Voices of the Valley
By Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology
Do you want to be on the cutting edge of the latest agtech trends? Or be the first to hear about a hot, new agtech startup? Or know the ins and outs of the latest and greatest technologies in agriculture? The Voices of the Valley Podcast has you covered! Join agtech experts Dennis Donohue (aka “the godfather of agtech”) and Candace Wilson as they interview leading entrepreneurs, innovative farmers and industry analysts to pull back the curtain on all things agriculture and technology.
Carl Casale of Ospraie Ag Science on Doing More With Less
Carl Casale, Senior Agricultural Partner at Ospraie Ag Science, joins the podcast to talk about his company's overarching goal in venture capital: to produce more high-quality food with less impact on the environment. "By 2030, half the world's population is going to be middle class or wealthy and the other half of the population is going to have the same issue of needing more calories to meet their basic needs," he says. "But for half the population - they aren't going to need more calories, but they are going to care deeply about how those calories are produced." To that end, Carl is exploring the potential for biologicals, biopesticides, soil testing and management that will allow ag to adapt to consumer preference and global regulations. But the bar for innovators in these fields has gotten higher this year, he says. "What we're seeing as investors is that we're immediately learning what's good and what's not," Carl says. "Before, if there were 100 companies in a given space, the top 75 would get funded just because they're along for the ride. Now you better be in the top quartile or you're not getting any money. It's the separation of the wheat from the chaff right now."
December 06, 2022
Trimble's Mike Dentinger on Strategies to Reach the Finish Line with Global Harvest Automation
As the data for the next edition of Western Growers' Global Harvest Automation Report are being crunched, Mike Dentinger, the Director of AG OEM Development at Trimble, joins the podcast to discuss the potential of automated harvest becoming a day-to-day reality soon. "It's a really tough equation," he says. "How many carrot harvesters does California really need that Grimmway isn't already building themselves?... And what is it going to take to do this if it ends up being a one million or two million dollar machine and you are going to sell 12 of them a year? The math really falls apart very quickly." The key to getting to the finish line, he says, is to figure out where the commonalities exist in specialty crop harvest automation and then innovate from that point. For instance, 80 percent of that hypothetical carrot harvester can have common components, and the rest could be swapped out per the needs of the particular commodity. "You don't have to swallow the elephant in one bite," Mike says. "You can take it in pieces."
November 29, 2022
The Produce Moms' Lori Taylor on Educating Consumers About Food and Farming
Lori Taylor, Founder and CEO of The Produce Moms, joins Voices of the Valley this week to talk about how she uses her multimedia platform to pull back the veil for the general public about the process of produce farming. "Our mission is to simple: To get more fruits and vegetables on every table," she says. "We want fruits and vegetables to be the number one thing people think of when they write their grocery list." Lori aims for TPM to have the same influence and longevity as brands run by Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey - and to use the immediacy and impact of digital communications for family-friendly ag education that goes beyond recipes. "One of the pillars of The Produce Moms is to help people know where their produce comes from," Lori says. "If you're buying a Simple Truth branded item from Kroger and it says Cincinnati, Ohio, [on the packaging] there is a huge amount of shoppers who think that tomato was actually grown in Cincinnati, Ohio." Listen to this week's episode and learn more about how Lori delivers her message as part of a thriving digital community.
November 01, 2022
Stout CEO Brent Shedd Explores Artificial Intelligence in Ag
Brent Shedd, CEO of Stout Industrial Technology, Inc., joins Voices of the Valley to examine Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the agriculture industry. Brent joined Stout with a background in technology and tends to approach farming issues through this lens. The decision for Stout to build its own hardware and software was based around Brent’s background with AI. Brent quotes agtech engineers: “If it’s dirty, dangerous, dull, or difficult, it’s a prime candidate for automation” when looking at where robots are needed on the farm. AI is not encumbered by historical process, and it uses data to focus on output from the farm. The podcast hosts and Brent also delve into what farmers focus on - that growers are not terribly concerned with the technology behind innovation as long as it works in the field.
October 25, 2022
Global Competition Requires Urgent Supply Chain Tech Innovation
On this week’s Voices of the Valley podcast, Dennis Donohue and Candace Wilson interview Gary Loh, the CEO of DiMuto and the Executive Chairman of First Alverstone Group, and Claire Pribula, the Managing Director and Co-Founder of Yield Lab Asia Pacific. Gary and Claire discuss the changes in the marketplace that have resulted in an urgent need for supply chain innovation. The DiMuto AgriFood trade solution was developed in response to these pressures to help growers, exporters, and importers trade with better visibility and easier tracking of finances. Yield Lab Asia Pacific invested in DiMuto to help farmers “do more with less” and adapt to a growing population and increasing environmental stresses. Finally, Gary and Claire give an overview of the DiMuto trials taking place all over the world. Technology is not just a business cost, they say, but a way to stay competitive in the global marketplace.
