Success Story: From the Land

From the Land

Sustainable ag tech innovation company builds on Dream Fund, Mealworms


Location: Southern California | San Bernardino County

Business Type: Agricultural, Ag Tech

Small Business CenterCaravanserai Project

Assistance Received: Dream Fund Grant, Training, Access to Capital

Visit From the Land online

From the Land is a sustainable ag tech innovation company in Yucaipa, California in the Inland Empire. The company was established by Dr. Gina Oliver and Richard Hutchison in late 2019.

Dr. Gina Oliver is a first-generation college graduate and STEM Ph.D. and relentlessly pursues positive and impactful change – she built her own lab equipment from scratch and pioneered new fields of research and innovation. As a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow, she has presented at conferences around the world, collaborated with researchers across fields, and now has turned her sights on farming, food, and climate change.

Richard Hutchison dropped out of his Ph.D. program to pursue faster-paced impact projects. While conducting research to improve the optical and thermal efficiency of phosphor converted white LEDs using nanocomposites, he led a team to develop and patent an active sports body armor. Post academia, he helped resolve and improve stem cell differentiation factor delivery micro and nanoparticles, led and scaled an innovation lab, built and ran an Engineering Design program for underserved and underrepresented people of all ages, and even founded and ran a tea business, landing him on the front page of a prominent Silicon Valley newspaper.

Together, this science powerhouse team applied for the California Dream Fund grant, which was paired with guidance and business counseling from Caravanserai Project, a CalOSBA small business technical assistance provider. They successfully completed the program and received a $10,000 Dream Fund grant. They also applied for America’s Seed Fund Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program Phase 1 grant and were awarded $100,000. They are now in the process of applying for a Phase 2 grant. They used these state and federal grant funding opportunities to develop the business model and setup a demonstration project growing mealworms in their patent-pending farm setup. The Dream Fund grant enabled these farmers to build a second roof for the prototype, purchase additional mealworms from a local supplier to beef up the breeding cycle, and purchase batteries to finish the conversion from electric to fully off the grid.

CalOSBA visited the farm to check out From the Land’s ag tech farming innovations. Gina and Richard explained that their structure is similar to the adobe-style house building method used around the world, however, they have developed a proprietary data capture, power, and lighting system within the structure to enable the structure to operate off the power grid. The demonstration project is growing mealworms sustainably – each piece of the process is monetized via different verticals. The frass (mealworm waste) is sifted out of the bran (mealworm food) and is being sold at local hardware stores as fertilizer for gardening, the mealworms are being sold to local zoos and pet owners as reptile food, and the mealworm skins will eventually be processed and sold as well.

Mealworms? You read that right. These scientists are developing this business model to be scalable for consumers to do at home – we’re talking economic mobility and sustainable agriculture in your very own backyard and community!

What does this mean? It’s an avenue for people to grow their own small business in their backyard with minimal up-front costs, it stands to reduce the carbon footprint by developing local suppliers of hard-to-find local-grown mealworms or small livestock selling to their local community thereby reducing the number of truck trips to import these critters from other countries, creates sustainability and increased reliability in the local supply chain, reduce water and electricity agriculture costs, and reduce losses by protecting small livestock and produce from the elements.

This patent-pending system, which includes a rooftop garden, solar panels, humidifying and data capture systems, can also be used for small livestock, chicken hatching, piglets, and lambing, and could be used for growing lettuce and other produce. The next phase is bringing natural light into the structure for growing produce.

Chris and Gina, owners of Punk Rock Ranch in Mentone, CA stopped by the farm to learn more about CalOSBA resources, including the technical assistance partnership network. They shared about their local honeybee business – they needed marketing and business plan assistance and are looking to grow their apiary farming contracts. They received a referral on the spot to the Orange County/Inland Empire Small Business Development Center Network, United States Department of Agriculture Small and Mid-Sized Farmer Resources, and they learned about the two ag tech incubators in the Central Valley under the CalOSBA Accelerate California Inclusive Innovation Hub Program.

This is the power of farmers coming together in the Inland Empire coupled with CalOSBA empowering small business owners with the resources they need to start, manage, and grow their business.

They are developing prototypes and plan to sell this farming structure and system on a 10-foot by 12-foot scale (to start) for consumers to setup at home.

Updated: 11/17/2023

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