KSU is outsourcing the business to improve the software system used by the USDA in 37 states

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TOPEKA – Software developers at Kansas State University who developed a data management system used by the federal government and dozen of states to track nutrition education programs, formed a company to further commercialize the web-based tool.

In 2015, the College of Education developed the university-patented Program Evaluation and Reporting System (PEARS) in cooperation with K-State research and Extension. Program evaluation data can be entered into PEARS in real time to make timely decisions about the progress, implementation and impact of the nutritional 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 other technical innovations from K-State.”

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

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

The Kansas State research team launched Canopy, a not-for-profit limited company, to serve PEARS customers and deploy the software in new markets.

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

The commercialization of the software package is supported by K-State Innovation Partners who are working on corporate engagement and economic development. The introduction of Canopy provides a blueprint for working with others on campus to develop software and services products, said Ken Williams, chief commercialization and licensing officer at K-State Innovation Partners.

Canopy’s growth could provide internship opportunities for K-state students and for collaboration with researchers and faculties. Canopy also expects to partner with local Manhattan businesses.

“We’re excited to see Canopy bring high-paying tech jobs to Manhattan and keep top talent in the area,” said Jason Smith, president of the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce.


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