Ground Tilled For UC Merced’s New Smart Farm Development

Land has been tilled at UC Merced’s smart farm, the first physical step in  developing the state-of-the-art project.

“Even though it’s just a blank field, we have overcome some pretty big  obstacles to be where we are today,” said Danny Royer, Experimental Smart  Farm coordinator for the university. He spoke Nov. 16, at the farm,  describing the work done so far and what’s next.

Plans call for the farm to grow oats, grain, tomatoes and squash. But the  primary crop for the 45-acre property roughly a half-mile south of campus  will be data.

Conditions will be monitored, and a dashboard will be created that student  researchers can access.

“We can look at different pest control strategies, different watering  strategies, knowing that the smart farm is keeping track of all this  background information,” said Professor Tom Harmon,  who co-leads the smart farm with Professor Joshua Viers.

“We want the farm to operate on two levels,” Harmon said. “One, it should  be tracking itself as a system in terms of water-energy work. And then at  the process level you can come in and do very detailed research for that.”

The information that comes out of the farm will then be used to determine  new experiments.

“Data will be going back to campus, and students will be able to run  simulations and transfer that back,” Viers said.

But first, the initial crops must be planted.

Planting will start soon, Royer said, after the invasive weeds, star thistle,  and juncus grass that have taken over the area are mitigated.

“Really, if we wanted to mitigate it the way I’ve been taught to mitigate  it, we would disk this and leave it fallow for three years,” he said. “We  don’t have three years so we’re going to have to deal with this in other  ways, such as discing multiple times.”

In the meantime, soil samples have been taken and data is being collected  to establish baselines for research.

The initial crop plan calls for a winter forage, “kind of an oat-wheat  mix,” Royer said. “Winter forage is great — the crop residue is heavy in  organic matter.” This helps the soil regenerate.

“The more organic matter we can start incorporating at the beginning, the  better.”

The university is working on establishing a memorandum of understanding  with Merced College, allowing students there to cut and bale the hay, which  would then be sold to the owner of the cattle that will graze the area.

The cows are another important part of the plan, Royer said. Livestock  activity also helps the soil regenerate.

Plans also call for four acres of intensive row crops, such as tomatoes,  squash, melons and corn. These products can ultimately be used for  community supported agriculture, or CSA boxes that will be sold.

Longer term, the farm is set to host farmers markets and other  public-facing activities, as well as provide experiences for students  outside of those who will directly use the data.

“One of my favorite features is an observation tower,” Viers said. The  tower was requested by the humanities department. Students will be able to  view the farm from above for sketching and other activities.

But building out all the plans will cost money.

“We have funds to do the initial infrastructure and buy or lease some  equipment,” Royer said.

Full buildout would cost tens of millions, Harmon and Viers estimated.

“We’ll be seeking help from the community, sort of a virtual barn raising, to gather the necessary funding,” Harmon said.

They are also exploring funding sources such a research grants to pay for  it. UC Merced’s recent designation  as an agricultural experiment station (AES) will open other avenues of  funding. University of California President Michael Drake recently  announced that the Merced and Santa Cruz campuses have received the  prestigious designation, the first time it’s been earned in more than 50  years.

The smart farm is UC Merced’s AES facility.

“With the AES designation, Santa Cruz and Merced have the potential  additional funding from the University’s budget for (agricultural)  research, and they will be able to make a stronger case for competitive  grants in the larger research area,” Drake said.

GV Health breaks ground on new senior care facility

A new type of nursing home is on its way to being completed in Merced.

Golden Valley Health Centers broke ground Friday on a new senior care facility at its campus on Childs Avenue. Merced PACE, which reimagines the way seniors are cared for, is expected to be completed sometime late next year with a tentative opening date of July 2024.

“There’s nothing like it here in Merced County,” said GVHC president Tony Weber.

PACE, which stands for Program All-inclusive Care for the Elderly – after the Medicare plan of the same name – is designed as a sort of one-stop-shop for seniors and their medical care needs. The PACE facility comes with a full team of primary care physicians, dental and vision providers and physical therapy specialists. It also features a day center that provides meals and social activities, acting as a sort of home away from home rather than a cold, sterile hospital environment.

