Watch plants during eclipse – From the Clemson Newsstand

CLEMSON — Clemson University researchers say the public can help collect scientific information about the effect of Monday’s eclipse on plants for future generations.

This will be the first time since 1918 a total eclipse will cross the entire United States. Douglas Bielenberg, a Clemson plant physiologist, said because total solar eclipses are so rare, not many biological observations have been made on what takes place during totality.

“There is very little organized information related to what happens to plants, during a total solar eclipse,” Bielenberg said. “This will be a great opportunity for people to make and record observations.”

Because most of the obvious visible action will be taking place in the skies, Bielenberg said people will tend to “look up and not down.” But just as much action could be taking place on the ground as in the skies. Plant circadian rhythms could be affected and plants could attempt to get in their night positions even though night is still some hours away.

“People who have gardens can look for the leaves on the plants to droop, or get in their night positions,” Bielenberg said. “Because we don’t have much information from previous solar eclipses and because this solar eclipse will happen so quickly, we don’t know if plants will be affected. It will be great if people can check to see if their plants act as it was night.”

People can look for leaves folding or flowers that usually just open at night opening during the day. Some common plants that may show movements induced by the eclipse include legumes and Albizia (silk tree).

Bielenberg advises people to observe their plants for a few evenings before the eclipse so that they will know what changes to look for during the eclipse.

Then they can upload photos they take of their plants during the eclipse to the NASA Flickr page at

Bielenberg said they can have a little fun by using the leaf canopy of trees as natural pinhole cameras. People observing the eclipse from sites with tree cover can look at the shadows of leaves on the ground. During the partial solar eclipse, tiny spaces between the leaves will act as pinhole projectors, dappling the ground with images of the crescent sun.

During the eclipse, Clemson horticulturist Bob Polomski will be studying the effect of the phenomenon on indoor and outdoor plants.

“In response to darkness, the leaves of a prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura) move from a horizontal position to a vertical position, similar to a pair of praying hands,” Polomski said. “Shamrock leaves (Oxalis) assume a horizontal position in sunlight and droop down during the night. Other plants are triggered to open their flowers in the evening to release fragrances that attract night-flying pollinators, such as moths. It will be interesting to see if these events occur during the day as the solar eclipse occurs.”

Polomski will try to observe whether the remontant or repeat-flowering Southern magnolias such as Little Gem and Kay Parris will close prematurely during the reduced sunlight of the eclipse. Southern magnolia flowers typically open around 9 a.m. and close by night. A few plants that bloom at night and could be watched for changes during the eclipse are flowering tobacco (Nicotiana alata), moonflower vine (Ipomoea alba), angel’s trumpet (Datura inoxia), night phlox (Zaluzianskya capensis), four-o’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) and tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa).

The 2017 total solar eclipse will take about one hour and 40 minutes to cross the entire country. Solar eclipses occur when the moon blocks any part of the sun. Total solar eclipses are only possible on Earth when the sun and moon line up just right and the moon blocks the sun’s entire surface. Partial solar eclipses occur when the alignment is such that the moon blocks only part of the sun. Partial eclipses occur more frequently.

Experts advise anyone who plans to shoot pictures in order to document plant or animal behavior during the eclipse to not look directly at the sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other optical device. In addition, these experts say do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewers — the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter a person’s eyes, causing serious injury. Read Eclipse 101 safety information by NASA for more tips on how to safely view the 2017 solar eclipse.

Link to story

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Statement by CDFA Secretary Karen Ross on Naming Nick Condos Interim Director of the state’s Citrus Disease and Pest Prevention Program

I am pleased to announce that Plant Health and Pest Prevention Services director Nick Condos has been assigned to lead the department’s Citrus Disease and Pest Prevention Program, as its interim director. During his 23 years with CDFA, Nick has demonstrated an excellent combination of management skills and experience with growers; and he has established relationships with colleagues throughout industry, the research community and government.

Given the incremental spread of the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and the disease it spreads, huanglongbing (HLB), over the last several years, the Citrus Disease and Pest Prevention Program has reached a scope and complexity that I believe will be best served by the placement of Nick in this new leadership role, with the full and continued support of CDFA and the Office of the Secretary.

