matthew Roberts, dean of Field Operations for Workforce and Economic Development Division, California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

Results of a survey by California League of Food Processors were released at the event. The survey covered workforce issues for Central Valley food processors and how these can potentially affect initiatives dedicated to solving the skills gap in the industry. Fourteen companies indicated the positions they have the greatest need to fill include maintenance mechanics (93%), electricians (70%), boilers/process heater operators (55%), automation and controls/mechatronic specialists (44%) and machine operators (33%). Many of the positions listed also were named as ones anticipated as having a significant number of vacancies to fill within the next five years due to retirements and departures. Download survey results

AgPLUS was one of 260 exhibitors at the Food Processing Expo on February 8 and 9. Thousands from around the world attended the Food Processing Expo making it the largest food processing tradeshow in California. Featured exhibits included machinery,equipment, supplies and other services, as well as informative sessions and industry-networking opportunities.


Download News Release

Ag students spend day on possible future jobs

The Modesto Bee
By John Holland

One student sat in the driver’s seat of a nut harvester being assembled at Flory Industries in Salida. Another saw how Hilmar Cheese Co. ensures that its products are safe to eat. Still another learned how Duarte Nursery in Hughson produces young fruit and nut trees for farmers.

Thursday provided a chance for job shadowing through Doing What Matters, a state program based in part at Modesto Junior College. Some of the students were videotaped as part of the effort to spread the idea among high schools.

“Job shadowing is an excellent opportunity to get a taste of what a future career can look like,” said Andrew Skidmore of Atwater, who spent the day at Flory and is state president of the National FFA Organization.

Above: Andrew Skidmore, state president for Future Farmers of America, examines a nut harvesting machine at Flory Industries in Salida, Calif., on Thursday, Feb 2, 2017. He was one of several agriculture students taking part in a job-shadowing day in Salida and a few other locations. John Holland –

Go to full story at The Modesto Bee

Bee Sweet Citrus donates $600,00 citrus packing line to Fresno State

The Business Journal

February 8, 2017

Fowler’s Bee Sweet Citrus has donated $600,000 in state-of-the-art citrus packing
equipment to the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at Fresno State.
Jim Marderosian, Bee Sweet Citrus founder and president, spoke at an event this morning to
present the fruit packing line.

The packing line can inspect, clean, wash, dry, sort, box, label and seal fruit harvested from the
1,000-acre campus farm. Located in the Bee Sweet Citrus Laboratory on campus in the Grosse
Industrial Technology Building, formerly room 154, the equipment will provide industrial technology,
food science and plant science students with hands-on instruction for mechanical systems and
industrial maintenance as they apply to food processing and safety.

Go to full story at The Business Journal

AgPLUS News – January 2017

JANUARY 2017  VOL. 2  ISSUE 1 WWW.CVAGPLUS.ORG MAIL 6     calendar 4     PERSON 6

2017 Food Processing Expo


We are just two weeks away from the 2017 Food Processing Expo in Sacramento! To kick off the event, the California League of Food Processors has teamed up with AgPLUS to host the inaugural Food Processors Workforce Summit on February 7. The Summit will address many challenges food processors face in the Central Valley, including recruiting, training and retaining a strong workforce. Panel discussions will feature experts from industry, education and government. The focus will be on food processing industry workforce needs, where companies can find help in obtaining the best employees, and how human resource managers can keep up with various regulation requirements.

Keynote speakers will be Tim Rainey, executive director of California Workforce Board, and Matthew Roberts, dean of Field Operations for Workforce and Economic Development Division, California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office. The morning session will be moderated by AgPLUS executive committee member Trish Kelly, Valley Vision, Sacramento; afternoon will be moderated by Sany Fiack, Zenith Insurance.

Learn more about the event and to register for the Summit

To register for the Food Processing Expo, visit the official website:

AgPLUS business resource workshops

AgPLUS will continue to implement its business resource workshops throughout the year. The next one is scheduled for January 27, in Marysville, Calif. Lead for this workshop is Valley Vision, Sacramento. Office of Community and Economic Development at Fresno State (OCED) and Center for Economic Development at Chico State (CED) will begin implementing workshops in their respective regions beginning in February.

Be on the lookout for upcoming workshop schedules on the AgPLUS calendar.

WET Center kicks off Regional Innovation Strategies

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Fresno State President Joseph Castro opens the January 17 kick-off event for BlueTechValley and Regional Energy Innovation Accelerator projects.

The Fresno State Water, Energy and Technology (WET) Center kicked off its BlueTechValley Innovation project and Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program on Tuesday, January 17.

In November 2016, AgPLUS partners at Fresno State comprised one of 35 organizations from 19 states awarded funding through the EDA Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program in the i6 Challenge category. Learn more about RIS. The $500,000 in funding received supports the Central Valley Regional Energy Innovation Accelerator Project (Project). This will generate significant new innovations and opportunities in Central Valley disadvantaged communities (DAC) by deploying an accelerator program for water, energy and agricultural technology startups. Furthermore, the Project will leverage existing Energy Innovation Cluster programs and infrastructure to support an estimated 19 companies and generate or retain a minimum 76 part-time and 37 full-time Central Valley jobs by completion. Learn more about the Project.

