TOPEKA – Kansas State University software developers who created a data management system used by the federal government and dozens of states to track nutrition education programs have formed a company to further commercialize the web tool.
The College of Education developed the university’s patented program assessment and reporting system, or PEARS, in collaboration with K-State Research and Extension in 2015. Program assessment data can be entered into PEARS by real time, which enables education professionals and extension administrators to make timely decisions about the progress, implementation and impact of the nutrition program.
Ernie Minton, dean of the College of Agriculture and director of K-State Research and Extension, said the success of PEARS “will undoubtedly pave the way for further technical innovations from K-State.”
The US Department of Agriculture selected PEARS last year as the national reporting system for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Nutrition Education, or SNAP-Ed. SNAP-Ed teaches people how to grow their food stamp dollars, how to buy 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 Kansas State research team opened Canopy, a public utility limited company to serve PEARS customers and deploy the software in new markets.
“Our vision is to help social impact programs by providing the technical tools and evaluation resources necessary to maximize their success,” said Aaron Schroeder, president of Canopy and a member of the group that developed PEARS.
Marketing of the software will be supported by K-State Innovation Partners, which works on business engagement and economic development. The Canopy deployment provides a model of cooperation with others on campus for the development of software products and services, said Ken Williams, chief marketing and licensing officer at K-State Innovation Partners.
Canopy’s growth could provide opportunities for internships for K-State students and for collaboration with researchers and faculty. Canopy also expects to work with local businesses in Manhattan.
“We’re excited to see Canopy bring well-paying tech jobs to Manhattan and retain top talent in the area,” said Jason Smith, president of the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce.