- Author: Hanif Houston
Researchers seek insight on emerging controlled environment agriculture trends
Greenhouse operators are encouraged to participate in the 2023 State of Controlled Environment Agriculture survey. IUNU, a technology company that specializes in AI and computer vision solutions for the agriculture industry, and the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources are conducting the survey to gain insights on emerging trends and challenges to share with the controlled environment agriculture industry.
The survey takes approximately 25 minutes to complete. All growers using CEA – greenhouse, high tunnel or indoor – are invited to participate. All data collected is confidential and shared only as anonymous trends. No identifying information is ever shared. Growers who participate will get early access to the survey results report and will get access to an exclusive webinar to discuss the results with the authors of the report.
The fourth State of CEA Survey can be completed at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FVXJSY9.
The report, first released in 2016, was formerly titled “State of Indoor Farming” and managed by Artemis, which was acquired by IUNU in 2021.
This year, IUNU has expanded the survey to include the different leading segments of the controlled environment agriculture industry: greenhouse fruit and vegetable, and greenhouse ornamental production.
UC ANR's VINE agrifood technology innovation program, Global Controlled Environment Agriculture Consortium (GCEAC), and UC Davis-led AI Institute for Next Generation Food Systems (AIFS) are collaborating on the report.
“An industry-led, market-driven approach to guiding innovation priorities and investments is critical as we consider the future of indoor farming,” said Gabe Youtsey, UC ANR chief innovation officer and co-founder of The VINE. “I'm thrilled to partner with IUNU on the development of this State of CEA report with our UC innovation teams from The VINE, GCEAC and AIFS to create a robust state of CEA report that will guide our CEA open innovation priorities this year.”
Since the survey launched in 2016, more than 500 growers have participated in the survey and more than 2 million people have downloaded the report. The industry reports have become one of the most widely circulated and respected sources of industry data.
"This report is a trusted resource for the industry and we're thrilled to bring it back in an expanded capacity,” Allison Kopf, IUNU chief growth officer, said. “Over the past year, we've seen a swell of news around our industry. This report will go deeper into those stories and share data on how companies are performing, big market opportunities, and the real challenges growers are facing.”
Past CEA reports are available for download at https://artemisag.com/guides_reports.
Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Seattle, IUNU aims to close the loop in greenhouse autonomy and is focused on being the world's leading controlled environment specialist. IUNU's flagship platform LUNA combines software with a variety of high-definition cameras – both fixed and mobile – and environmental sensors to keep track of the minutiae of plant growth and health in indoor ag settings. LUNA's goal is to turn commercial greenhouses into precise, predictable, demand-based manufacturers that optimize yield, labor and product quality. www.IUNU.com
About The VINE by UC ANR
The VINE is California's agriculture, food and biotech innovation network powered by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. We believe that the state's continued prosperity rests on creation of more productive, sustainable and equitable food systems. Every day, we harness the power of open innovation to connect entrepreneurs to a broad network of public and private sector resources to enable them to grow and scale globally, build collaborations that catalyze the development of climate-smart technology-based solutions to solve industry challenges, and grow regional capacity to support global innovation as an economic opportunity – because our future, and the nation's, depends on it.
The Global Controlled Environment Agriculture Consortium – an initiative of The VINE – seeks to build a worldwide ecosystem to bring technology to market that addresses global challenges in food, health and sustainability. GCEAC is an open innovation partnership between industry, university and government sectors in the United States and The Netherlands, led from California./h3>
- Author: Hanif Houston, The VINE
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) has been awarded a $1 million UC Climate Action Innovation & Entrepreneurship grant for its VINE Climate Smart Agrifood Innovation Program. The VINE, a UC ANR program advancing sustainable agriculture and food innovation, will use the grant to develop new technologies and techniques that help California farmers adapt to climate change.
"Expanded programming from The VINE will improve UC ANR's overall ability to serve our mission of improving the lives of all Californians," said Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
California's agricultural sector is the largest in the United States, producing over 400 crops that account for 25% of the nation's food production and 40% of its fruits, vegetables and tree nuts.
However, climate change is expected to have a significant impact on the productivity and resilience of California's working landscapes. Higher temperatures and changing precipitation patterns are projected to increase water demand for crops and create a more limited growing season that will produce lower yields in some crops. Additionally, climate change may increase weed growth and insect damage, leading to higher uses of herbicides and pesticides.
“We are thrilled to receive the UC Climate Action Innovation & Entrepreneurship Award,” said Gabe Youtsey, UC ANR's chief innovation officer. “With this grant, we will be able to support even more entrepreneurs and innovators in developing climate-resilient solutions for California's agriculture and food systems."
"Our ultimate goal is to build a bioeconomy in California's food valleys that rivals Silicon Valley in size and importance to the future U.S. economy, while also addressing urgent climate crises and advancing equity for underserved populations," Youtsey said.
