About ARI: Program | Research Focus Areas | Funding | Technology Transfer

Research and Development Focus Areas

Agricultural Business

Historians will identify the current agricultural period as the second agricultural revolution. Mechanization, hybrid seeds, synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides highlighted the first revolution starting in the 19th century. Information management and changing consumer demands are driving 21st century agribusiness and agricultural production. Global positioning satellites and geographic information systems are now making possible "precision farming". The Internet is making possible everything from services and supply purchasing to commodity trading and marketing in an increasingly global marketplace. As technology continues to develop, we see more farmers managing their operations each day from their mobile devices, instead of from a pickup truck. Consumers are increasingly interested in food and health and are driving the market for nutritious, locally-produced, organic, environmentally responsible and humanely-produced products. Investments in applied research, industry training and continuing education will be essential and significant to the state’s agricultural industry in the following areas:


California's impressive biodiversity is most readily demonstrated by the number of native species found within its borders: 750 vertebrates, 6,800 plant species, and 25,000 insect species – more than any other state in the continental United States. Almost one-third of California’s plant and fish species, and many of its natural communities, are found nowhere else on earth. At times, tensions may arise between agricultural interests and society’s desire to preserve nature. For agriculture, including forestry and range management, to thrive in California, research is needed on best practices to ensure sustainably managed and natural ecosystems. Applied research in the following areas is relevant to agricultural sustainability:


The world's population is forecast to exceed 9 billion by the year 2050, while its arable land will rapidly be depleted. California's expanding urban growth has consistently reduced prime agricultural land and competes with food production for the state's limited developed natural resources, especially water. If California agriculture is to provide food and fiber for the state's burgeoning population as well as for a positive agricultural export trade balance, development of new technologies to produce more nutritious and higher value food and fiber products is essential. Today’s agriculture depends on the tools of modern science and engineering, from genomics and molecular biology to robotics and chemical engineering. Agricultural biotechnology is the new laboratory proving ground for advanced sustainable agricultural systems to meet these demands. CSU/ARI-industry co-funded applied agricultural biotechnology research in the following areas is of significant relevance to the state's agricultural mission:

Food Science/Safety/Security

Agriculture's need to produce more nutritious and higher value food products, the consumer's demand for convenience, and industry's increased awareness of consumer safety concerns continue to drive industry's product development, processing practices, and marketing strategies. According to the Food Marketing Institute, an average grocery store now contains more than 26,000 items, with more than 10,000 new products needed each year to keep the shelves filled. Food safety and the "ready to eat" convenience of meals and snacks are expectations of the modern food shopper. Recent increases in foodborne illness and food product recalls have heightened consumer awareness and increased regulatory agencies’ efforts to scrutinize the food production chain, from farm to fork. Applied research is needed to ensure a safe, nutritious and value-added food supply that meets consumer expectations. CSU/ARI-industry co-funded applied food product development, processing, packaging, and nutrition research is necessary to further advance industry development and the CSU's educational mission in the following areas:

Natural Resources

California's climate and its abundance of high quality natural resources is the basis for its population growth and agricultural/economic development. California is unusually rich in minerals, timber, fertile soil and watersheds, supporting some of the best farmland, forests, grazing land and watersheds in the world. Competing urban, agricultural and environmental interests have sparred for decades over ownership, allocation, and utilization of the state's natural resources. Recently, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities Boards on Natural Resources and Oceans, Atmosphere and Climate identified six grand challenges in their Roadmap for Natural Resources (2014): 1) Sustainability; 2) Water; 3) Climate Change; 4) Agriculture; 5) Energy; and 6) Education. The CSU colleges of agriculture have a collective wealth of shared knowledge, experience and access to natural resources to support successful applied research to investigate and develop conservation and restoration techniques, compatible and sustainable multiple use systems, and environmentally sound management practices. CSU/ARI match funding will facilitate new and expanded research partnerships with all the competing stakeholders in the following areas:

Production and Cultural Practices

California continues to be the leading farm state with 400 agricultural commodities valued at over $45 billion in farm gate. High quality and quantity output remains the backbone of any agricultural production system. Exponential advances in increasing both were achieved during the 20th century, in large part due to the development of hybrid seeds, synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides. While continued increases in quality and production are anticipated during the 21st century, they will most likely result from the application of precision information systems (GPS, GIS, etc.), biotechnology, new production systems, and improved management practices. Agricultural producers will need to be highly efficient in water use, while facing the ongoing pressures of exotic pests and diseases, increasing regulations on plant protection materials, and conflicts at the ag-urban interface. Applied high tech production research and technology transfer in layman's terminology and industry continuing education is more important now than at any time in history. The CSU agricultural colleges are well positioned to provide these critical services. CSU/ARI match funding will facilitate new and expanded research partnerships with the dairy, poultry, swine, grape, vegetable, cotton, tomato, rice, tree fruit and nut, beef cattle, and sheep industries in the following production areas:

Public Policy

California's future prosperity relies on hard and sometimes controversial policy choices about emerging technologies and utilization of the state's natural resources. The CSU colleges of agriculture, together with their research collaborators are well positioned to serve as non-partisan, scientifically-based resources for policy makers. Choices regarding land use, water cost, quality and allocation, air quality standards, farm worker safety, environmental protection and restoration, and agricultural and municipal waste management will heavily influence agriculture's future profitability, competitiveness, and sustainability. As fewer Americans are directly involved in farming, ranching and timber production, agricultural policy formation increasingly involves a diverse set of stakeholders. In 2010, the California Agricultural Vision: Strategies for Sustainability (Ag Vision) report identified 12 strategies to ensure a vibrant future for California agriculture. Public policy research is needed to address the Ag Vision strategies, including reducing malnutrition, easing regulatory burdens on agriculture while maintaining health, safety and environmental standards, securing adequate water and labor for agriculture, adapting to climate change, and promoting regional markets for California producers. The CSU/ARI/industry co-funding will advance the Council's recommendations, build upon current CSU successful university-industry research investments, and provide match funding for high priority requests in the following areas:

Water and Irrigation Technology

Demands upon California’s water resources and its aging conveyance infrastructure have reached the crisis stage. California faces a continuing challenge to balance its finite water supplies against the needs of agriculture, the environment, and a growing population, and to make timely deliveries from watersheds to diversion points. In large part because of California's limited developed surface water supply and its extensively over-drafted groundwater basins, agricultural and urban water districts and their users are required to implement water efficiency technologies and conservation practices. The CSU colleges of agriculture have been instrumental in the development, testing and evaluation of urban and agricultural irrigation equipment and systems for both public agencies and private business. Additionally, they have provided consumer education, industry training courses, and consulting services to irrigation and drainage personnel throughout California. CSU/ARI matching funds will provide for new and expanded irrigation industry partnership and facilitate applied research in the following and other emerging irrigation disciplines: