March 1, 2023

FIRA USA: If World Ag Expo and World Agri-Tech had a Baby

Back to back weeks in Toulouse, France and Tulare, USA have convinced me that the format we are adopting for FIRA USA in Salinas in September 2023 is the best event format for the most important activity at a specialty crops automation event—starting and advancing conversations between growers and Agtech companies.

It may sound obvious, but a lot of events focus on other things for various reasons (sponsor dollars, organization agendas, and trying to attract a larger audience chief among them). When we launched FIRA USA last year in Fresno, we wanted to take the best aspects of two shows, focus the effort on one specific group of crops, and try and find an audience of agtech companies and growers. The goal was to bring the specialty crop AgTech automation community together for some great content, some great demos, and start a bunch of great conversations.

We found a willing audience on both sides—startups enjoyed being part of a focused event where most of the attendees were looking for their type of solution, and growers were also interested in attending a show that focused on one type of solution.

When you think of Tulare and the World Ag Expo, you think about an event for all ag products—dairy, livestock, Midwest crops, and specialty crops are all well represented and you better pack comfortable shoes if you want to see all of them because you will be putting some miles on to get across all the exhibitors in three days. Back from a one-year COVID hiatus in 2021, World Ag Expo re-appeared in 2022 and quickly got back to most of its former glory. The 2022 crowd was great, not quite at full capacity, but everyone was glad to have the event back and a chance to re-connect with people you didn’t get a chance to see much of in person for a couple of years. The old adage (and ‘80s song lyrics from Cinderella) is true—sometimes you really don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone (or was it Joni Mitchell?)—and Tulare proved it in 2022.

World Ag Expo in 2023 in February had a bigger crowd and more companies in attendance. It turns out seeing ag equipment live is one of the best ways to create curiosity and questions from an audience. Tulare does this really well—that is the essence of what we hoped to capture for specialty crops for FIRA USA in Salinas in 2023.

World Agri-Tech in San Francisco is an entirely different affair. You’re paying $500/night for a lot of nights in San Francisco at the Marriott Marquis—for Tulare, it’s only a special event like World Ag Expo that can convince people they should pay $500 for a Courtyard in greater Tulare that’s not even that close to the event venue. Tulare is about the outdoors, walking for miles over a long day, learning about the latest equipment offerings, and getting some great BBQ and peach cobbler. World Agri-Tech has really high-end food and a lot of presentations that have you sitting theater style listening to some of the brightest agtech and investor minds talking about what’s here now but more about what could (should? must?) happen for later. Tulare is $20/ticket—World Agri-Tech is $2,500—and nobody should wonder why farmers don’t go to World Agri-Tech. At $2,500 a ticket and $500/night, the average farmer shakes that off faster than they shake off a trip to the mall. At World Ag Expo, exhibitors talk with and to farmers. At World Agri-Tech, presenters talk about farmers, and not always in a nice way.

As we wrapped up World FIRA and Tulare, we begin planning for FIRA USA. FIRA USA is the perfect mix of Tulare and World Ag Expo with San Francisco and World AgriFood. It’s focused on specialty crop automation. It has world class content for three days on just that segment of agriculture, developed by growers and with grower feedback. It has great Agtech demos and exhibitors for three days—you can watch panels, see exhibitors, and watch demos all without leaving the grounds. This year we make it even better with the Robot Extravaganza, which provides the whole event in a three-hour format for everyone to attend on Day One.

As I said in the title, FIRA USA is exactly what you would get if World Ag Expo and World AgriFood had a baby—it’s a pretty good looking infant and we’ll see if it can avoid those pesky “Terrible Twos” as it approaches its second year.

This blog was originally published on the Medium site of WG’s VP of Innovation Walt Duflock.