Posts Tagged: tech
Global event in Fresno aims to drive ag robotics forward Oct. 18-20, 2022
California agriculture is under tremendous threat from drought, climate impacts and labor scarcity. New robotics and automation solutions are addressing these challenges. To accelerate this innovation to market, a team of partners in California and the International Forum of Agricultural Robotics (FIRA), the leading event in agricultural robotics, will launch FIRA USA in Fresno, California, Oct. 18-20 to provide autonomous systems and robots to California and North America growers.
Jointly organized between the French association GOFAR, the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, Western Growers Association and the Fresno-Merced Future of Food (F3) Initiative, FIRA USA 2022 will bring together specialty crop growers, robot manufacturers, industry members, academics, technologists, startups and investors for three days of problem-solving, decision making and planning.
Since 2016, FIRA has primarily hosted its flagship event in Toulouse, France. According to FIRA co-directors Maialen Cazenave and Gwendoline Legrand, “The expert event decided to join forces with local players to launch the first edition abroad: FIRA USA was born.”
An event focused on autonomous solutions for specialty crops
Specialty crops have much to gain from ag robotics and automation. Specialty crops, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture,” tend to be more labor intensive to produce and pick, and require more sophisticated technological solutions.
Walt Duflock, Western Growers vice president of innovation, is working to advance the pace of innovation in this sector through the Global Harvest Automation Initiative, which will be presented atFIRAUSA 2022. One of the initiative's goals is to automate 50% of specialty crop harvest in the next 10 years.
FIRA USA to debut in Fresno
“We really wanted to bring a FIRA event to the U.S. because the U.S. market for specialty crops is a key agriculture industry entry point for ag tech startups, so it makes perfect sense to have this event right in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley,” says Duflock. “FIRA USA organizes the entire specialty crop community – educators, commercialization folks, startup companies, and large and small growers—and puts the entire event focus on specialty crop automation for three days.”
From research to robots in fields: A rich three-day agenda
To help ensure the success of this first-time event, FIRA partnered with Gabriel Youtsey, chief innovation officer at University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“FIRA USA is designed for developing practical, real-world solutions, which is the mission of UC ANR,” Youtsey said. “I'm thrilled to advance the ag robotics and automation ecosystem in the Central Valley through this event. Our overall goal is to accelerate the pace of innovation and industry adoption of new technologies that create sustainable growth and profitability of our agriculture industry.”
To keep the event focused on actionable outcomes, FIRA USA is structured to maximize opportunities for networking, learning and collaboration. Each of the three days has a theme: research and development, technology and business day and demonstration.
Oct. 18: The Research & Development Day
The R&D day will bring hundreds of scientists and students together.
This academic day will provide the opportunity for new agricultural technologists in universities around the country that are winning some of the new artificial intelligence grants for agricultural automation to present their projects.
By bringing this academic community together face-to-face in Fresno, FIRA USA aims to set priorities and focus on solving some pain points.
With a full exposition zone, panel discussions, breakout sessions and networking times, the second day will bring together the autonomous solutions and end-users.
FIRA USA will engage growers in the conversation to make it real and make presentations more relevant for grower audiences.
In the panel discussions, breakout sessions and roundtables, the participants will build on several big-picture themes: understanding specific specialty crops, introducing different levels of automation and smart technologies, optimizing mechanization, prioritizing value for growers of all sizes, tackling labor shortage, addressing climate-smart objectives, determining appropriate ownership and maintenance models, and more.
Oct. 20: The Demo Day
On the third day, FIRA USA will host in-field robot demos at the California State University, Fresno campus farm.
o Harvesting, weeding, seeding, thinning and planting robots;
o Irrigation automation and data analytics solutions;
o Focus on field crops, fruits & vegetables and vineyards
FIRA USA will run from October 18 -20, 2022, at the Fresno Convention & Entertainment Center in California. The event is organized by FIRA; GOFAR; Western Growers; University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources; Fresno State, Jordan College of Agriculture Sciences and Technology; and Fresno-Merced Future of Food Innovation.
To learn more about this upcoming event, visit www.fira-agtech.com/event/fira-usa.
The GOFAR non-profit organization undertakes to promote and develop the agricultural robotics sector at international level. GOFAR meets the increasing need for visibility and networking of the agricultural robotics sector.
GOFAR, therefore, aims to organize the meeting between the relevant stakeholders, and to support them by taking an active part in the development of the agricultural robotics market hence implementing a promotional campaign of international scale (organization of events, production of actions of communication and participation of trade fairs in France and abroad).