“Maybe it’s because I’m getting old and I’m feeling the need for some PACE services, but I just think it’s a tremendous program for our seniors,” said Weber. “For seniors that are on the verge of having to go to a nursing home or go to the hospital, this program works very, very hard. We manage their care closely to try to keep them independent and at home, healthy and out of the institutions.”

It’s an alternative to traditional nursing homes, where seniors often have to leave their homes and communities behind. With PACE, seniors can live at home and still have their needs met.

“If you’re in healthcare, you’ve heard the term managed care. When managed care first came along, it was kind of a dirty word because people felt like it was a way to exclude services from patients and just keep more of the revenue,” said Weber. “But the PACE program is what I call the epitome of managed care in a good way. It’s the type of managed care that the whole healthcare system should be involved with.”

Golden Valley opened their first PACE facility in Modesto last year. It already serves around 200 seniors in that area, and the high demand is what prompted the expansion to GVHC’s first and largest campus here in Merced.

“It’s been unbelievably successful and we’ve seen how it changes people’s lives and not only for the seniors, but for their families,” Weber said. “I really wanted to bring a PACE program right here on the south campus where it all started for Golden Valley.”

GVHC celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this year. The non-profit is funded by federal programs, grants and donations, and began in 1972 as a health clinic for migrant farm workers in the Central Valley. The campus on Childs Avenue is the non-profits oldest and largest facility in the Valley.


The Nov. 25 print edition of The Business Journal 

Despite inflation and a limited housing market, Madera is still poised for a positive economic outlook for 2023.

With a slew of new projects waiting to come online, Madera County remains robust with strong growth in both the industrial and commercial sectors.

Darren Rose, the new executive director of the Madera County Economic Development Commission (EDC), said there is strong business interest in the county because of its location, workforce and business friendly environment.

Rose said that the industrial sector is seeing a lot of movement in the county, adding up to 1 million square feet of industrial space.

Cold storage company Amond World is currently building a 250,000-square-foot almond cold storage facility near the Madera Airport. Construction is expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2023.

Though they cannot be publicly named because of proprietary issues, a few local businesses in the county are preparing to expand, including a food manufacturer, a light-industrial construction fabrication company and an industrial component manufacturer and solutions provider.

Ready Roast Nut Company, an industrial supplier and processor of roasted tree nuts, is working with the city for its expansion as well, Rose said.

In August, ground broke for AutoZone’s Northern California distribution center, located in the Chowchilla Industrial Park near Highway 99. The $150 million project will create 300 full-time jobs.

The facility will cover 540,000 square feet and will be online by the end of 2023.

On the retail end, Rose said that there are inquiries from national brands, but with the national economic fluctuations, these companies cannot be disclosed.

“We have our eyes wide open — we are on the precipice of potential national recession, and retail tracks the economy very closely. We are excited, but we don’t know what the future holds from a national standpoint and what it would mean to locate a national company in the Madera market,” Rose said.

But the county does remain on the radar for national companies he said. The available workforce and land, as well as the transportation corridors, make the region attractive to national actors.

Madera will also be getting its first In N’ Out that will be going in the former space of the SugarPine Smokehouse restaurant near the Madera fairgrounds, which could open possibly by 2024, Rose said.

Rose said the ag industry in the county is expected to remain strong, but it is facing several challenges.

“The cost of fuel, supply chain issues with international markets are not as active and of course water,” Rose said. “Hopefully, the international markets begin to open and in turn help with commodity prices.”

Residential real estate is expected to remain active, but Rose said there is likely to be a slowdown because of the lack of available housing.

Madera City Manager Arnoldo Rodriguez said that the city has been fortunate this year with investment from private development, as well as grant funding for public projects.

For retail, Rodriguez said that Madera doesn’t have a single large vacant retail space, which is a challenge as the city is getting inquiries from national companies.

A Big Lots is going into the space of a former Save Mart, expected to open by early 2023.

Madera is expecting to break ground for its “Village D” master plan in the summer of 2023, consisting of 11,000 residential units and approximately two million square feet of commercial space near the Madera airport.

