About the Pacific Coast Coalition – Dairy Business Innovation Initiative

The PCC-DBII is part of a national initiative to help the dairy industry address ongoing supply chain and food system challenges by offering resources for:

  • Business plan development,
  • Marketing and branding, and
  • Increasing access to innovative production and processing techniques to support the development of value-added products.

This initiative currently operates in six states — Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington — and is supported by collaborative partners and subaward grant funding which will make more than $11.4 million available to regional dairy businesses for innovation-related investments.

Fresno State is uniquely qualified to spearhead this initiative, given that California leads the nation in milk production and milk is the number one agricultural commodity in the state. As home to hundreds of dairy businesses, the Pacific Coast region is also well-positioned to serve the needs of growing markets in Asia and Latin America.

At the national level, the federal DBI Initiative provides direct technical assistance and grants to dairy businesses. Other DBI regions are:


Fresno State Team

Carmen Licon portrait

Dr. Carmen Licon

Director - Pacific Coast Coalition - Dairy Business Innovation Initiative

Dr Licon is the Associate Director for the Institute for Food and Agriculture and the Director of the Milkulture Institute, which brings an interdisciplinary approach to the art, science, and culture of dairy products. An Assistant Professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at California State University, Fresno, Dr. Licon earned her M.S. and Ph.D. in Agricultural Science and Engineering at the University of Castilla La Mancha, Spain, specializing in dairy product development and aroma analysis. She also served as a postdoc in France at the National Institute of Agricultural Research and at the Institute of Neuroscience in Lyon, where she explored how bacteria interactions in cheese will influence the aroma composition and how consumers perceive these aromas. She has secured >$23 million in grants, much of which supports the PCC-DBII. Dr. Licon created the recipe for an award-winning cheese with saffron and is a cheese enthusiast fascinated by the olfactory system and how it influences emotions and food choices.

Susan Pheasant portrait

Dr. Susan Pheasant

Director - Institute for Food and Agriculture - PCC-DBII

Dr. Susan Pheasant is the Director of the Institute for Food and Agriculture and “cowkeeper” for the Pacific Coast Coalition – Dairy Business Innovation Initiative, a >$23 million endeavor spanning six states and eight institutions of higher education. Her educational background includes undergraduate degrees in Agricultural Economics and Business Administration (WSU) as well as an MBA-Ag Specialization (Cal Poly-SLO) and an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. incorporating ag econ, marketing, education, and rural sociology (WSU) to evaluate how growers make decisions to adopt new technologies and ideas. Dr. Pheasant has consulted with national and international agribusinesses and non-profit organizations to implement change technologies and educational programs, helped producers prepare for food safety audits, and conducted 3rd party audits. She is part of a six-generation lineage of tree fruit growers who firmly believe and practice that apple pie is best a la mode with ice cream.

Nancy van Leuven Portrait

Dr. Nancy Van Leuven

Director of Strategic Communication and Engagement - PCC-DBII

Dr. Nancy Van Leuven is the Director of Strategic Communication and Engagement for the PCC-DBII and is also an Associate Professor in the Media, Communications and Journalism Department at Fresno State. She received her Ph.D. in Communication at the University of Washington after a career in marketing, public relations and community development. Her most recent work focuses on global communication with an emphasis on food security and indigenous populations within social justice and international development frameworks. Dr. Van Leuven has published and presented research on health care for rural populations, public agencies’ social media strategies, and why global-change initiatives, such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, face obstacles to success with Western audiences. Dr. Van Leuven joins PCC-DBII with the goal of helping partners, grant winners, and others create engaging campaigns and messages that support the dairy industry.