The GOFAR association focuses its activity on four main work streams:
- Organizing annually the International Forum of Agricultural Robotics (FIRA), both Online and in-person in Toulouse (France);
- Setting up international collaborations;
- Development of an information platform around the Agricultural Robotics sector – www.agricultural-robotics.com;
- Creation and animation of a network of leading international experts in agricultural robotics.
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources connects the power of UC science and technology in agriculture and natural resources with industry and communities to improve the lives of all Californians.
Our programs focus on solving priority problems that engage scientists, students and industry in integrated teams to work on complex issues.
ANR's field innovation centers located in important California agriculture regions, support research and education. Research projects deliver the highest-quality science to growers, industry and land managers.
Western Growers Association
Founded in 1926, Western Growers represents local and regional family farmers growing fresh produce in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico. Our members and their workers provide over half the nation's fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts, including nearly half of America's fresh organic produce. Some members also farm throughout the U.S. and in other countries, so people have year-round access to nutritious food. For generations, we have provided variety and healthy choices to consumers.
Fresno-Merced Future of Food (F3) Innovation Initiative
The Fresno-Merced Future of Food (F3) Innovation Initiative seeks to develop world-recognized, “ClimateSmart Food and Agriculture Systems” that provide solutions to economic and environmental challenges within the Central Valley. These solutions will result in both technology that can be exported to solve global food production challenges and increased support for local and regional food systems, including organic production practices and small-scale and socially disadvantaged farmers. F3 champions sustainable food systems that meet human, and ecosystem needs, facilitated by innovation in technologies that are affordable, appropriately scaled and accessible to local farmers and food businesses, with applications for the global farming community.
F3 simultaneously advances workforce training and educational opportunities for local farm and food system workers to ensure just and equitable innovation processes and technology adoption. F3 is one element of the comprehensive Fresno DRIVE investment plan, a ten-year, community-led vitality strategy for inclusive and sustainable economic development in the Greater Fresno Region.
GOFAR: Gwendoline Legrand – firstname.lastname@example.org
Western Growers: Ann Donahue - email@example.com
The buzz or chirp of an incoming text message started some San Diego County residents on the path to a healthier diet during this past year. In September 2020, most CalFresh participants in the county – more than 172,000 households – began receiving monthly text messages about the benefits of California-grown fruits and vegetables as part of a pilot program.
This novel approach to delivering nutrition messages to California food assistance program participants was developed by a partnership of the Nutrition Policy Institute of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, the UC San Diego Center for Community Health and the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, which administers CalFresh in the county.
The HHSA, which had been using its text messaging platform to send administrative reminders and alerts, was receptive to using the tool for sending nutrition-focused information. NPI and CCH partnered with ideas42, a firm that applies behavioral science to solutions for social change, to develop a series of five text messages promoting California-grown fruits and vegetables.
The text messages – originally delivered in English and Spanish, with the addition of Arabic beginning in July 2021 – were friendly and conversational in tone.
“In a text, you have very few characters you're communicating with people, so we wanted to make sure we were using cutting-edge behavioral science to construct those messages to have the most impact,” said Wendi Gosliner, NPI senior researcher and policy advisor.
Each text included a link directing recipients to a website developed as part of the project, with information on selecting, storing and preparing California-grown fruits and vegetables; health benefits; tips to reduce food waste; and recipes – including TikTok videos.
Initially running from September 2020 to March 2021, the pilot program was well-received. Nearly 90% of CalFresh participants responding to a survey said they appreciated receiving the texts. “It is very important for us to eat healthy, to teach our children to eat healthy,” wrote one participant. “I love the recipes…they're so delicious and easy to make…I'm very, very grateful for the help because without you guys, I would be struggling more and I just want a better life for my children.”
Gosliner said it was encouraging to see that two-thirds of the approximately 5,000 survey respondents reported eating more California-grown fruits and vegetables after receiving the messages, and 85% expressed a desire to see more texts.
“What we see is that there's definitely a decent-sized population of people participating in CalFresh –now this is just in San Diego County but imagine the entire state – who would benefit from having this kind of information available to them,” Gosliner said. “And there is at least a subset of people who really liked it.”
UC San Diego's Center for Community Health was instrumental in facilitating the partnership between UC ANR and the HHSA. Further, CCH, in partnership with the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative, formed a community council composed of residents representing diverse communities throughout San Diego County. Together, the council facilitated CalFresh participants to take part in focus groups, which provided feedback and guidance on the messaging and design for online resources. Gosliner said the success of the text program has been a direct result of community input and involvement.
“The Center for Community Health-led focus groups were integral to ensuring CalFresh resources were accessible and informative to a wide range of CalFresh participants, and local individuals and families more broadly,” said Blanca Meléndrez, executive director at the UC San Diego Center for Community and Population Health, Altman Clinical Translational Research Institute. “In the process, the text-based campaign also placed a greater focus on the local production of nutritious fruits and vegetables, ensuring access to healthy and nutritious food in all communities, and building new streams of income for the region's farmers and producers.”
