Fresno-Merced Future of Food Innovation coalition receives $65.1M from US government

Members of the F3 Coalition standing in front of a backdrop with logos. CITRIS at UC Merced Director Joshua Viers appears second from left.

On Sept. 2, the White House announced a $65.1 million award — the largest federal grant ever awarded to the Central Valley — to the Fresno-Merced Future of Food Innovation (F3) Initiative coalition as part of its “Build Back Better” initiative to boost economic recovery after the pandemic. The funding will help launch a state-of-the-art agricultural technology hub that will connect farmers across the San Joaquin Valley to industry and spark a new, more advanced era in agriculture-based technology in an effort to boost productivity, create jobs and build capacity for regional sustainability.

Composed of coalition members and partners from academia, industry, government and allied organizations, F3 is one of 21 regional groups selected to receive grants from the federal government’s $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge. The coalition’s proposal was one of 529 initial applications and received the largest pool of funding from the challenge, as well as the only award to California.

One of the key components of F3 is the Center for Research and Entrepreneurship in Agrifood Technology and Engineering, or iCREATE, which launches under the direction of UC Merced professor Joshua Viers.

As campus director of CITRIS at UC Merced, Viers served as a visionary of the iCREATE effort, and he has been working with the Central Valley Community Foundation (CVCF) since the initial formation of the F3 coalition in 2019. From his role as associate dean for research in the UC Merced School of Engineering, he will help spur collaboration among the project participants that guide industry partnerships and the adoption of inclusive innovation principles that in turn foster equitable economic development.

“The Build Back Better funding of F3 will not only accelerate research and development solutions for climate-smart food systems that benefit local communities in the Valley, but also transform how we produce and process food in the future,” Viers said. “We will continue to lead the nation in producing food but will lead the planet in how to do it in a more technologically advanced and sustainable manner.”

Photo of members of the F3 coalition, including Joshua Viers (second from left), is courtesy of UC Merced.