Members of Western Growers are family farmers growing fresh produce in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico, together they provide over half the nation’s fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts, including nearly half of America’s fresh organic produce.
To help accelerate innovation in field harvest automation, a new partnership is being announced at REAP between Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology (WGCIT), a premiere U.S.-based agtech incubator, and Agri-TechE, the leading UK agri-tech innovation network.
The partnership will focus on connecting farmers, scientists, academics, technologists and entrepreneurs in both the United States and United Kingdom to collaborate on shared strategic priorities—most notably, field harvest automation and food safety solutions.
“We have some big challenges facing us, such as extreme weather, need for harvesting automation, concerns about resistance to pesticides, and water shortages,” said Dennis Donohue, WGCIT Director.
“We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel so we decided to find out what agri-tech is out there and to start a conversation. With Agri-TechE, we saw the potential to create a viable relationship that would accelerate the development of solutions, and ultimately, solve the issues our growers are facing.”
Agri-TechE is a business-focused organisation, supporting the growth of a world-leading network of innovative farmers, producers, scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs who share a vision of increasing the productivity, profitability and sustainability of agriculture.
Together with Western Growers—which represents family farmers who grow fresh produce and tree nuts across California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico—the partnership will identify technologies to solve harvest automation issues and determine how to best adapt them for growers’ needs.
“I had been introduced to Dr. Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-TechE, through a mutual friend in Australia and we shared a strong believe that growers need to be close to technology innovation to ensure it meets their needs,” said Donohue.
“Also, that a multi-disciplinary approach is needed, which fits well with Agri-TechE’s network so we started to talk about how to collaborate.”
Belinda says that harvest automation is already a major focus for the organisation’s research and tech members and many of its growers are trialing solutions in the field.
“Being part of an ecosystem helps accelerate innovation,” she said. “Our early-stage high-growth technology companies need to expand beyond the domestic market and working with the Western Growers offers huge potential. Likewise, the adoption of technology on a large scale will de-risk and drive down the cost of automation for our local growers.”
The partnership between Agri-TechE and Western Growers and its Center for Innovation & Technology will be formally announced during REAP Conference 2020 on 10 November 2020.
The conference is Agri-TechE’s flagship event focused on bridging the gap between producer needs and innovation-based solutions and will include presentations about the Robot Highway’ project from Professor Simon Pearson, of The Lincoln Institute of Agri Food Technology, an announcement by the Small Robot Company about its robotic ‘per plant crop care’ service and other developers of AI, machine learning and robotic solutions for harvesting vegetables and fruit.
There will be an opportunity for discussions and one-on-one meetings through the interactive virtual environment of REAP 2020.