The Program, funded through industry assessments and state and federal allocations, guides efforts to limit spread of HLB and the ACP, which can spread the disease from tree to tree as it feeds. Growers reaffirmed their support for the continuation of this program at a series of hearings earlier this year.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and citrus growers across the state have worked together to prepare-for and respond to this tremendous threat for many years, prior to the first detections of the ACP in California in 2008. The disease is fatal to citrus trees and has no cure, so the solution must come from research – research that is already well underway, thanks to foresight and funding from growers and our state and federal leaders. To allow ample time for that research, CDFA sets traps to track the pest’s movement, treats trees in infested areas to protect them, and removes trees as soon as HLB is found. These response efforts and additional quarantine measures have succeeded in slowing the spread and containing the disease to a handful of communities in Southern California. HLB has been detected in approximately 70 trees in in urban areas of Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties; all of those trees have been removed.

The assistant director of Plant Health and Pest Prevention Services, Stephen Brown, will step into the role of Interim Director.

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California Ag education career began by selling Ag newspaper subscriptions – from Capital Press

Austin Miller of the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom.

By Judy L. Bedell

SACRAMENTO ­— Austin Miller says that “connecting students to agriculture is more important now than ever before.”

Growing up in tiny Scio, Ore., he has fond memories of spending summers on his grandparents’ ranch.

He also has fond memories of growing up with the Capital Press newspaper.

“I first got to know Capital Press in high school ag class. Every Friday or Monday we would pass the paper around, and we used the info for various projects,” Miller said.

A Capital Press representative was looking for people to sell subscriptions at the Oregon State Fair in 2013 “so I signed up,” said Miller, who sold subscriptions for three years at the fair and to friends and family on the side.

“Selling subscriptions at the Oregon State Fair was a lot of fun,” he said. “There were so many people who were diehard fans, and they came by the booth each year to renew their subscription at the fair.”

Miller has always been a “people” person, so once he graduated from Oregon State University with a major in agriculture, an informal focus in ag education and a minor in comparative international agriculture, he was ready to put those attributes to work.

He started with the Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation while still in college and then made the jump to the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom earlier this year as the program coordinator of communications.

“Here in California agriculture is always growing and changing. I believe the pushback that ag receives is not going away. It is a great blessing to be able to choose and make opinions about what we eat and buy but we have a huge need to educate people to make informed decisions,” Miller said.

“For those of us involved in ag, we have a clear picture of what it means but to the consumer or teacher, you have to break it down into something they can relate to. Make sure they know ag is the food they eat and the clothes they wear,” Miller explained.

“We came up with the ‘5 F’s of Ag: Food, Fiber, Fish, Forestry and Fuel,’” he said. “It gets people talking and asking questions.”

For example, he said, “biofuel is a big part of the message we are working on. It is a fun way to connect ag to science. Students love the lessons we have on turning cow poop into electricity. They not only learn but they don’t forget and it gets them talking and wondering.”

One of the biggest challenges Miller faces is getting accurate information on agriculture to urban teachers and those without an agriculture background.

“We are really working on our website as a resource for teachers to find standards-based lessons that are clear, easy to follow and fun. We update the information throughout the month and I am an email away if someone needs help,” Miller said.

On the website teachers can find mini-lessons, fact cards, grants, lesson plans and contests. The “Imagine This…” writing contest starts this fall and is a way to involve students in grades 3-8 in agriculture. Details and examples of past winning stories can all be found on the website.

Miller keeps himself busy spreading the word and making it easy for teachers to incorporate agriculture into the classroom.

Resources and materials for taking agriculture into the classroom can be found at

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CDFA contributes to discussion about common sense as a key element in good biosecurity for horses – from

Common sense is the first step to effective biosecurity for horses, according to a university professor who consults in the field.

Professor Roberta Dwyer, with the Department of Animal and Food Sciences at the University of Kentucky, says horse owners must take personal responsibility for reducing risks of equine infectious disease outbreaks.

“One rub rag used to polish several horses’ muzzles prior to entering the show ring can be the weak link in biosecurity,” she says, by way of example.