The VINE Climate Smart Agrifood Innovation Program is designed to identify, commercialize, and scale science and technology breakthroughs that make food production more sustainable. The VINE team has already supported entrepreneurs in the areas of controlled environment agriculture, precision agriculture, robotics, biologicals, climate-resilient crops, livestock health, and other topics that have direct or indirect mitigating effects on climate change.
The UC Climate Action grant will enable The VINE program to expand its support for startups and entrepreneurs developing climate-resilient solutions for California's food system. The program will include the creation of a VINE Climate Solutions Seed Fund, which will provide project support for testing, trialing and demonstrating agrifood technology products or services to support commercial expansion.
The VINE Navigator Service will be expanded to provide matchmaking, mentoring, talent identification, finance connections and technical assistance to entrepreneurs from UC campuses, across California, or startups around the globe that have climate solutions in the agrifood sector.
An example of this work is farm-ng, a farm robotics start-up based in Watsonville that The VINE has been advising. With the networking opportunities facilitated by The VINE, farm-ng was able to secure 20 new customers, generating an estimated $500,000 in revenue. The VINE's involvement also enabled farm-ng to establish a professional manufacturing facility and employ local talent from disadvantaged communities.
The UC Climate Action award is part of a historic $185 million partnership between UC and the state of California to tackle the climate crisis, from developing new methods for carbon capture to creating innovative coping strategies for drought, wildfire and other impacts of a warming planet.
The VINE program aims to create a next-generation agrifood technology bioeconomy in California's food valleys to promote sustainable economic growth, address climate crises, and advance equity for underserved regions and populations. The VINE team will work closely with local and regional partners to identify key industry-driven gaps and opportunities across the food system and provide critical support to startups and entrepreneurs developing new solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation.
For more information, please visit The VINE website: thevine.io.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
Wine grape growers in the San Joaquin Valley who want to switch from hand pruning to mechanical pruning won't have to replant their vineyards to accommodate machinery, according to a new study published in HortTechnology by University of California Cooperative Extension researchers. Instead, growers can retrain the vines to make the transition, without losing fruit yield or quality.
Mechanical pruning reduced labor costs by 90%, resulted in increased grape yields and had no impact on the grape berry's anthocyanin content. That's welcome news for growers because the cost of re-establishing a vineyard in the region is roughly $15,600 per acre.
“We found that growers do not have to plant a new vineyard to mechanize their operations,” said Kaan Kurtural, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology. “We have proven beyond a doubt that an older vineyard can be converted to mechanization. There is no loss in yield during conversion and post-conversion yield is better and fruit quality is equivalent to or better than hand-managed vines. The economies of scale are evident in the savings per acre and per vine as depicted in the balance sheet provided with the newly published paper.”
The research was conducted in an 8-acre portion of a 53-acre, 20-year-old Merlot vineyard in Madera County. After completion of the research project, the grower converted the rest of the 53-acre vineyard to single high-wire sprawling system. Many other wine grape growers have followed suit.
The Wine Group, which manages 13,000 acres of vineyards across Central California, is establishing new vineyards and converting old vineyards for mechanical pruning and suckering, said vineyard manager Nick Davis. Davis, who works closely with Kurtural and the UCCE viticulture advisor in Fresno County, George Zhuang, said the company greatly values the UC Cooperative Extension research that is guiding the changes.
“I think extensionists are undervalued,” Davis said. “We lean on them for applied research, which has been wonderful. They offer us what we can't provide ourselves.”
More than half of all California wine grapes are grown in the San Joaquin Valley. Worker shortages, rising labor costs, low returns and occasional droughts are driving wine grape growers to seek innovative ways to sustain their businesses.
“To help growers maintain the profitability of their vineyards, we're studying the use of machines to reduce the number of people needed to perform tasks like pruning,” Zhuang said.
“Because the canopy architecture and yield characteristics of mechanically pruned vines are different from vines that are hand-pruned, the water and fertilizer requirements for the mechanically pruned vines can be quite different. So we are studying the yield and fruit quality of grapes produced on different rootstocks in mechanical pruning systems in the San Joaquin Valley,” Zhuang said.
The Madera field study was conducted for three consecutive seasons in the hot climate conditions typical of the San Joaquin Valley. In this area, traditional vineyards are head-trained to a 38-inch-tall trunk above the vineyard floor and two eight-node canes are laid on a catch wire in opposite directions and two eight-node canes are attached to a 66-inch high catch wire. Although this traditional training system can work for mechanical harvesting, it doesn't accommodate mechanical dormant pruning and shoot removal with limited success in other mechanical canopy management operations.
To accommodate mechanical pruning and shoot removal, the vines were converted to a bilateral cordon-trained, spur-pruned California sprawl training system, or to a bilateral cordon-trained, mechanically box-pruned single high-wire sprawling system.
The latter option proved to be the most successful system for mechanical pruning in the San Joaquin Valley.