F3: Farms. Food. Future.
Fresno DRIVE’s Fresno-Merced Future of Food Innovation (F3) Initiative will fund a Climate-Smart Agrifood Technology and Engineering Cluster based on capabilities in digitalization and data science, mechatronics, equipment, and systems testing and integration for agrifood applications. The F3 portfolio drives both economic growth and equity – spurring inclusive innovation and commercialization with supports that proactively engage small farmers and entrepreneurs alongside multinational companies; building a seamless talent development pipeline; and catalyzing local market growth of the small-scale farm and food industry. This robust portfolio will address economic, agricultural, and climate challenges, positioning our Valley’s ag-based industry and farmers to be competitive, resilient, and sustainable.
The F3 Initiative was submitted to the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) in October 2021. The EDA received 529 applications from regions in all 50 states and five territories. In January 2022, F3 was named one of 60 national finalists. On Friday, September 2nd at 8:00 a.m. PST, the White House announced its BBBRC awardees, and named F3 as a recipient of $65.1 Million in funding, the largest Federal grant ever awarded to the Central Valley.
Build Back Better
The challenge is assisting communities nationwide in their efforts to accelerate economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and build local economies that are resilient to future economic shocks. The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is the largest economic development initiative from the U.S. Department of Commerce in decades.
Key coalition partners include the California Department of Food and Agriculture, University of California, Merced; Fresno State; the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources; Fresno Metro Ministry; Cultiva La Salud; Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation; the City of Fresno; and the community colleges serving the five-county region.
F3's Areas of Focus
The strategy will be implemented through five integrated projects which focus on:
local food systems
pedestrian improvements connecting Downtown Fresno and surrounding neighborhoods
funding for small entrepreneurs
F3's Five Projects
F3 Innovate: Innovation Center for Research and Entrepreneurship in Ag Food Technology & Engineering (formerly iCREATE). Located in Downtown Fresno near the future high-speed rail station in a renovated 45,000 square-foot building, F3 Innovate will serve as a physical headquarters for F3.
Hecho en Fresno: La Cocina Fresno, a headquarters location in Downtown Fresno in close proximity to F3 Innovate and Saint Rest + Food to Share, a satellite facility in Southwest Fresno. Together these will create more than 40,000 sf of warehouse, commercial kitchen, education/training and more for cottage food entrepreneurs, food vendors and BIPOC farmers.
AgTEC: The Ag-TEC workforce initiative establishes a large, regional coordinating body comprised of industry associations and employers to advise on and help champion the development of the Agrifood Tech and Engineering workforce of the future.
Opportunity Walkway: A 1-mile, landscaped, lighted pedestrian trail connecting Southwest Fresno to downtown and the high-speed rail station.
SIEMBRA Food Fund: Provides small business lending for small food entrepreneurs, mobile food vendors, and restaurants.