Ag Robotics and Technology Conference Highlights Challenges and Potential

Brian GermanIndustry, Technology

An ag robotics and technology forum taking place in Fresno this week has brought together a wide array of those interested in seeing the sector continue to develop. The inaugural three-day event, FIRA USA 2022, has been made possible through a partnership with multiple groups and organizations. Western Growers, the Global Organization for Agricultural Organization (GOFAR), UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), the Fresno-Merced Future of Food Innovation coalition, and multiple universities all helped bring the event together.

Ag Robotics

UC ANR Chief Innovation Officer, Gabe Youtsey said that they received an “overwhelming response” in the first year of the forum. “We’ve had 1,000 attendees from all over the world. Corporates, startups, farmworkers, scientists, and engineers have come from all over the place to participate in this,” Youtsey noted.

The first two days featured panel discussions and lightning talks highlighting some of the latest research in the area of automation and robotics, as well as how technology can best be implemented on farms. Youtsey said that the educational component is crucial for growers, innovators, and students. The forum brought together a variety of perspectives to help drive the development of viable technologies for the agricultural industry.

“This event is really important because automation and robotics are seen as one of the really key technological solutions that are going to solve really big problems including labor challenges. But also helping deliver more precise chemicals and water and other inputs into the crop as well,” said Youtsey. “So, robotics and automation are seen as really a solution that can help on a number of fronts and solve some of the most pressing challenges in food production.”

VP of Innovation with Western Growers, Walt Duflock said they were not sure what to expect for the first year of the forum but that they “couldn’t be happier with the crowd.” Innovators from all over the U.S., as well as New Zealand, France, and Australia were in attendance to share their insights and technologies. “On the specialty crop side, it’s a global game for solutions,” Duflock explained.

The forum concludes with a day of field demonstrations of ag robotics and other technologies. With the success of the inaugural event, Duflock noted that they already have their sights set on next year. “We will likely move next year to Salinas, and then probably do a rotational system where we go from place to place,” said Duflock.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West