“Allowing show ponies to sniff noses at the entry gate ‘to get acquainted’ is an effective way to spread respiratory disease.”

Dwyer, writing in the latest issue of Equine Disease Quarterly says newly implemented vaccination and isolation facility requirements for horse-event venues provides another layer of protection, but cannot take the place of an implemented farm biosecurity plan.

She says biosecurity guidelines from reliable resources are readily available on the internet and in printed materials.

“The word ‘guideline’ should be emphasized,” she adds. “Protocols and disinfectant products used in a university equine hospital that has painted concrete stalls, drains, and a cadre of well-trained personnel whose sole responsibilities are cleaning and disinfecting stalls might not be appropriate or practical for a different equine facility.

“The environments are different; the horses’ risks are different (hospital patients vs. healthy horses) and the types of pathogens likely present are very different.”

Dwyer says the best biosecurity plan is one tailored to the facility and environment, the horses, and the risks.

“Risks are the types of pathogens of concern (horse show vs. a broodmare foaling barn) , as well as the volume of human and horse traffic at the facility (busy horse sales venue vs. closed herd of retirees) .

“Obtaining biosecurity information from reliable resources is also critical.

“I was amazed at how much interesting (and often inaccurate) information is available regarding biosecurity.”

She cites an online article she found on the dangers of mosquitoes to horses since they can transmit West Nile virus to horses, which is true. However, it also referred to the chikungunya virus being deadly to horses, which is false. The virus is not known to cause disease in horses anywhere, let alone be a deadly one.

“Somehow I was not surprised that the origin of the article was a manufacturer of insecticides.

“While insect control is part of a comprehensive biosecurity program, scare tactics are not effective or ethical marketing strategies.

“In another article on biosecurity, the author referred to a disinfectant type that was the ‘gold standard’ of disinfectants. However, there is no ‘gold standard’ of disinfectants for horse facilities.

“Different disinfectants have different capabilities of killing different pathogens under different environmental conditions (hard water, cold environmental temperatures, organic matter, etc.).

“One of the broadest spectrum disinfectants is bleach. However, bleach is readily inactivated in the presence of organic matter (soil, manure, etc.), and is most effective on hard, nonporous surfaces that have been thoroughly cleaned and are free of organic matter.

“Most commercially available disinfectants with label claims for equine pathogens have been tested in 5% organic matter, which still means a very, very clean surface.”

Dr Katie Flynn, an equine veterinarian with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, discusses biosecurity at horse events in the same issue.

She says a disease-related “perfect storm” occurs when risk factors and a pathogen successfully interact, resulting in the introduction and spread of an infectious organism among a susceptible population.

She says, in equine events, a perfect storm is plausible if:

Susceptible, stressed horses are exposed to an infectious disease agent;
The conditions and environment at the event support transmission and infection;
The pathogen rapidly spreads throughout the animal population on the premises.
High-risk practices at events include commingling horses of unknown health status, stabling horses in
close proximity, tying horses to fences outside of the arena, using shared water sources, the use of communal wash racks, and exercising horses in confined spaces.

“Most equine event venues and facility layouts allow exhibitors easy, direct access to competition/
exhibition areas. Under such circumstances, many shows have inadequate or non-existent isolation
facilities for horses displaying signs of disease.

To address this concern, from December last year the US Equestrian Federation requires that competition management have an isolation protocol for horses suspected of having an infectious disease.

“Isolation of a clinically affected horse is a critical first step in disease outbreak control,” she says.

“It is essential to identify potential areas for isolation of sick horses in an area away from the remainder of the equine population.”

Any advanced identification of appropriate alternate stabling facilities will allow for rapid isolation of a sick horse and decrease the risk of potential disease transmission, she says.

In addition to adequate isolation, basic biosecurity practices are necessary to prevent pathogen introduction and spread.

Routine biosecurity practices should limit or avoid:

Horse to horse contact;
Human contact with multiple horses;
The use of shared communal water sources;
The use of shared equipment that has not been cleaned and disinfected between uses.
“Additionally, daily monitoring of horse health on the event grounds should include twice daily
temperature evaluations and observation for clinical signs of disease. Horses with a temperature
above 101.50F or that exhibit clinical signs should be reported to a veterinarian and/or event official
and be immediately isolated away from all other horses.”