Register today!

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The 2017 Manufacturing Summit is hosted by San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance. Its members have been hard at work since last year to put together the best event yet!

As at past events, there will be numerous vendors featured as well as breakout sessions with industry experts. A variety of subjects and solutions will be discussed including:

  • New Advanced Manufacturing Technologies
  • State of the Art Energy Efficiency Solutions
  • Apprenticeship Programs
  • Human Resources in Manufacturing
  • Export and Import
  • Vocational English Second Language (VESL) Program
  • Trends and Best Practices in Manufacturing
  • Plus much more … including a special Manufacturing Exhibit area!

The Summit will be at the Fresno Convention Center on April 20 – Manufacturing Alliance members receive a registration discount. Learn more about Summit workshops and sponsorship opportunities.

Interested in finding out more about the San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance and becoming a member? Visit Go to MEMBERSHIP on the toolbar. On the dropdown box, click on the Membership Application. Download the form. Fill out all information then follow instructions to submit to Sam Geil.

CalAsian Chamber hosts 2017 international trade shows

International work group member CalAsian Chamber of Commerce is hosting two international trade shows in March and May. The Shanghai HotelEX 2017 is in Shanghai, China, from March 26 through April 2. Seoul Food and Hotel 2017 is in Seoul, South Korea, from May 14-21.

CalAsian Chamber of Commerce has been committed to helping food and beverage growers/producers expand and export their products to the Asian market for the past five years. This has been achieved by organizing international trade missions, providing export training support, marketing research and business matching. CalAsian Chamber administers the China Direct and Korea Direct export programs under a cooperative agreement with the International Trade Administration Market Development Cooperator Program under the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Stay up-to-date

We have a lot of exciting new projects in the pipeline for the New Year! Be on the lookout for news on future developments, and stay up-to-date on info and upcoming events. Visit

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WET Center kicks off BlueTechValley project, innovation accelerator

The Water, Energy and Technology (WET) Center at Fresno State on Tuesday, Jan 17, 2017, hosted the BlueTechValley Innovation Cluster Kick-Off. Fresno State’s David Zoldoske, director of Center for Irrigation Technology and California Water Institute, and President Joseph I. Castro provided welcoming remarks and a general program overview. The project will benefit much of the Central Valley and generate additional internship opportunities for Fresno State students.

Funding from the California Energy Commission has given the BlueTechValley Innovation Cluster the capability to accelerate the commercialization of water, energy, Ag technology, and connect emerging technologies to region specific needs and opportunities. Through outreach and education, Cluster Hubs will study energy use in disadvantaged communities (DACs) and work to create a strong collection of energy and water innovators to address energy challenges in these areas.

WET Center program manager Helle Petersen provided an overview of its Central Valley Regional Energy Innovation Accelerator Project, which is funded by the EDA i6 Challenge program. The project will generate significant new innovations and opportunities in Central Valley DACs by deploying an accelerator program for water, energy and agricultural technology startups. Furthermore, it will leverage existing Energy Innovation Cluster programs and infrastructure to support an estimated 19 companies and generate or retain at minimum 76 part-time and 37 full-time Central Valley jobs by completion. More information on the EDA program may be found here:

Brian Bassett, H2O Optimizer, has used the WET center facility to help expand his business. He shared how he transformed his idea on an entrepreneurship level. H2O Optimizer provides custom data drive solutions for production agriculture, utilizing technologies including Unmanned Area Vehicles (UAVs) and various sensor-based technologies ( Since coming to the WET Center, Bassett said his company has seen an annual growth rate of 27%, reaching a landmark 46% growth this year. They have hired five Fresno State graduates with bachelors and masters degrees and says he hopes to expand hiring to create employment for more students in the near future.

U.S. Department of Commerce Invests $15 Million in Entrepreneurs Across the Nation to Move Ideas to Market, Promote American Innovation

U.S. Economic Development Administration
By EDA Public Affairs Department, (202) 482-4085

November 15, 2016

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today announced 35 organizations — including nonprofits, institutions of higher education, and entrepreneurship-focused organizations — from 19 states will receive nearly $15 million to create and expand cluster-focused, proof-of-concept and commercialization programs, and early-stage seed capital funds through the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program.

The diverse group of awardees, selected from a pool of more than 215 applicants, reach urban and rural areas across the United States, including the program’s first investments in historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the South; a women-focused, early-stage capital fund in Texas; a Native American-centered, proof-of-concept program in Oklahoma; and urban innovation hubs honing in on fashion technology (New York) and social innovation (Louisiana). Additionally, six awards are being made in EDA’s Investing in Manufacturing Community Partnership regions.

Go to full story at U.S. Economic Development Administration