October 18, 2022
Jack Vessey on the Pressing Need to Implement Technology in Desert Agriculture
For Jack Vessey, President of Imperial Valley-based Vessey & Co., one fact of desert agriculture never changes: You have to do more with less. “We have to be proactive with trying things,” he said, noting that the pressures of labor, irrigation and crop protection lead him to always explore new technologies in his operations. The front of mind of these right now is, of course, water. “The future tells us that in the next five to 10 years we’re going to have to grow every seed with less water,” he said. “We’re looking out to see what the next great innovation is...at the end of the day, we have to have water to grow that crop.” From different irrigation techniques to different crops to soil amendments, Vessey is open to experimenting. “I don’t know about a silver bullet out there, but obviously our goal is to use less and less every year.”
October 11, 2022
Linking Small Farmers and Scientists on the International Stage
Dr. Eugenia Saini, the Executive Secretary of Fontagro, joins the podcast to talk about her objective of strengthening public and private strategic alliances that enhance international cooperation between scientists and farmers. It's a goal that requires boundless curiosity and big picture thinking; Eugenia has three degrees from the University of Buenos Aires and was a Fulbright Scholar at Cornell University. "If we're really going to get solutions to the farmers, we need to understand how the business works," she says. "Dedicate a few hours a week to read and learn something." The key to taking those learnings from the page to the real world at Fontagro, she says, is to work as a manager to effectively link small farmers and scientists. "This is a really big question...'We have funding - but why don't we get the impact that we expect?'" Eugenia says. "Working in networks is very important because what we need to do is have more impact."
September 27, 2022
Genius Beehives with Dick Rogers, Entomologist at Bayer Crop Science
In this week's episode of Voices of the Valley, Dick Rogers, Entomologist at Bayer Crop Science, discusses the need to meld nature and technology to create and monitor healthy honeybee colonies. Dick wants to move towards the creation of a "genius hive," which would use data to ensure the right conditions exist for thriving bee populations. Recently, "electronic scales have really helped beekeepers track weight gain and loss in hives," he says. "There are also things like in-hive sensors for temperature and overall humidity." In the coming years, he says, chemical sensors could detect pheromones to give the beekeeper as much information as possible to track colony health. "We need more than just visual inspections - we need data," he says. Listen to this week's episode to learn about funding strategies for these technologies and the future of high-tech beekeeping.
September 20, 2022
Hank Giclas Tribute, Part Two
In this episode, Voices of the Valley continues to honor Hank Giclas, the produce industry veteran who passed away in August. Bruce Taylor, Chairman and CEO of Taylor Farms; Edwin Camp, President of D.M. Camp & Sons; Joe Pezzini, Sr. Director of Ag Operations at Taylor Farms and Peter Wren-Hilton, Founder of Wharf42 Ltd., all join the podcast to celebrate the life of their beloved friend and colleague.
September 13, 2022
Remembering Hank Giclas, Part One
This is the first episode in a special two-part Voices of the Valley that is dedicated to the memory of produce industry stalwart Hank Giclas, the former Senior Vice President of Science, Technology & Strategic Planning at Western Growers, who passed away in August. Western Growers President & CEO Dave Puglia, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross, and Western Growers Assistant Vice President, Science, Sonia Salas share their memories of Hank and detail how his integrity and leadership impacted their professional development and personal growth. Join Voices of the Valley again next week as we continue to remember a friend and mentor to so many.
September 06, 2022
Sun World CEO David Marguleas Explains the Successful Strategies Behind a New Product Launch
From watermelon to stone fruit to table grapes, Sun World CEO David Marguleas has decades of experience in bringing vibrant new products to the consumer market. He visits the podcast this week to talk about how his company has made critical new hires and brought breeding in-house to stay at the forefront of molecular technologies. "In the middle of the pandemic we opened our new center for innovation in Wasco, Calif.," David says. "The new facility is a massive upgrade both technologically and functionally...and we've allowed for the expansion of that facility into a number of other crops we believe are begging for innovation that are underserved globally." (Hint: Think mangoes and cherries.) On the other end of the scale, does innovation ever reach a point of oversaturation? There are now more than 110 table grape varieties grown in California, David says, which means the marketplace is very competitive. The secret? Meet the customer where they are and focus on what they care about the most: "flavor, texture, shelf life, visual appeal" and two new traits, David says, "climate resistance and sustainability."
