Twenty agtech companies from New Zealand recently visited the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology, toured several WG members and participated in various ongoing WG automation initiatives to learn how they can further accelerate mechanization globally.
“Automation is a global issue, and our Center is leading the charge in building international relationships to solve this issue sooner rather than later,” said Hank Giclas, Western Growers’ senior vice president, strategic planning, science & technology. “We’re proud of our newly formed strategic partnerships with both New Zealand and the Netherlands and will continue to act as a global hub for agtech.”
The visit from the New Zealand agtech delegation was organized by Agritech New Zealand, Callaghan Innovation and New Zealand Trade & Enterprise in conjunction with the Center as part of an MOU to, together, solve automation challenges by connecting members, advancing collaboration and boosting mechanization development and application, both in the United States and New Zealand.
The week-long festivities kicked off with visits to Steinbeck Country Produce and Church Brothers Farms, where they learned about labor issues plaguing California farmers and heard about new technologies being implemented on the farm to solve those challenges. The delegation then had the opportunity to observe a Grower Trial Network event, where startups housed in the Center pitched Salinas Valley farmers and received instantaneous feedback on how their technologies can be tweaked to fit the needs of specialty crop growers, as well as participate in an Automation Work Session to collaborate on strategies to make the integration of automation more accessible to farms of all sizes and crops. Continuing their education about Central Coast agriculture, they toured berry fields with Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce and saw automation at work in Taylor Farms’ processing plant. The startups then had the chance to present their technologies and share what New Zealand is doing in automation during a formal presentation at the Center to growers throughout Monterey County. Their visit culminated with attendance at the Forbes AgTech Summit and then heading out to the Central Valley to learn about the region’s automation needs.
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