Flynn says a biosecurity toolkit for equine events has been developed to provide guidance on the development and implementation of biosecurity plans and isolation protocols.

“The toolkit provides guidance for the assessment and development of a biosecurity plan that addresses specific disease risks at a particular event and venue.

“Implementation of a biosecurity plan for every equine event will help protect the health of the national equine population.”

See the original article on the site here.

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Legislation would curb food waste – from Morning Ag Clips

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) have introduced H.R. 3444, the Food Recovery Act, comprehensive bicameral legislation to reduce food waste in stores and restaurants, schools and institutions, on farms, and in American homes.

Every year in the United States, 40 percent of food produced domestically goes uneaten – meanwhile, domestic food production accounts for 50 percent of United States land use, 80 percent of fresh water consumption and 10 percent of the total energy budget. Food waste in landfills further harms the environment by contributing dramatically to the production of methane and other harmful gases. The Food Recovery Act takes a top to bottom approach to plugging the stream of food waste across all industries and demographics.

“This bill would address inefficiencies that lead to waste across all aspects of the food supply chain – curbing the 62 million tons of food thrown out each year in the United States,” said Blumenthal. “Simplifying food date labeling and diverting healthy, wholesome food from landfills won’t just benefit the environment – it will help alleviate food insecurity and save consumers and businesses money. I urge my colleagues to join us and tackle the challenge of food waste with the multifaceted response it demands.”

“Food waste in America is a growing problem, but it is also an opportunity,” said Pingree. “We can save money for consumers, create economic opportunity, and feed those in need while keeping perfectly good food out of landfills. I’m proud to introduce the Food Recovery Act with Senator Blumenthal to support and build on efforts already going on in our communities to ensure that more of our food is put to use rather than going to waste.”

H.R. 3444, the Food Recovery Act will:

  • Reduce food waste at the consumer level through the inclusion of the Food Date Labeling Act to standardize confusing food date labels;
  • Reduce food wasted in schools by encouraging cafeteria’s to purchase lower-price “ugly” fruits and vegetables, and by extending grant programs that educate students about food waste and recovery;
  • Reduce wasted food throughout the federal government through the establishment of a Food Recovery Liaison at USDA to coordinate federal efforts, and by requiring companies that contract with the federal government to donate surplus food to organizations such as food banks and soup kitchens;
  • Reduce wasted food going to landfills by encouraging composting as a conservation practice eligible for support under USDA’s conservation programs; and
  • Reduce wasted food through research by directing the USDA to develop new technologies to increase the shelf life of fresh food, and by requiring the USDA to establish a standard for how to estimate the amount of wasted food at the farm level.

Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Brian Schatz, (D-HI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) are original cosponsors of the Food Recovery Act.

The legislation is supported by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, the American Biogas Council, Recology, Hungry Harvest, National Farmers Union, National Consumers League, Food Policy Action, the National Resources Defense Council, and FoodCorps.

Link to article

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Secretary Ross honored by Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement as organization reaches 10-year mark

Secretary Ross with Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement chairman Steve Church.

From an LGMA News Release:

The California leafy greens community met in Salinas last week to recognize those responsible for creating the unique public-private partnership formed ten years ago under the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA).

“It’s not often that a group of farmers comes to government asking to be regulated,” said Steve Church, of Church Brothers, who serves as the current chairman of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, “but in the aftermath of the 2006 E. coli outbreak associated with spinach, that is exactly what was needed to help California leafy greens producers regain consumer confidence.

“Without the support of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement wouldn’t exist,” continued Church. “In honor of that support which existed in 2006 and continues today, we are presenting CDFA Secretary Karen Ross with the LGMA’s Golden Checkmark Award.”

The Secretary was honored August 10, 2017 during a meeting of Salinas-area LGMA members. The event was the first in a series of grower meetings being held across the state to commemorate ten years since the LGMA food safety program was created and to recognize the commitment to protecting public health embodied in the LGMA system. The LGMA’s Golden Checkmark Award was created to honor those who support mandatory government oversight of food safety in the produce industry. Past recipients include Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura.