August 30, 2022
New Zealand Forecasts the Future of Agriculture Amid Climate Change
Peter Wren-Hilton, the Founder of Wharf42 Limited and the mastermind behind the upcoming 2035 Agri-Food-Tech Oceania Summit, joins the podcast to discuss how New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands are responding to the threat of climate change. "Climate change is real, it's happening, and it's happening much faster than we thought," he says. One real-world example: Growers of kiwifruit already anticipate production moving from New Zealand's North Island to the South Island, a complete upheaval of the current process. In addition, he gives a preview of the Oceania Summit in Auckland in October 2022, which will bring together growers, government officials and agtech leaders from around the globe - including California - to address the issue. "When you've got an environment where government, research and industry are working together, you can move much faster," he says.
August 23, 2022
En Solucion and Seeking the Food Safety Holy Grail
What do you do when you can't afford to make a mistake - but at the same time, you know you can't get risk to zero? In advance of the AgTechX Food Safety event on Aug. 18 at Reedley College, En Solucion CEO and Founder Alex Athey joins the podcast to discuss the potential of technology to mitigate the risks in food safety. A member of Western Growers' elite international Food Safety Cohort that will appear at the event, En Solucion is working to employ ozone nanotechnology to replace traditional post-harvest chlorine wash. "You can't get risk to zero," he says. "But we're trying to provide more tools in the the forms you can apply." A former astronomer who went on to implement technologies in the defense, oil and gas sectors, Alex learned a valuable lesson when he jumped to agtech. "For the first three years, sit in the back of the room and shut up," he says. "You just have to listen...then you can offer an outside perspective that maybe you don't see every day."
August 15, 2022
Grimmway Farms' Jeff Morrison on Using Business Acumen to Direct Agtech Investments
Jeff Morrison, the Director of Innovation and New Technology at Grimmway Farms, joins the podcast to discuss how he uses his interest in the business side of agriculture to dictate the choices his company makes on the technology side. For Morrison, solving the puzzle of how best to use agtech to make a return on a company's investment is a universal concern, and he's traveled extensively throughout Europe and Australia to learn how they have worked to solve the problems now faced by farmers in the Western U.S. "No one person ever has a monopoly on the best ideas," he says. Despite significant differences in market demands, weather and processing, Morrison says the common ground between global growers is valuable real estate to explore. "All of these organizations need technical people to help solve problems...you really want to combine insight that others have gained through the years."
August 09, 2022
Tom Nunes and Monitoring the Speed of Technology Adoption on the Farm
The Nunes Company President Tom "T5" Nunes joins the podcast to discuss how his company remains nimble and open to technology adoption in an industry beset with challenges. The Nunes Company, known for the Foxy label, grows 40 conventional and 35 organic commodities. With that breadth of product, Tom is looking for common technologies that can scale across his production to create efficiencies. So far, the company has seen success with automation on the thinning and weeding side. "That's something that's not just emerging - it's becoming a common practice," he says. "Those are items that are being used regularly in our industry." The Nunes Company has an operations committee that's dedicated to weighing the pros and cons of new technologies, he says. When an innovation hits the all marks, Tom is ready to pull the trigger. "It doesn't take long - if we believe in it, we're going to go," he says. "At the end of the day you want to make sure you're doing the proper things on the day-to-day side to remain sustainable in your own business and move forward."
July 19, 2022
Albert Keck, Pt. 2: It's Time to Stop Just Preaching to the Choir About Ag
Hadley Date Gardens President and Western Growers Chair of the Board Albert Keck returns to the podcast to talk about what it will take for farmers and rural communities to change the narrative about the realities of earning a living in agriculture. "We've been playing defense for so long...boy, I would love to be able to shift gears and play offense," Albert says, noting that real-world shortages may be what finally makes the issue come to the forefront. "I don't love going to the grocery stores and seeing empty shelves. What happens when there is no water?" The ramifications of this, he says, could be a way to bridge the perpetual urban and rural divide. "Maybe that's where our opportunity is as Western growers," Albert says. "We can capitalize on the fact that consumers in our society realize the supply chain is hanging in the balance."