With the approval of Village D, and other subdivision housing projects, Rodriguez said the city is hopeful for a strong housing market.

“If interest rates come down a little bit, I think we will see a decent amount of development. With interest rates a little bit higher than average, people are skittish,” Rodriguez said. “While we can do a lot locally, some of it is dependent on national economic issues that we cannot control.”

With federal and state funding programs available, Rodriguez said the city has been aggressive in securing millions in grants for road repairs, new parks and park improvement, Fresno River conservation efforts and repairs for sidewalks.

The city also secured a $14 million grant to rehabilitate portions of Highway 145, which includes Yosemite Avenue, Downtown Madera’s main street. Construction for this will begin in 2025.

As well as attracting the attention of national companies, Madera County was able to attract national and international travelers as well.

Covid-19 restrictions in 2020, which carried into 2021, did lead to less visitors travelling to areas including Yosemite and Bass Lake, but the pent-demand led to a record number of visitors in 2022.

“The second quarter was strong — it beat all records,” said Rhonda Salisbury, CEO of the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau. “2019 was the highest we had in tourism numbers, and 2022 beat that and 2021. But then the fires hit in July.”

California wildfires burned in the busiest time of the season, Salisbury said, which did bring down the number of visitors to the parks and lakes.

Since Yosemite National Park will no long be requiring reservations to visit, Salisbury expects this will draw more visitors in 2023.

She added that the bureau is expecting around the same number of visitors in 2023, especially with a lot of international travel rates returning to normal. They expect the typical European travelers to return in 2023, as well as for agritourism and Central Valley wineries.

Even with higher gas prices across the state, Salisbury said that if people are committed to traveling, gas prices are not going to deter them from taking a trip to the area.

“There’s more options of places to travel,” Salisbury said. “For a while California just toured California. Thank goodness we have so much to see and do.”

Productive, Calif.: Fresno’s economic comeback ranks among top in the U.S.

Prior to the Great Recession, Fresno ranked as one of the least economically productive cities in America. Here’s how the times have changed.

Fresno’s increase in productivity has been measured as one of the largest in the nation over the last 15 years.

A study conducted by the University of North Carolina, titled The Power of Productivity, found that Fresno’s productivity increased by 17.3 percent in the last decade and a half.

That increase is the sixth largest among the nation’s 50 largest cities.

The study defines productivity generally as the level of economic output generated for a given amount of input.

That output is seen in Fresno’s GDP, which has grown by $18 billion since 2007, including $3 billion in the last two years.

Over the last 10 years, Fresno has also had its unemployment rate drop from 17.5 percent to 5.8 percent this last October.

And while Fresno’s poverty rate remains high at 20.6 percent, it has declined from a peak of 27.4 percent in 2014.

“In 2007, Fresno was third from last in our productivity rankings,” the study reads. “However, a painful reshuffling during and following the Great Recession to advanced manufacturing and its traditional reliance on agriculture, which – thanks to heavy mechanization – can be very productive, pushed its ranking up to spot number 36.”

Fresno’s per capita income has also grown nearly 70 percent in the last 15 years.

Year in Review: A look at Visalia’s new restaurants and what’s on the way

From family-owned start-up businesses to chain restaurants, Visalians now have more food options than before – with even more eateries on the way.

Here’s a quick look at some of the restaurants Visalia welcomed to town in 2022, as well as a few businesses planning to open shop next year:

This eatery offers customers a variety of mochi-themed treats, including donuts and waffles. Mochido also has Korean hotdogs — topped with Hot Cheetos or Ramen — on its menu Friday through Sunday.

Mochido is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday through Sunday. It’s located at 4237 S. Mooney Blvd.

Our Little Pizza Place offers take-and-bake pizzas, sandwiches and calzones using homemade red sauce and dough. Everything is customizable, and they even have a secret menu! This eatery is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday at 310 N. Mooney Blvd.

Texas Roadhouse offers hand-cut steaks prepared by an in-house butcher as well as freshly baked bread – made every five minutes and served with cinnamon butter – on top of ice-cold beer and margaritas. The restaurant is open from 3 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 3 to 11 p.m. on Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday at 4425 S. Mooney Boulevard.