“The LGMA is a true public-private partnership where government and industry work together to ensure safe food,” continued Church.  “Both are committed to this important job and the California leafy greens community is proud to be one of the first commodity groups to be regulated under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that will soon become federal law.”

“I’m so proud to be here today and I want to recognize all of the great people who came before me and who are still at the Department of Food and Agriculture who helped create the LGMA,” said Secretary Ross as she accepted the award. “I can only imagine the hours that were spent to come up with this food safety program that is real, robust and represents change.”

Since its creation 10 years ago, the LGMA has included a system of mandatory government audits to verify that leafy greens are being grown using science-based food safety practices. The audits are performed by government inspectors employed by CDFA who are trained and licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture.

“I am always in awe when I see what the leafy greens community has done with this program,” Secretary Ross continued. “You have transformed an industry to establish a culture where everyone is thinking about how to make sure the food we’re delivering is safe. What you have accomplished in a remarkably short period should be held up as an example.”

CDFA will be responsible for overseeing implementation of the Produce Safety Rule included under FSMA for an estimated 20,000 California produce farms under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. According to Ross, her department plans to work closely with existing industry groups like the LGMA to ensure compliance with the new law.  The LGMA has been working over the past several months to ensure its food safety practices are aligned with those required under the FSMA Produce Safety Rule.

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Real California Cheese cleans-up at national awards competition – from Morning Ag Clips

Cow’s milk processors displaying the Real California Cheese and/or Milk seals brought home 22 awards from the 2017 annual cheese competition held by the American Cheese Society (ACS), July 26-29, 2017 in Denver, Colorado.

The American Cheese Society recognizes the finest cheeses and dairy products made in the Americas. A record number of 2,024 cheese and cultured dairy products were entered the competition. Cheeses made with 100 percent California milk had another strong showing this year in a field of 281 processors representing the United States, Canada and Columbia.

Cow’s milk cheeses displaying the Real California seals won 6 first-place, 5 second-place and 11 third-place awards in this year’s judging. Highlights from these wins include:

  • Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., Pt. Reyes, 1st for Toma and 3rd for Baby Toma, Farmstead Cheeses/Aged 60 Days or More, 2nd for Gouda 2 Years, American Made/International Style – Dutch Style, and 3rd for Bay Blue, Blue Mold Cheeses/Blue Veined with Rind/External Coating
  • Central Coast Creamery, Paso Robles, 1st for Bishops Peak, American Originals/Original Recipe and 3rd for Holey Cow, American Made/International Style – Emmental-Style
  • Sierra Nevada Cheese Company, Willows, 1st for Graziers Grass Fed Kefir – Plain, Cultured Milk & Cream/Kefir, Drinkable Yogurt, etc. and 3rd for Graziers Grass Fed Vat Cultured Euro Style Butter – Unsalted
  • Oakdale Cheese & Specialties, Oakdale, 1st for Cumin Gouda, Flavored Cheeses, International Style w/Flavor Added
  • Rogue Creamery, Central Point, OR, 1st for Organic Caveman Blue Cheese, Blue Mold Cheeses/Blue Veined with Rind/External Coating
  • Peluso Cheese Company, Los Banos, 1st for Teleme, American Originals, Teleme
  • Marquez Brothers International, Inc., San Jose, 2nd place each for Peach Drinkable Yogurt and Prune Smoothie and 3rdplace for Strawberry Drinkable Yogurt, Yogurt & Cultured Products w/Flavors Added, and 3rd for Oaxaca, Hispanic & Portuguese Style Cheeses/Cooking Hispanic.
  • Rumiano Cheese Company, Crescent City, 2nd for Dry Monterey Jack and 3rd for Peppercorn Dry Jack, American Originals / Dry Jack Made from Cow’s Milk, 3rdfor Organic Smoked Mozzarella, Smoked Cheeses/Italian Styles, and 3rd for Organic Salted Butter, Butters/Salted
  • Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, Nicasio, 2nd for San Geronimo, Washed Rind Cheeses/Raclette Style Aged > 45 Days
  • Karoun Dairies, Inc., Turlock, 3rd for Drinkable Kefir, Cultured Milk & Cream Products, Kefir, Drinkables, etc.
  • Marin French Cheese Co., Petaluma, 3rd for Petite Jalapeño, Flavored Cheeses, Soft-Ripened with Flavor Added
  • Rizo Lopez Foods, Inc., Modesto, 3rd for Panela, Hispanic & Portuguese Style Cheeses, Fresh/Unripened