This effort also suggests a simple way to reach CalFresh participants and bridge gaps between the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and programming that offers nutrition education and healthy eating resources.
“By combining UCSD and UC ANR knowledge about healthy eating with our outreach capability, we are able to reach thousands of families via text message each month,” said Michael Schmidt, human services operations manager for the HHSA. “With the click of a button, these families are provided with resources to assist them in making healthier lifestyle choices, supporting a region that is building better health, living safely and thriving.”
The effort has been so effective that HHSA has asked for additional messages, beyond the original five months' worth of texts and resources.
“The partnership between UC ANR's Nutrition Policy Institute, UC San Diego's Center for Community Health, the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency and San Diego County community residents brought together a great team to develop an innovative, technology-based intervention,” said Shana Wright, San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative co-director at CCH. “Each partner provided knowledge, resources and assets that enhanced the project beyond the initial pilot phase, exceeding preliminary expectations.”
Gosliner said the pilot program has been a “great example and wonderful experience” of partnership in action.
“You can sit with your research or program ideas for a long time but if you don't have people who can help you implement them, then they really aren't helpful in any way,” she said. “In this case, it was just a nice combination of an idea…with partners who wanted to work to make something happen.”
More than 300 people gathered in Mountain View for the fourth annual FOOD IT: Fork to Farm on June 27 to discuss the role of information technology in the food system – from managing crops in the field to dealing with consumer food waste.
The event, hosted by The Mixing Bowl, attracted professionals who intersect with every part of the food system, from farmers to scientists, from entrepreneurs to venture capital investors.
Panelists discussed the shift in power caused by the rise of the tech-enabled food consumer, its effects on food production and supply as well as implications for society.
VP Glenda Humiston announced that UC ANR is launching The VINE, or The Verde Innovation Network for Entrepreneurship, to cultivate regional innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems in rural communities. Led by Gabriel Youtsey, UC ANR chief innovation officer, The VINE aims to bring together resources such as small business development centers, community colleges, county cooperative extension offices, makers labs, incubators and accelerators.
“We're trying to go in region by region to catalyze a coalition,” Humiston said. “We want to make sure innovators and inventors can go from idea to commercialization with all the support they need.”
The VINE would connect innovators with legal advice, someone to discuss finances, access to people who can help with business plans and opportunities to partner with the university on joint research projects.
“We want to make it possible for anyone in California to access support,” Humiston said. “If you're in an urban area or near a campus, you probably have access to those resources. If you're in agriculture, natural resources or more remote rural communities, you typically have little access.”
On a panel of agriculture college deans from Iowa State, Cal Poly and UC Davis moderated by Humiston, the deans lamented the lagging interest in farming by young people.
"Everybody wants to be a vegetarian, but nobody wants to be a plant scientist,” said Helene Dillard, dean of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Humiston said that farming isn't just for young people. "We see people making mid-career changes."
Throughout the day, several people speculated that Amazon's buying of Whole Foods would mix things up. Dean Andy Thulin of Cal Poly's College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences said tech makes food sexy.
Wendy Wintersteen, dean of Iowa State University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said that consumers are more informed. Millennials want to know what is in their food and are concerned about food safety, allergens and are willing to spend more on food.
On a panel discussing “Changing Food Preferences of the Tech-Enabled Consumer,” Walmart executive Katie Finnegan noted that Apeel, a product that coats produce and keeps it fresh longer, could reduce food waste and change the food supply chain. “A small change can have a big impact,” she said.
For years, life expectancy for Americans has gradually increased. Last year, for the first time, life expectancy decreased due to obesity and poverty, said Justin Siegal of UC Davis Genome Center.
Kevin Sanchez of the Yolo County Food Bank said he has been developing relationships with farms to get fresh food to people, but added, “We have a storage challenge.”
Discussing “Upstream Production Impacts of New Consumer Food Choices,”Driscoll's Nolan Paul said, “People want to know where the berries are from.” They ask about the tools used for breeding. Paul said Driscoll's will never use genetic engineering unless consumers on board with it.
On the Internet of Tomatoes panel, representatives for Analog Devices, Bowles Farming and Campbells talked about using data on weather, water, soil and other things to grow higher quality tomatoes and using optical grading at processing plants for quality control. Bowles Farming has also have begun using Instagram to engage consumers in conversations about farming issues that commodity marketing groups try to avoid, such as unintended consequences of some policies.
UC ANR was a cosponsor of the event, which delighted conference participants with exhibits featuring array of futuristic devices like printing your own pancake or tortilla.