Crumbl Cookies is a bakery that offers its customers the sweetest of treats – cookies made fresh daily – packaged perfectly in a pink box. The bakery has a rotating menu of cookies; however, their iconic milk chocolate chip cookies and pink sugar cookies are almost always for sale. On the menu this week, Galaxy Brownie, Tres Leches, Vanilla Crumb Cake, and Ultimate Peanut Butter. Crumbl Cookies is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to midnight on Friday, and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. The store is closed on Mondays and Sundays.

South Mooney Boulevard is the new home to Visalia’s third Mountain Mike’s Pizza. The eatery offers customers “mountain-sized” hand-made pizzas using fresh ingredients, including its iconic pepperoni. The new location at 3103 S. Mooney Blvd. is open from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Located in the back of 1852 Visalia – a family-friendly indoor/outdoor soccer venue – this microbrewery features five core beers and a community series suds, “El Martillo,” or “The Hammer,” a brown ale. 1852 Visalia, located at 707 W. Murray, is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

Located off of West Walnut Avenue and Akers Street, this eatery offers hungry customers 100% all beef dogs with no added nitrates, as well as hand-shaped, freshly baked buns, locally grown vegetables for toppings, and house-cooked potato chips. JoJo’s Grill-A-Dog, at 5101 W. Walnut Ave. Suite B, is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Butter + Milk Biscuit Bar is a family-owned restaurant and is the perfect early morning stop. The eatery offers its customers homemade biscuits, sandwiches, burritos, tacos, coffee and more. Butter + Milk Biscuit Bar, located at 3129 W. Noble Ave., is open daily from 6 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Ono ― which translates to “delicious” ― Hawaiian BBQ was founded 20 years ago, offering customers Hawaiian–inspired dishes using authentic recipes, including house-made Katsu and Teriyaki sauces. This restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays at 708 S. Mooney Boulevard.

Mango Crazy started as an ice cream shop but quickly transformed into a restaurant serving savory and sweet treats alike. The eatery still has ice cream on its menu with various flavors including butter pecan, cookie monster, bubble gum and cotton candy. The eatery is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Sunday at 5221 West Walnut Avenue.

RareTea offers customers baked goods, like Thai tea macaroons, as well as boba, milk tea and coffee. Located near GameStop and Target, RareTea uses organic milk, locally sourced, fresh fruits, and real cane sugar in fruit jams and purees. The restaurant, located at 3318 N. Dinuba Boulevard, has an opening date set for noon on Jan. 8.

House of JuJu offers customers gourmet burgers and sliders, like the Dragon Lady – a juicy patty served with homemade spicy garlic aioli, house pickled onions, topped with teriyaki slaw – as well as other many staples like salads, wraps, hotdogs and flatbreads. The restaurant will be located off of West Main Street and North Locust Street, near Sequoia Brewing, and is rumored to open in January or February; however, an exact opening day is not set in stone.

Coming soon to the Sequoia Mall, Sprouts Farmers Market is a much-welcomed addition to town, offering customers fresh produce and organic food options. There is no official opening date yet. Construction is already underway at 3303 S. Mooney Boulevard, in the former Sears building.

This article originally appeared on Visalia Times-Delta: Year in Review: A quick look at Visalia’s new restaurants



Fresno-based Xobee Networks announced Wednesday that it has acquired Myers Network Solutions, a tech solutions provider based out of San Jose.

The acquisition aims to build on Xobee Networks managed IT service clientele as well as allow Xobee to provide resources and products to even more businesses in the Bay Area.

“Through this investment, Xobee will embolden and scale our resources and services to clients within San Jose and across the state,” said Eric Rawn, Xobee Networks founder and CEO. “We are investing in Myers Network Solutions because they are the marquee computer business solutions experts in San Jose, and we are well-positioned to help strengthen their team, resources, and products toward current and future clients.”

Xobee Networks agreed to purchase Myers Network Solutions for $1.7 million. Xobee plans to maintain the entire staff at Myers as they welcome them into the Xobee Networks brand.

