KSU spins off business to advance software system used by USDA, 37 states

Nutrition program data management project evolves into partnership

By: - September 26, 2021 12:02 pm
data management system for government nutrition education programs that led to formation of Canopy, a company to commercialize the web-based tool. (Submitted/Kansas Reflector)

Kansas State University software developers created a data management system for government nutrition education programs that led to formation of Canopy, a company to commercialize the web-based tool. (Submitted/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Software developers at Kansas State University that created a data management system used by the federal government and dozens of states to track nutrition education programs formed a company to further commercialize the web-based tool.

The College of Education developed the university-patented Program Evaluation and Reporting System, or PEARS, in collaboration with K-State research and Extension in 2015. Program evaluation data can be entered into PEARS in real time, which allows education professionals and extension administrators to make timely decisions about nutrition program progress, implementation and impact.

Ernie Minton, dean of the College of Agriculture and director of K-State Research and Extension, said success of PEARS “will undoubtedly pave the way for other technical innovations coming out of K-State.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture selected PEARS last year as its national reporting system for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education, or SNAP-Ed. SNAP-Ed teaches people how to make their food stamp dollars stretch, how to shop for and cook healthy meals, and how to stay physically active.

Over a five-year period, PEARS has been adopted by SNAP-Ed programs in 37 states and eight statewide extension programs.

The research team at Kansas State opened Canopy, a public benefit limited liability company, to serve PEARS clients and deploy the software in new markets.

“Our vision is to help social impact programs by providing the technical tools and evaluation resources needed to maximize their success,” said Aaron Schroeder, Canopy president and part of the group that developed PEARS.

Commercialization of the software package will be supported by K-State Innovation Partners, which works on corporate engagement and economic development. The Canopy rollout offers a blueprint for cooperation with others on campus in development of software and service products, said Ken Williams, chief commercialization and licensing officer at K-State Innovation Partners.

Growth of Canopy could provide internship opportunities for K-State students and for collaboration with researchers and faculty. Canopy also expects to work with local businesses in Manhattan.

“We are excited to see Canopy bringing high-paying technology jobs to Manhattan and retain prime talent in the region,” said Jason Smith, president of the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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