July 12, 2022
Hadley Date Gardens President and Western Growers Chair Albert Keck on the Future of Specialty Crops
Albert Keck, President of Hadley Date Gardens and current Western Growers Chair of the Board of Directors, joins the podcast to talk about his family's history in farming and how his decades of experience in the industry leads him to believe that the future could be bright for specialty crops. “You want to talk about pessimism? When I was a kid all I could hear from the industry was: ‘Only old people eat dates’ and ‘All our customers are dying.’ It was like Eeyore in 'Winnie the Pooh.' Everything was negative,” Albert says. “What we've found recently, the Millennials - God bless them, for all the hassles they throw on us – they’re all healthy eaters. When I was going up we ate Cheetos and Doritos and hot dogs. And now the young adults want to have healthy food and real food. They are very conscious of what they eat and where it is grown.” It's this change in consumer taste that Albert believes will define the coming years for fruit and vegetable growers - if the political landscape can work to empower domestic farmers. "We're out there banging on the drum to all of our political representatives, saying 'Hey, you keep throwing stuff at us - the ideals are not necessarily bad, we agree with a lot of the ideals - but we're in a global marketplace that doesn't care about those ideals,'" he says. "It seems like more and more a lot of our political system is definitely hamstringing domestic production. And so that's something we have to contend with as a culture. Are we going to want to grow these crops domestically, or do we just not care?" Albert will rejoin the podcast next week for Part Two of his interview.
July 05, 2022
The Yield Lab and the Exponential Growth Potential of Latin America
This week's episode of Voices of the Valley explores the opportunities for agtech innovation and investment in Latin America. Accelerator The Yield Lab is dedicated to funding companies across the globe and then assisting with their growth and development for the long haul. "We're not in a rush," says Tomás Peña, Managing Director, The Yield Lab Latam, as he visits the podcast. "This is a business about talent. Eighty percent of the money we invest goes to talent." That talent base is particularly exciting in Latin America, he says, where trying to change the conventional conversation is the norm. "That's the beauty of Latin America," Peña says. "You have a lot of people thinking differently. You have a lot of people opening their minds, and saying 'Why not?'"
June 29, 2022
Food Safety and Using Automation to Mitigate Risk
Priority Sampling Founder and CEO Rafael Davila joins the podcast to talk about his company's efforts to improve the safety of the food supply chain. "I focus on the tissue sampling process, which is between the grower and the harvest," Rafael says of his company, which is currently focused on the leafy greens industry. In recent years testing has gone from a "Z-pattern" to a "serpentine pattern," he says, which goes row-by-row. "Sampling is a very labor-intensive process," he said. "We've had samplers walk hundreds of miles doing every single row...we wanted to focus on how to get the sampler through every single row, faster and easier." A veteran in food safety and a member of Western Growers' Food Safety Cohort, Rafael says the key for the future is to automate and add value by incorporating cameras and data analysis into the sampling: "I leapt into doing this full-time to perfect this process."
June 21, 2022
Space AG and the Secret to Producing More Food with Less Effort
Fresh off being accepted into the elite THRIVE agtech accelerator and winning the Innovation Award at THRIVE Demo Day 2022, Space AG Co-Founder and CEO Guillermo de Vivanco joins Voices of the Valley to discuss the evolution of his company in the digital agriculture arena. Space AG is a software platform that increases efficiencies through digitization and data collection - but always by keeping an eye on the human impact. "Once we started thinking about not only providing a solution that increases your yield, but also providing a solution that helps your people on the farm be more productive and enjoy more of their work and get back home sooner because they don't need to prepare reports at the end of the day ... that's when we really strengthened our value proposition," he said.
June 14, 2022
Farmer's Business Network and the Power of a Big Idea for Small Farmers
In the digital age, information is power - but data in a silo can't reach its full potential to create prosperity. Enter Farmer's Business Network, a farmer-driven information source that provides agronomic precision data to all its members. "We wanted to level the playing field for farmers," says Amol Deshpande, FBN's CEO and Co-Founder. With a goal of providing competitive opportunities for small farmers, the platform offers everything from data analytics to on-farm biological trialing programs. In this episode of Voices of the Valley, Dennis Donohue, the Executive Director of the Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology, and Candace Wilson, Regional Director at FBN, speak with Deshpande about the power of aggregated data.
May 24, 2022
Verdant Robotics Pt. 2: Turning Fieldworkers Into Data Workers
Verdant Robotics Co-Founders CEO Gabe Sibley and COO Curtis Garner return to Voices of the Valley to continue their discussion on how they make sure their company focuses on creating agricultural solutions - instead of just showing off shiny robots. The duo envision a future where farmers and technologists work in tandem to turn fieldworkers into data workers, bridging the perpetual gap in the labor force by mechanization and teaching valuable skillsets to current employees. "The jobs that are on the farm are going to change," Curtis says. "There's going to be new jobs created to create new value on the farm."