Xobee Networks’ addition of Myers Network Solutions adds strength to a workforce of more than 100 skilled tech professionals already at Xobee.

With this acquisition, Xobee hopes to expand its managed support, cloud computing, cybersecurity, telecommunications, web development and networking services at an affordable cost.

“Since the agreement between Xobee Networks and Myers Network Solutions earlier this year, Xobee has been able to increase revenue month over month with an 18% growth in host services offerings,” according to a Xobee news release.

Xobee Networks was founded in 1996 by Eric Rawn, and has since grown to serve thousands of clients throughout California.

Rawn also owns tech solutions firm BCT Consulting in Fresno.

California Competes Tax Credit Program

The California Competes Tax Credit (CCTC) is an income tax credit available to businesses that want to locate in California or stay and grow in California. Businesses of any industry, size, or location compete for over $180 million available in tax credits by applying in one of the three application periods each year. Applicants will be analyzed based on twelve different factors of evaluation, including number of full-time jobs being created, amount of investment, and strategic importance to the state or region.

Application Period Timeline: For the remainder of the 2022-2023, applications for the California Competes Tax Credit will be accepted during the following periods:

Plant Prefab to Open Nation’s First Automated Factory Dedicated to Efficiently and Sustainably Building Multifamily and Single-Family Housing

A preview of Plant Prefab’s first automated factory, a 270,000-square-foot regional production hub opening in 2023. Located in the Tejon Ranch Commerce Center just south of Bakersfield, CA, the factory enables Plant Prefab to serve the entire Western United States. The factory increases Plant Prefab’s production capacity to support large-scale developments, while enabling a step change in production velocity, quality control, and sustainability.


Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual (CCM) and the Citrus Research Board (CRB) have received more than $1 million in new federal funding for critical research programs that support the U.S. and California citrus industries. Last week, Congress passed the 2023 Appropriations bill, which includes funding to help stop the deadly citrus plant disease Huanglonging (HLB) that has ravaged citrus production in Florida and other parts of the country.

The $1 million in new funding was approved to establish a citrus breeding program at the USDA Agriculture Research Service (ARS) field station in Parlier. “The commitment of the citrus industry to delivering quality research and innovation for all farm use has taken a big step forward with the support of congress funding the citrus breeding program in Parlier,” said Justin Brown, CRB Chairman.  The funding will be re-appropriated annually.

The program, which was championed by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Representatives Jim Costa (D-Fresno) and David Valadao (R-Hanford), will identify new citrus varieties best suited for changing climatic pressures such as drought, consumer taste preferences and resistant to pests and diseases such as HLB. Parlier’s new program is an expansion of the existing national USDA ARS citrus breeding program in Florida, which focuses on varieties with higher yields, increased disease resistance, improved color and a longer shelf life. Based off of these advancements in Florida, the CCM and the CRB saw the need for a similar program in California that would work with unique environmental conditions of the state’s production regions.

CRB, a grower-funded organization aiming to further the industry’s research priorities, has committed $500,000 toward establishing the new breeding program in Parlier to bring additional representation to California’s industry. “The addition of the breeding facility in Parlier will make the ARS Citrus Program a truly national project,” said CCM President and CEO Casey Creamer. “We look forward to watching the growth of this program and its collaboration with the UC breeding program to find solutions to the issues California citrus growers are faced with every day.”

Wonderful Company Inks Million Square Foot Lease with Fortune 500 Food Manufacturer at Wonderful Industrial Park

SHAFTER, CA; Sept 13, 2022Wonderful Real Estate Development, one of the most active industrial real estate developers on the West Coast, has leased its most recent 1 million-square-foot speculative building to a prominent Fortune 500 American food manufacturer. The building is located at 3800 Fanucchi Way and features 1,063,000 square feet, 40 feet of clear height, 215-dock high doors, and parking expandable to 1,000 stalls to accommodate trailers and employee spaces. The facility is located on a 70-acre site with a building-to-site coverage of 35 percent. The food manufacturer intends to use the facility as a distribution center to sort and ship goods across the western region, including California, Nevada, and Washington. More than 150 jobs will be created with operations expected to begin in Q1 2023.

