News & Notes - Cultivate Summer 2023

Cal Poly Strawberry Center and U.S. Department of Agriculture Research Service Receive $1 Million in Reoccurring Federal Funding

The Cal Poly Strawberry Center, in collaboration with the California Strawberry Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Station in Salinas, California, was awarded $1 million in federal funding to expand its research in strawberry automation leading to enhanced sustainable farming practices, including workforce development. The funding, awarded through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of2023, was championed by members of the California delegation in the House and Senate and will be reoccurring in future years.

The program will bring together farmers, entrepreneurs, researchers, educators and students to focus on development and deployment of innovative automation and mechanization technologies related to planting, pruning, pest management, picking and processing in the strawberry industry. Funds will support applied research in the field and help foster a workforce pipeline to support sustainable food production needed to meet the demands of a growing population.

With this funding, the Cal Poly Strawberry Center will provide hands-on training to graduate and undergraduate students from a mix of STEM and agricultural fields, with the goal of developing technologies to enhance workforce efficiency and safety while mitigating risks from pests and disease. Students will be challenged to think creatively about real-world solutions, with an emphasis on current issues in the industry.

“This project will train the next generation of industry stewards who will be well-versed in crop production technologies and prepare them to become future leaders in agricultural technology,” said Gerald Holmes, director of the Cal Poly Strawberry Center.

Boswell Ag Tech Center Grand Opening

A grand opening of the new Boswell Agricultural Technology Center was celebrated on May 5 with the dedication of the William and Linda Frost Center for Research and Innovation. Donors to the center include the James G. Boswell Foundation, the Oreggia Family Foundation, Albert B. Smith, the Otis Booth Foundation, Taylor Farms, Mike Leprino, and George P. Johnson Experience Marketing. The center will enable research and discovery to train tomorrow’s leaders in agriculture and food innovation. The new center, made possible by donors, will serve as a hub for students, faculty and industry to gather and share knowledge to drive the food industry forward in the areas of food safety and security, nutrition science, culinary development, sensory evaluation and experiential design.


Assistant Swine Unit Manager Appointed to Pork Board

Assistant Swine Unit Manager Morgan Wonderly was appointed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as one of five new board members to represent over 60,000 U.S. pork producers. She is the first woman from California to serve in this capacity. Wonderly will serve as one of 15 members of the National Pork Board, which is comprised of pork producers and importers from states across the U.S. Board members are nominated by Pork Board Delegates at the National Pork Industry Forum and then appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.


New Leadership Hires

Director of the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Fire Institute

Retired Fire Chief Frank Frievalt was hired in April as the director of the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Fire Institute. He previously served as fire chief for the Mammoth Lakes Fire Protection District, division chief of operations for the City of Sparks Fire Department, and in various other leadership roles for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Nevada State Fire Marshal, Tulare County Fire Department, California Division of Forestry, and the University of Nevada – Reno. The interdisciplinary WUI Institute facilitates research, education, training and the outreach needed to address the catastrophic and growing problem of wildland urban interface fires in California and beyond.

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Associate Dean of Student Success and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Ann De Lay was named the college’s associate dean of student success and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in June. She joined Cal Poly in 2008, working previously in the college’s Agricultural Education and Communication Department as a professor and graduate coordinator, supervising, evaluating and mentoring teacher candidates during their clinical practice. She also served as the advisor for the Latinos in Agriculture Club and has held several appointments as a CAFES faculty fellow in the areas of DEI, assessment and the quarter to semester transition. De Lay earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from Cal State Fresno, a master’s degree in agriculture at Cal Poly and a doctorate degree in agricultural education at the University of Florida.

Associate Dean of Operations and Infrastructure

Will Marchese joined the college in June as the associate dean of operations and infrastructure, overseeing strategic planning and operations of the college’s infrastructure and 18 production operations, which generate more than $5M in annual revenue. Previously, he held roles at CSU San Marcos, Cal Poly Corporation and UC Santa Barbara. He earned a bachelor's degree from UC Davis and a juris doctor from Lincoln Law School.

Dairy Products Technology Center Director

Carmen Licon-Cano was hired in July to head Cal Poly’s Dairy Products Technology Center. She earned a bachelor’s degree in food engineering and master’s and doctoral degrees in agricultural science and engineering from Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Albacete, Spain, specializing in dairy product development and aroma analysis. Prior to joining Cal Poly, she taught courses in food processing and engineering at Fresno State. The Dairy Products Technology Center is focused on dairy foods research, industry support, technology transfer, and education. Cal Poly is one of the primary training institutions for people entering dairy foods industry careers.

Calendar of Upcoming Events

  • Fall Quarter Classes Begin, Sept. 21
  • Homecoming, Sept. 30
  • Fall Preview, Oct. 13
  • Mustang Family Weekend, Oct. 20-22
  • Alumni and Friends Reception at the Global Produce & Floral Show, Anaheim, Oct. 20

Visit Cultivate Summer 2023 to read more stories.

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