Western Growers’ leadership in expediting the development of agricultural technologies was widely recognized last week during the fifth annual Forbes AgTech Summit. In addition to sponsoring the summit, WG hosted a star-studded panel that discussed how technologies are being used to advance food safety, hosted the agtech startup Innovation Showcase and provided a keynote address that inspired a spirit of collaboration.
“It’s not sufficient to continue to passively wait for solutions to come to the industry,” said Dave Puglia, WG’s executive vice president, during his keynote address at the summit. “It’s not sufficient to work alone or in an uncoordinated fashion. It’s not sufficient to work on small parts of the problem and it is problematic to compete for a finite number of investors, sponsors, and media attention to drive that process. It’s vital for us to accelerate solutions and change and we can only do that together.”
On day two of the conference, WG’s Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning, Science & Technology Hank Giclas led the “Smarter Technology, Safer Food” session, which left the crowd with new ideas on how to utilize technologies to advance and improve food safety to protect public health. The workshop was moderated by Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for Food Policy and Response at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the panelists included VicSmith, president/CEO at JVSmith Companies; Drew McDonald, vice president of quality & food safety at Taylor Fresh Foods; Minos Athanassiadis, business area director at Trimble/HarvestMark; and Diane Wetherington, CEO at iFoodDecisionSciences.
Some key takeaways from the session include the following:
- The future of food safety systems needs to be data driven.
- The current system is slow to react and error prone, wastes resources and has hampered visibility across the supply chain.
- Digitizing information in the food system is about helping to solve business challenges and public health problems.
Another highlight during this session was the announcement of WG’s most recent partnership with iFoodDecisionSciences and Trimble’s HarvestMark to launch a Supply Chain Risk Management Solution, a unique and comprehensive program that aims to reduce the number of food contamination outbreaks, substantially improve food safety and keep consumers safe.
“For some of these things to work, you have to create shared value. It can’t just benefit the farmer, the distributor, the processor or the retailer. The food system is a system and it’s interconnected, and if you digitize it, you are all going to win and lose together,” said Yiannas. The video of the entire session can be found below.
WG also had visibility in the “Opportunity Zones: How Leaders Will Bridge the Urban-Rural Divide” panel, where Director of WG’s Center for Innovation & Technology Dennis Donohue provided key insight on how best to use opportunity zones to bridge the urban/rural divide.
For the second year in a row, WG sponsored the Innovation Showcase to provide the 600 attendees at the summit the opportunity to speak directly with the who’s who of agtech, as they pursue solutions that will help solve agriculture’s most pressing issues and receive live demonstrations of new technologies. Of the 35 startups featured, more than half were part of WG’s Center for Innovation & Technology including the following: Pago, Novihum, SWIIM, Fieldin, Bear Flag Robotics, ApisProtect, iFoodDecisionSciences, Tailwater Systems, Groguru, Agtools, iTradeNetwork, KipTraq, PowWow, HeavyConnect, Wexus Technologies, Ganaz, Intelligistics, TMD Tech Solutions, Concentric Power, The Bee Corp and Tensorfield Agriculture.