May 17, 2022
Verdant Robotics and the Secret to Making Farmers Superhuman, Pt. 1
Verdant Robotics Co-Founders CEO Gabe Sibley and COO Curtis Garner join Voices of the Valley to discuss the power that digitized precision farming gives to the industry. Verdant Robotics wasn't "a solution looking for a problem," Gabe says; instead, the multi-action robot that provides both data analytics and crop applications is the result of a six-month road trip that was spent talking to farmers and refining the technology that is now used on everything from carrots to onions to garlic. "It's MBA business school 101," he says in this first part of a two-part episode. "Do what the client or the customer wants."
May 10, 2022
Don Cameron on How Innovation and Automation Can Boost California Agriculture
Don Cameron, Vice President and General Manager of Terranova Ranch, joins the Voices of the Valley to share his experiences with agtech start-ups looking to gain traction in California agriculture. "The ones that tend to come early and listen and hear what we're saying are the ones that tend to be successful," he says. Currently Terranova is using cutting-edge technology for automated irrigation, laser weeding and nitrogen capture, and Don says that the perpetual difficulties the industry faces with water, labor and regulation create an urgency to technology adoption in the state. "This is one of the answers for the future - alternatives that work well and are economical," he says.
May 03, 2022
Agtech's Role in Combating Climate Change
Sarah Nolet, Co-Founder and General Partner at Sydney, Australia-based VC firm Tenacious Ventures, focuses on investing in early-stage agtech startups with an eye towards how they will help provide innovations to assist with the ramifications of climate change. "Ag can actually be a solution for a lot of the challenges we're facing," Nolet says in this episode of Voices of the Valley, noting that growers are in a unique position where they can simultaneously work to reduce emissions and be proactive to prevent additional climate disruption. While advocating for biodiversity, water quality improvement and carbon capture technologies, Nolet says it is important to not let perfection be the enemy of progress - and to also acknowledge that there is no silver bullet because "nature will be ahead of us no matter what."
April 26, 2022
Farming's Secret Weapon: California Community Colleges
Dr. Jerry Buckley, the President of Reedley College, joins Voices of the Valley to talk about the vital need to expand the relationship between agriculture and community colleges in California. "Across the country, community colleges are the best-kept secret that we have," he says, noting that with its 2.1 million students in attendance every year, California community colleges represent the largest system of education in the U.S. For instance, the AgTechX Ed workforce development program spearheaded by Western Growers and California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross to train community college students is a perfect example of the way to pass along knowledge about on-farm skills and technology. "I can teach theory all day long," Buckley says, "but it doesn't make sense until they put it to use."
April 19, 2022
Cybersecurity and the Virtual Threats to Farming
Do you use computers in your office? Guess what, you're a tech company. "We're not in a paper world anymore," says Greg Gatzke, President and CEO of ZAG Technical Services, countering the common misconception that there is a dividing line between the Salinas Valley and Silicon Valley. "The more reliant you are on technology, the bigger you are, the more processing systems you have, the more vulnerable you are to attack," he says. In this episode of Voices of the Valley, Gatzke talks about cybersecurity and virtual threats to the farming, and how his company bolsters safety in the online realm.
April 12, 2022
Working at the Digital Farm of the Future
Mark DeSantis, CEO of Bloomfield Robotics, makes a return visit to the podcast to discuss how agtech can improve work conditions for those employed at a farm. It's not about making humans irrelevant to the field, he says, but instead it's about creating new job categories in the labor market. "It's not that people are replaced," he says. "The world evolves and creates new opportunities." Listen in to hear about a future world with digital agronomists, horticulturalists and botanists.
April 05, 2022
AI on the Farm: Sensing What Humans Can't
Larry Taylor, Co-Founder of The Yield Lab Asia Pacific, and Mark DeSantis, CEO at Bloomfield Robotics, bust the myth that artificial intelligence isn't as adaptable as human intelligence when it comes to managing the health of specialty crops. With the right kind of technology, AI can mimic the boots-on-the-ground approach favored by humans - but it adds the capacity to learn from each individual plant to find patterns that can improve the output of the whole harvest. Listen as the duo delve into the specifics of how AI works in the field, citing real-world successes Bloomfield has had with vineyards in Bordeaux.
March 29, 2022
Using Social Media to Educate the Masses about Agriculture
Haden Coleman, who recently wrote an award-winning essay on the power of technology in advancing agriculture, speaks about the importance of using social media for consumer education. Haden is a 17-year-old cattle farmer who has witnessed first-hand how technology has caused a chain reaction in the efficiency of farming and ranching. Over the years, he has become an advocate for using TikTok and Instagram to educate consumers about agriculture to garner more industry support. Listen as he shares tips on helping the public better understand where their food comes from.
