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: https://www.eda.gov/news/press-releases/2016/11/15/ris.htm

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 (http://www.h2o-optimizer.com/). 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.