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Beverly Hills billionaires give UC Davis $50 million to build new agricultural research hub

UC Davis is set to build a center focused on agricultural innovation and research after Beverly Hills billionaires Lynda and Stewart Resnick gave the university $50 million, the largest donation it has received from individual donors, the school announced Monday.

The $40-million center will work on making crops more resilient and sustainable during climate change, maximizing water and energy efficiencies and expanding access to nutritious food, UC Davis said in a statement. The 40,000-square-foot hub will be known as the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Center for Agricultural Innovation and house classrooms, laboratories, a student career center and an advising support center, according to UC Davis.

The pledge comes from one of California’s largest and most powerful agricultural partners, the Resnicks of the Wonderful Co. The family has led one of the largest farming empires in the country, selling popular supermarket items like Halos mandarin oranges, Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice and Fiji Water.

“Protecting and preserving our planet for the future means we must take bold steps and push the boundaries of what’s possible,” said Stewart Resnick, a member of the UC Davis Chancellor’s Board of Advisors, in a statement. “This gift aims to help our greatest scientific minds to rise to the great challenge of our time — the sustainability of our planet for future generations.”

The center, according to the university, is expected to “explore new ways for balancing food production with leading sustainability practices while advancing the global agricultural industry with scalable solutions.”

“Thanks to this historic gift from Lynda and Stewart Resnick, UC Davis will further expand its global reach, helping to shape the future of sustainable food production,” UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May said in the statement.

Part of the donation — $10 million — is also slated to go toward research grants, which will be awarded this year to UC Davis faculty and specialists to identify value properties in the byproducts of pistachios, almonds and pomegranates — crops that have also helped build the Resnicks agricultural empire in California.

This is not the first large donation that the Resnicks have bestowed on a California university.

In 2019, the couple announced a $750-million donation to Caltech, meant to aid research into climate change and sustainability.

Forbes currently puts the couple’s net worth at about $8 billion, and it estimates that nearly half of all people in the United States purchase at least one of the couple’s products.

Design of the center is expected to begin this year, and construction is scheduled to be completed by 2026.

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