March 22, 2022
Navigating Climate Change: A Guide on How to Use Technology to Foster Climate-Resilient Agriculture
Mariana Vasconcelos, an agtech prodigy who started her ag data company Agrosmart when she was 23 years old, provides a look into how the digital revolution is accelerating a cultural shift in agriculture globally. As climate change leads to increased periods of drought and farmers have lower margins for error, she shares the steps needed for adopting more tech on the farm to create a more productive and sustainable agriculture. She also speaks about how the development of agtech is a powerful solution to succession in farming – especially in a world where the industry is facing increasing regulations and is being asked to produce more food with less natural resources.
March 16, 2022
Are Farm Robots Making a Dent in the Agriculture Labor Gap?
As the labor shortage in agriculture worsens and farmers struggle to get their crops harvested, are today’s harvest robots making a dent in the ag labor gap? Listen as Walt Duflock, Western Growers VP of Innovation, discusses the progress on automation around harvest (helping out in the field) and automation to harvest (actual harvest robots). Walt, who has played a key role in building the agtech industry to what it is today, also speaks about tactics to speed up automation (like making plug-and-play robot parts widely available). During the interview, he also discusses how best to create a 4-year and 2-year university model that graduates students who are equipped to both build effective tech AND navigate the tech on the farm.
March 09, 2022
To Advance Food Safety, Get Out of the Box
Barbara Cassens has been a warrior in the fight to protect the health of the American people for the past forty years. In this episode, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration veteran shares several “out of the box” methods for advancing food safety, preventing outbreaks/contaminations and minimizing the exposure of risk to consumers. This includes ways to effectively use innovation and technology…because you can’t test your way toward a food safety solution!
March 01, 2022
AG Kawamura [Part 2]: Forging Uncommon Collaborations to Solve World Hunger
How do we create a more resilient food supply for the planet and address both food and nutrition insecurity? By implementing new programs that bring urban communities closer to agriculture. In part 2 of A.G. Kawamura’s podcast interview, he speaks about the steps for creating successful farm programs where 1 + 1 = 3. These include programs where residents in urban areas work hand-in-hand with farm crews to better understand their food supply as well as initiatives that allow you to be part of the environment, rather than apart from it.
February 22, 2022
AG Kawamura [Part 1]: Dissecting the 21st Century Ag Renaissance
With 44 seasons of farming under his belt, A.G. Kawamura shares his unique perspective about the future of agriculture and provides an analysis of the lessons learned from agriculture’s past. Some of the topics he covers? Stepping away from “think tanks” and moving toward an era of “do tanks.” The importance of disruption in sustaining a state of abundance vs a state of survival. How to accelerate change by streamlining the path for environmentally-friendly technology. The transformation of urban agriculture. And more! Listen to part 1 of 2 of Orange County Produce Owner and Former Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture A.G. Kawamura’s Voices of the Valley Podcast episode.
February 16, 2022
How to Establish Trust When it Comes to Food Safety
This episode is all about how to establish trust – and move away from a regulatory “gotcha” mentality! Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, Executive Director of the Center for Produce Safety, shares the steps needed to 1) build a safe space to speak about food safety experiences; 2) be a resource for the industry when it comes to sensitive topics; and 3) battle the biggest issues in food safety using science and tech.
February 08, 2022
Lemons and Oranges and Limes, Oh My!
How do you bridge the gap between government, consumers and farmers? Casey Creamer, a cotton expert who has now jumped to advocate on behalf of citrus growers as the President of California Citrus Mutual, shares the tactics he has implemented to bring stakeholders together to sort through the issues facing agriculture and create a path forward. This includes everything from revolutionizing citrus packing houses with technology and automation to bringing science to the forefront to educate on the importance of crop protection.
February 02, 2022
Inside the Brave New World of Pest Management
With all the mounting issues surrounding pest management (increasing restrictions, buyer pressure to stop using products, ineffectiveness of certain chemicals), how do you protect soil and plant health? Biologicals Queen Pam Marrone reveals the answer. Marrone—who has built numerous thriving bio-ag companies from scratch and discovered countless biological solutions for agricultural pest management—speaks about how to stay ahead of the game as the world moves toward a biologicals-based future. This includes ways to invent new solutions based off unmet needs and the steps necessary for successfully integrating products into farmers’ program. She also provides an easy-to-understand roadmap of how to effectively use biologicals and microbes to ward off unwanted pests.