“With over 10 million square feet of occupied space in Wonderful Industrial Park by some of the best-known brands in America, our park has become the premier logistics and distribution business park in the Western U.S. that reaches a population size and market that is comparable to New York and New Jersey’s. In terms of demand, we see no let up from tenants that require very large and efficient industrial real estate. In fact, we’re already underway with another 1 million-square-foot speculative building and have two tenant proposals in hand, as well as a speculative 400,000-square-foot building that will likely be leased before the building shell is completed,” said Joe Vargas, SIOR, and President of Wonderful Real Estate Development.

In the recent lease to the American food company, the landlord was represented by Phil Lombardo. Cruise Adams, and Andrew Starnes at Cushman and Wakefield and the tenant was represented by Lynn Reich, Suzanne Serino, and Steve Bellitti at Colliers.

Over the last 4 years, Wonderful Industrial Park has delivered three 1 million-square-foot warehouses and over 4 million square feet in industrial space including both build-to-suit and speculative projects. In 2021, Amazon leased a 1 million-square-foot building on 72-acres located at 4500 Express within Wonderful Industrial Park. Other large occupiers in the park include Ross Stores with +3 million square feet on 130 acres, Target’s 2 million square feet on 80 acres and, Walmart at 630,000 square feet and 80 feet of clear height on 60 acres. Walmart’s prototype state of the art grocery-focused distribution center incorporates the most sophisticated automated sorting equipment and systems in the industry. Other WIP occupants include Essendant (Staples, Inc), American Tire Distributors, Formica, and Hillman as well as other 3PLs who have found WIP’s location and amenities extremely profitable.

In addition to its industrial developments, WIP recently introduced the Wonderful Career Center, a 98,000-square-foot office project that includes office space for several Wonderful Company brands as well as a vocational tech training center, that features three classrooms, four labs with dock doors, and an expansive conference room that is available for use by both The Wonderful Company teams and WIP tenants. The vocational school’s current offering is the Wonderful Technical Operator Program, with a curriculum that prepares students for high-paying roles through mechanical and electrical training.

About Wonderful Industrial Park

WIP is a fully entitled 1,625-acre, world-class distribution center located approximately 100 miles north of Los Angeles. The park is a rail-served industrial development, entitled for 26 million square feet, with nearly 10 million square feet completed and under operation to date. WIP provides tenants with access to a workforce population of over 700,000 residents within a 30-minute drive from the park.

WIP’s central location in California gives companies access to a robust transportation infrastructure. The property is minutes from Hwy-99, I-5 and Hwy-58 and offers convenient port access to the Port of Los Angeles, the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Oakland. The industrial park’s location allows access to 14 percent of the U.S. population within 300 miles and same-day delivery to 30 million Californians. It has a FedEx Ground hub onsite and is near a UPS ground hub in Bakersfield, CA with Meadows Field Airport located only seven miles away.

The park features an onsite rail yard with more than 17,000 feet of track able to accommodate unit trains with direct access to Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s mainline. WIP is equipped with an in-place high speed fiber optics network with 10 gigabytes in place with a capacity of 40 gigabytes.

About Wonderful Real Estate

Wonderful Real Estate is a professional real estate development and property management company owned by The Wonderful Company that develops, manages and invests in a diversified portfolio of real estate, with a particular focus on office and industrial properties. Leveraging over 30 years of experience in commercial real estate, Wonderful and its affiliates currently have over 10 million square feet of real estate holdings, consisting of owner-occupied industrial and commercial real estate for its operating businesses and approximately 7 million square feet of actively managed office and industrial properties occupied by third parties located mainly in Southern and Central California.

Wonderful Real Estate and its affiliates have invested almost $2 billion since 2008 for commercial real estate development, facility improvements, processing equipment and real estate acquisitions. Wonderful and its affiliates are also currently developing three business parks totaling over 1,865 acres for office and industrial use in California’s Central Valley, a number of parcels of which have already been sold or leased to Fortune 500 companies and other high quality anchor tenants.