In total, 12 cow’s milk cheese and dairy producers won awards for products made with 100% Real California milk from the state’s more than 1300 dairy farm families. Real California cheeses and dairy products can be found at retailers throughout the U.S., Mexico and Asia. For more information about cheese and dairy products that carry the Real California Cheese or Milk seal, visit: For more information on ACS competition winners, go to:

Link to Morning Ag Clips

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The benefits of local and regional food systems – from Politico

The Federal Reserve and USDA have unveiled a new report to showcase how local and regional food systems can help the economies of rural and urban communities, as well as increase access to healthier food and create a more productive workforce.

The report is intended to signal that local food is no longer just for “foodies,” but instead is in high demand by consumers across the country and is ripe for investment and financing.

Through a compilation of research, essays and case studies, the report highlights possibilities like communities using regional food strategies to meet economic goals; opportunities in the regional food system sector; systems that benefit low- and moderate-income households; and models of partnerships between policymakers, members of the community, and the financial industry.

The report arrives at a critical time in light of the heightened attention to the condition of rural America, said Jen O’Brien Cheek, executive director of the Farmers Market Coalition. (A board member of the group contributed to the report).

“We want to bring in investors and institutions that offer loans and grants to make sure initiatives are supported, because it’s been demonstrated that they have a lasting impact on economic prosperity,” O’Brien Cheek said. “Really successful food systems respond to unique needs of a community.”

The Federal Reserve Board of Governors, in partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and the USDA Rural Development and Agricultural Marketing Service, hosted a forum to release the report, which explores “unanswered research, policy and resources gaps,” that need to be addressed.

Link to item at Politico


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Healthy Soils the focus of California State Board of Food and Agriculture

The California State Board of Food and Agriculture met this week in Fresno County to visit several locations for demonstrations of soil health practices.


Secretary Ross with Central Valley farmers and soil health practitioners Jesse and Alan Sano. On the far right is Jeffrey Mitchell of UC Davis.


CDFA has announced its Healthy Soils Incentive Program, offering farmers and ranchers an opportunity to improve soil health through a variety of on farm management practices that includes but is not limited to no-till, cover crops and composting.

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Apps for Ag Hackathon winner uses artificial intelligence to diagnose plant problems – from the UC’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Sreejumon Kundilepurayil, left, and Vidya Kannoly and their Dr. Green app took first place in the Apps for Ag hackathon. Dr. Green uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to quickly advise growers how to treat ailing plants.
Sreejumon Kundilepurayil, left, and Vidya Kannoly and their Dr. Green app took first place in the Apps for Ag hackathon. Dr. Green uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to quickly advise growers how to treat ailing plants.


For 48 hours, innovators and entrepreneurs at the Apps for Ag Hackathon labored over laptops at The Urban Hive in Sacramento before pitching their ideas to judges at the California State Fair. More than 40 people, some from as far as New York and Texas, competed for a $10,000 grand prize and assistance from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources to turn their ideas into commercial enterprises.

Ultimately “Dr. Green,” a mobile app to diagnose plant problems, took the top prize on Sunday (July 30). The second-place Greener app also helps people diagnose and treat plant diseases. Farm Table, an app that promotes agritourism, came in third place.

One goal of the hackathon was to produce solutions for military veterans who are becoming farmers. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was a major sponsor of the event and leaders from Washington D.C. were on site all weekend participating.

“There was an amazing range of applications this year,” said Gabriel Youtsey, chief innovation officer for University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, which hosted the hackathon.

Twelve teams pitched new ways to apply technology to improve the food system.

