Next week, the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology are co-hosting a two-day Virtual AgTech Summit with Salinas-based, Hartnell College.
The major theme of the event is the importance of education and the need to up-skill today’s agriculture workforce. It’s the strong belief that the agtech revolution of today, requires a ‘New Kind of Worker’ for tomorrow. With the emergence of game-changing robotic and automation technologies, many traditional manual roles will now become hybrid – humans and machines working together.
Dennis Donohue, Director of the Western Growers Center, will be joined by the California Secretary of Agriculture, Karen Ross. Together they will discuss the role of education and the significance of meeting today’s and tomorrow’s workforce needs. Wearing my New Zealand hat, I know that this is a conversation that is already underway. As the impact of automation increases across the production supply chain, so is the need to up-skill the workforce.
The Summit is also introducing the audience to opportunities in Mexico and LATAM. The reality is that a number of Western Grower members, particularly in California, Nevada and Arizona have moved south of the US border into Mexico and further south to LATAM. This region is growing in global significance. Once again, wearing my New Zealand hat, the Mexican and LATAM opportunity is being actively investigated by New Zealand Trade & Enterprise.
The discussions next week will provide further input into the opportunity. From my own visit to Argentina in 2018 and discussions with folk in Chile, Columbia, Brazil and Mexico more recently, I can absolutely confirm this interest. The sessions next week cover both the challenges facing growers in this important region as well as an overview of the emerging start-up scene.
I strongly urge anyone interested in learning more about just how education is going to play an ever more important role in the development of the agricultural workforce, as well as get a better understanding on the emerging opportunities in Mexico and LATAM, to register for this Summit.
You can register free of charge today at www.salinasvalleyagtechsummit.com
Since the beginning of the year, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to and share information with Walt Duflock, Vice President of Innovation, Western Growers and Dennis Donohue, Director of the Western Growers Innovation and Technology Center in Salinas.
The focus of this discussion has been in preparation for a major announcement and initiative launch that Western Growers (WGA) will be hosting on 11 February.
Over the past five years, I’ve interacted with WGA on a regular basis. The challenges that their members face are well-known and a New Zealand agritech delegation had the opportunity to meet many of these growers during the Forbes Live conference back in June 2019. The image above shows some of the Kiwi delegation on a romaine property in the heart of Salinas Valley.
In advance of the 11 February announcements, Western Growers are asking startups (and scaleups) who are engaged in crop robotics and automation to complete a survey to help them identify early stage companies who are building products and working in the field. They are gathering this information to be able to share with WGA members.
Both Walt and Dennis understand the capability and expertise that exists ‘down-under’. By completing the survey below, early stage companies that work in this space will be able to share their information directly with WGA.
Being ‘down-under’ is NOT a disadvantage. WGA know that in order to address some of the major challenges members face, particularly around harvesting, they need to look at global solutions that can help address local problems. The main advantage that early stage companies in the southern hemisphere have is the counter seasonal opportunity. One can run a pilot programme in California, Arizona or Nevada during the northern hemisphere harvesting (picking) season and then refine the technology on southern hemisphere properties 6 months later.
Completing this survey will provide WGA with the information they need to know about your business and the technology you are either developing or have developed. With Western Growers members accounting for the production of more than 50% of all North American fresh produce; fruit, vegetables, nuts, organics, this is a major commercial pathway opportunity.
If you are developing robotics or automation technologies for the specialty crop market and are looking to expand your global footprint, this is one heck of a great way to start 2021!
You can access the survey here: Field Automation Startup Survey (research.net)