January 25, 2022
How to Make Tech Adoption Go from Revolution to Evolution
In a country like Brazil where extraordinarily-resistant pests run rampant on crops, how are agtech venture capitalists saving the day? By providing young economies and companies an opportunity to thrive. Francisco Jardim, founding partner at SP Ventures (Latin America’s largest agtech venture firm), explains how investment in biologicals, agriculture financing (aka AgFinTech) and e-commerce platforms has paved the way for a tech evolution in the country’s farming community. He also explores the potential of a dual hemisphere strategy to accelerate solution in key areas and outlines the exact steps of how biologics in Brazil became went beyond a revolution to become an evolution.
January 18, 2022
When NASA and Farming Collide
Explore the intersection of space tech and agtech as Neill Callis—an aerospace engineer turned farmer—delves deep into the issues farmers are grappling with most (think, intense regulations and lack of water and labor) and what tech is on the horizon to solve those problems. Neill, who currently serves as general manager at Turlock Fruit Company, covers everything from solar-powered reverse osmosis systems to optical sorting and desalination. Using insight from his 17-year career at NASA, Neill also provides context to how agtech can be developed faster to help farmers face the headwinds of labor and regulation that batter the industry as well as the automation that ultimately offers a path to keep farms in the United States.
January 11, 2022
Changing the Farm Narrative through Innovation & Workforce Development
Karen Ross (California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary) delves into the opportunities 2022 offers for the California farming industry – including meaningful ways to the change narrative of agriculture. She discusses how to create a renewable cycle of economic development, collaboration, new technology invention, and environmental stewardship. Podcast hosts Dennis and Candace also dive deep with Karen on the topics of workforce development, upskilling the current workforce and molding the next generation to quickly advance innovation to feed more people while using fewer resources.
January 04, 2022
Intersection of Ag and Tech: Emerging Trends in 2022
Agtech investor and strategist Seana Day provides a deep analysis into what we can expect to see from the agtech ecosystem in 2022. Tracking 1,500+ agtech companies, Seana reveals what she sees as the top trends for the future year – such as a fintech/agtech crossover, more mergers/acquisitions, expansion of asset utilization and more. Tune in to journey with Seana as she explores the opportunities and challenges for agtech in 2022 and beyond.
December 28, 2021
Building Communities for Resuscitating Water Conservation
What can you do when laws and regulations don’t reflect the current water situation? Groundwater Expert Elisa Blanco shares how communities and private businesses in Chile encouraged the government to invest in groundwater recharge and surface water storage. Her tips include steps on how to build groundwater communities, coordinate capital and human resources, trigger investment in technology and more.
December 22, 2021
How to Become an Agtech Impact Rainmaker
As Israel has long been known as an innovator in water usage, the country’s technologists have helped farmers achieve 30% more yield while using 60% less water. How? Ethy Levy, fund manager at Kinneret Impact Ventures, reveals that collaboration is the key. Listen as she shares tips on adopting innovation, creating the right infrastructure for innovation inside an organization and successfully connecting to up-and-coming startups. Ethy will also dive into Israel’s new tech innovations, discuss water solutions for a global marketplace and provide insight into the right tools needed for commercializing innovations.
December 14, 2021
The Interplay Between Water, Tech and Regulation
Speaking from the unique perspective of both a farmer and technologist, Domonic Rossini discusses the key elements for creating a formula that results in a more automated, efficient and sustainable farm. Domonic, Netafim’s team leader of agronomy in the west, outlines how to take proven technology from Israel and tailor it to meet the needs of each farm – with a focus on altering the tech to meet specific regulations required in respective regions throughout California. He also touches on how to translate data from algorithms to use water more efficiently on the farm, the future of water technology (think, behind-the-scenes data sharing) and the trick to building and implementing water technology that lasts.
December 07, 2021
The Next Wave of AgTech: Plant Probiotics
Are you wondering what the next hot opportunity in agtech is? Ponder no further. It’s microbes (aka probiotics for plants). Bruce Caldwell, chemical engineer extraordinaire and founder/CEO of 3Bar Biologics, has spent the last 15 years working on technology that delivers live, viable microbes to farmers. These supercharged microbes have the ability to continuously activate based on plant needs and improve field performance better than synthetic products. Good news; he’s perfected the tech and even won $250K last month during the AgSharks Pitch Competition to ramp up manufacturing. Listen as Bruce reveals the secret behind commercializing new tech platforms, the recipe for winning startup pitch competitions, and how to develop a product that is specific enough to meet the needs of individual farms but general enough to be applied to numerous operations.
