Innovator Fellowship Program


Through a unique partnership between academia and entrepreneurs, the Innovation Institute for Food & Health (IIFH) and host investor groups are supporting UC Davis graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in developing hands-on entrepreneurial experience in food and agriculture innovation. Recipients of the Innovator Fellowship will learn about how investors evaluate startups and how to conduct critical experiments, studies or prototyping to get their own innovation into the marketplace. The partnering venture capital groups are focused on food and health, and are aligned with the IIFH vision and mission. IIFH offers this immersive food-tech-entrepreneurship opportunity twice a year. The 12-month program will provide winning fellows up to $70K in funding for salary, travel, tuition, and research expenses.

The period to apply has now closed. Applications are currently under review.

2018 IIFH FOODSHOT INNOVATOR FELLOW – Partnership with FoodShot Global

IIFH has partnered with a new investment platform, FoodShot Global (FSG) to bring a network of groundbreaking entrepreneurs, researchers and advocates together to advance new products, solve formulation and commercialization challenges in the food system. To kick off the partnership, FSG will be hosting a UC Davis graduate student in a unique fellowship opportunity to gain real-world experience in the process of landscaping and vetting food and agriculture startups. Bridging the gap between the lab bench and the marketplace, the IIFH FoodShot Fellow will be exposed to essential entrepreneurial insights on what it takes to bring a concept to market and succeed. After careful review from a highly competitive pool of UC Davis applicants, we are excited to have selected our inaugural IIFH FoodShot Fellow.

In the second open call for proposals from the Innovation Institute for Food & Health (IIFH), applicants from across multiple sectors and disciplines were encouraged to collaborate in designing cutting-edge projects to improve energy efficiency across the food system. An initial joint endeavor between the Energy Institute at Colorado State University (CSU) and the University of California at Davis (UCD) emphasized technologies and processes to address energy inefficiencies, food safety and nutritional content in food preservation.

Energy inputs present the greatest cost for food production and processing. Yet ineffective preservation results in huge spoilage waste across storage and distribution channels, and introduces food-borne toxins that affect countless populations in the US and abroad. Disrupting this high-cost, high-waste scenario is our target for impact in the next 12-24 months.

FOOD – Reducing energy use and food waste in poultry meat preservation
Utilizing microbiome and bioinformatic tools to improve poultry meat preservation, and develop indicators predictive of quality, shelf-life and nutritive status.

ENERGY – Saving energy through gasification of food waste to fuel food preservation
Analysis of food processing and agricultural waste streams to explore the commercial potential of a waste-to-energy gasification technology supplying food preservation processes.

FOOD – Zeolite regeneration and use for improved food preservation
Developing mobile, scalable and inexpensive desiccant technologies to enhance food preservation, nutrition capture and storage.

* COLLABORATIVE PROGRAM – Partnership with Foundation for Food & Agriculture
IIFH worked with national partner Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) to develop $1.79 million food waste and drought tolerance programs to improve drying methods and shelf-stablilty of products across the food system.

Food, Ag and Health Projects

In the first open call for proposals from the Innovation Institute for Food & Health (IIFH), non-profit and industry applicants from across multiple sectors and disciplines were encouraged to collaborate in designing cutting-edge projects to accelerate transformation at the interface of food, agriculture and health. Our first pilot brought county families together with expertise from the Yolo Food Bank, Family Hui and UC Davis to address prevalent issues of food insecurity and food waste locally.*

IIFH went on to fund uncommon collaborators across a portfolio of projects in the broad fields of food, agriculture, health, engineering and technology. Transdisciplinary perspectives can revolutionize sustainable agriculture and food safety, and secure access to nutrition for all.

HEALTH – Assessing the health impacts of wheat varieties
Evaluating the health effects of a new wheat variety with increased dietary fiber, including impact on adult blood sugar levels without having to adjust eating habits.

HEALTH – Improving the quality and safety of Rwanda’s dairy market
A community-based curriculum to train smallholder farmers in Rwanda on ways to improve the quality and safety of the country’s dairy infrastructure, as it aims to double milk consumption by 2018.

ENGINEERING – Developing the ultimate weapon against bacteria
A techno-economic analysis of novel biologics production and use for food safety antimicrobials, and an alternative to traditional antibiotics.

TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT – Using insect surveillance to reduce pesticide use
Application of sensor technology and big data to create a collection of sensors and algorithms to monitor pests and insects, reducing use of pesticides and crop damage.

TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT – Mapping and coordinating data between food systems and stakeholders
Development of a centralized framework and location for mapping, developing, storing and interpreting data streams between food systems and stakeholders to lay the foundation for a technology driven food system.

AGRICULTURE – Developing a production pipeline for a plant-based meat substitute
Improving cropping, harvesting, handling and post-harvest methods to develop a reliable supply of protein derived from alfalfa.

AGRICULTURE – Creating optical assays to detect crop exposure to drought
Developing a hybrid platform that couples biological specificity with nanochemistry to detect specific crop stress in real time.

FOOD – Applying Design Thinking to systemic food challenges
Training students in evolved Design Thinking and rapid prototyping to create solutions for systemic food challenges, such as waste.

* FOOD – Feeding Yolo and beyond
IIFH’s first pilot project uses abundant local produce to create a delicious and nutritious shelf-stable meal reflecting the cultural preferences of predominant food insecure families in Yolo County.