February 13, 2019

Western Growers Partners with FME to Launch International Robotics Academy

Western Growers (WG) formalized a new strategic partnership with FME to, together, solve ag food tech challenges by connecting members, advancing collaboration and boosting technical development and application, both in the United States and the Netherlands. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed and announced during the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., on February 12, 2019.

“Technology provides answers to some of the fresh produce industry’s most pressing questions and challenges, such as our critical shortage of labor,” said Hank Giclas, Western Growers’ senior vice president, strategic planning, science & technology. Workforce supply is a major threat to California’s world-leading production of fresh food, compounded by other key challenges of water scarcity, climate change, pest threats and more. The Netherlands and major parts of Europe are facing the same critical issues.

“With our new partnership with FME, we can help shape and accelerate those answers by connecting and mobilizing technology companies in both the U.S. and Netherlands,” said Giclas.

FME is an association representing 2,200 member companies and 45 affiliated trade associations in the Netherlands. FME’s members provide technological solutions for the agriculture and food, water, building environment, energy and healthcare sectors.

“Having seen the tremendous effort Western Growers is taking to improve the business of their members, I truly believe this partnership will contribute to future of farming in California and the Netherlands, based on combining the strengths of both regions,” said Marcel van Haren, manager of FME Agri & Food.  

This MOU is designed to strengthen collaboration between the two regions in an effort to advance technological innovation in the fresh produce industry. The collaboration will commence with the creation of an International Robotics Academy, where business and entrepreneurial interests from across the world will unite to accelerate automated harvesting in the field and facility for fresh produce operations. The Academy founders include Western Growers, FME and Agritech New Zealand (which WG signed an MOU with last year).