“There was an application to take a picture of a plant and it’ll identify the plant disease – which can help anyone from backyard gardeners to professional growers – all the way to an application for community-supported fisheries, which helps fishermen better scale their businesses and allows for customers to get the freshest fish,” Youtsey said.

There was an app to match unemployed veterans with farm jobs, an online resource for bees, an app to simplify shipping logistics, an app for detecting mold on produce and many more solutions for food-related problems.

1st Place: Dr. Green

Figuring out why a plant is ailing can be time-consuming for a new farmer or backyard gardener. The plant doctor is always in with Dr. Green. The app created by Sreejumon Kundilepurayil and Vidya Kannoly of Pleasanton will help people identify crop diseases quickly through artificial intelligence and machine learning. The app can incorporate data from sensors monitoring temperature, light and soil moisture to alert growers to problems. Using a smart phone, backyard gardeners and growers can take a photo of plant symptoms and get a diagnosis or use the messaging feature to ask a question about symptoms and receive advice immediately.

Kundilepurayil and Kannoly won $10,000 and tickets to the UC Davis Food and Ag Entrepreneurship Academy, $3,000 worth of Google Cloud Platform credits, plus other resources to help the team start their venture.

From left, Calvin Doval, Scott Kirkland, John Knoll and Shiang-Wan-Chin's Greener app, which diagnoses plant diseases from a photo, took second place.
From left, Calvin Doval, Scott Kirkland, John Knoll and Shiang-Wan-Chin’s Greener app, which diagnoses plant diseases from a photo, took second place.

2nd Place: Greener

Using a smart phone, home gardeners can take a photo of plant symptoms and quickly get a diagnosis and recommended IPM treatment from the Greener app, created by Scott Kirkland, John Knoll and Shiang-Wan Chin of Davis and Calvin Doval of Oakland. They won $5,000 and $1,000 worth of Google Cloud Platform credits and other resources to help start their venture.

From left, Heather Lee, Will Mitchell and Zhenting Zhou finished third with their Farm Table app, which promotes agritourism.
From left, Heather Lee, Will Mitchell and Zhenting Zhou finished third with their Farm Table app, which promotes agritourism.

3rd Place: The Farm Table

The Farm Table app aims to make farms more economically sustainable and educate the public about food through agritourism. Heather Lee of San Francisco teamed up with Will Mitchell of Sacramento and Zhenting Zhou of New York City to create the agritourism app.

“We are making agritourism accessible to farmers by building a platform that’s connecting visitors with farms,” said Lee. “This is going to help educate our communities on where their food comes from and create an additional revenue source for farmers.”

They won $2,500 and $1,000 worth of Google Cloud Platform credits and other resources to help start their venture.

For 48 hours, hackathon participants worked feverishly on their projects at the Urban Hive in Sacramento.
For 48 hours, hackathon participants worked feverishly on their projects at the Urban Hive in Sacramento.

Growing the pipeline of young innovators

Judges included Joshua Tuscher of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Robert Trice, investor and founder of The Mixing Bowl Hub; Jenna Rodriguez, product manager at Ceres Imaging; Ann Dunkin, chief information officer for the County of Santa Clara; and Jessica Smith, vice president of Strategic Partnerships at AngelHack.

Apps for Ag is a food and agriculture innovation event series hosted by University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR) and sponsored by IO Labs, The Urban Hive, California Community Colleges and the California State Fair.

“We’re growing the pipeline of young innovators, getting entrepreneurs and technologists interested in applying technology to solving problems in the food system,” said Youtsey, who led organization of the hackathon.

“UC ANR is the original innovation engine in food, agriculture and natural resources in California and has been so for over 100 years. This is just taking another spin at tackling innovation in food and agriculture through an innovative competition style format with technology,” he said.

Additional support for the hackathon was provided by Valley Vision, The Mixing Bowl, Farmer Veteran Coalition, AngelHack, Nutiva, Google Cloud Platform, Royse Law Firm, Hot Italian, GTS Kombucha, Startup Sac, AgStart, StartupGrind Sacramento, Future Food, Internet Society San Francisco Bay Chapter, Sacramento Food Co-op, Balsamiq and YouNoodle.

Link to blog post

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