November 30, 2021
Dawn of the Drones: Spraying, Pollination and Imaging
Why use multiple machines to achieve farm tasks like seeding, crop protection application and spot-spraying imaging when you can just use one? Drones offer a one-stop shop where farmers can achieve many tasks by using only one piece of technology. Rantizo CEO Michael Ott and Ag-Bee President Briana Layfield break down, step-by-step, how drones are currently being used to improve the farmer’s bottom line and provide an analysis on the future applications of drones…such as pollinating crops. The duo also reveals their technique of leveraging a “systems approach” and large network to design a product that meets all stakeholder needs while making money in the process.
November 23, 2021
Organic Farming: Selling Health, Well-Being and Lifestyle
Organic agriculture is more than just about eating healthy; it’s a lifestyle. Tonya Antle, Co-founder and EVP of the Organic Produce Network, was among the industry pioneers who helped build the organic industry from scratch. In this episode, she shares how to create consumer confidence with burgeoning and unknown industries…because she did it with organic agriculture. She also reveals how to identify opportunities to expand, change the mindset of both consumers and farmers, and how to meet your triple bottom line (profit, people and the planet).
November 16, 2021
Leveraging Military Expertise to Grow a Startup
As a the first female aviator ever selected to serve with the Blue Angels, Amy Tomlinson is a pro at going 0 to 150 miles per hour in under 3 seconds – both literally and figuratively. After serving in the navy for 20 years as a weapons systems officer, she traded in her F-14 Tomcat and F/A-18 Super Hornet for microgrids. Yes, you heard right – microgirds. Amy is now a self-proclaimed “energy nerd” for agtech startup Concentric Power. Listen as Amy reveals how to apply key learnings from military service—such as the “brief-fly-debrief approach” and breaking out of the box to seize every opportunity—to build a thriving company that offers sustainable energy systems to the agriculture industry. NOTE: This episode originally aired on June 1, 2021, but is being re-aired in honor of Veterans Day 2021.
November 09, 2021
Hands-Free is the Only Way to Be
Voice-to-data is coming to agriculture…and it’s an absolute game-changer. Imagine being able to verbally cite your activities/data and receive a highly-accurate transcription while keeping your phone in your pocket throughout the day and having both hands free to hold tools, work on equipment or drive a vehicle. Then later have the ability to translate that information into patterns or trends that improve workplace efficiency. The agtech start-up company AgVoice Global is offering just that. AgVoice is the world’s first voice-to-data service that allows farmers and the ag specialists that support them to capture fast, accurate in-field insights on-the-go. Unlike Siri, Alexa or Google Voice Assistant, AgVoice specializes in agricultural terminology, ensuring that all ag documents (like food safety reports, compliance documents, etc) are exactly precise. (Bonus: AgVoice CEO/Co-founder Bruce Rasa reveals how the AgSharks Pitch Competition allowed him to leverage the PERFECT ecosystem for success.)
November 02, 2021
What Happens When Your Co-Worker is a Robot?
From a robot obsession while attending Harvard Business School to traveling 2,700 miles and sleeping in his car just to meet with farmers, Charlie Andersen has achieved his dream: to build a robot company that solves agriculture’s labor woes. Charlie’s company, Burro, recently raised a $ 10.9 million Series A funding and plans to release 500 self-driving wheelbarrows into ag within the next year. These small robots, akin to Disney’s Wall-E, automate some of the hard manual labor within ag. Listen as Charlie outlines his recipes for success (hint: persistence), analyzes the future of agtech (think: startups building on other startup’s tech) and how to quickly grow a robot army from 1 to 500. Bonus: Charlie, who won $250K at the Western Growers AgSharks Competition in 2018, shares the top tips on how to leverage collaboration to successfully build people-scaled products (aka tech that works alongside people to help them work more productively).
October 26, 2021
Almond Evolution: Self-Pollinating Varieties, Rootstock Gene Editing, Labor-Saving Tech
What do pest-controlling GMO insects have in common with orchard biomass recycling? They are both part of the almond industry’s effort to increase crop yield, improve water efficiency, control almond-killing pests and mitigate climate change. Josette Lewis, the Chief Scientific Officer at Almond Board of California, reveals the latest research and near-term innovations that are solving the almond’s major pain points. Think: labor-saving tech that eliminates a step in the harvest process, almond varieties that can pollinate themselves, recycling orchard biomass to significantly sequester carbon, and using genetically modified insects to control the navel orangeworm pest.
October 19, 2021
Tackling Food Waste: Tech as the Watchdog of Quality Control
Imagine a world where every piece of fruit and vegetable you eat tastes as ripe as the day that it was picked or harvested. Hazel Technologies is making that world a reality. Understanding that of all food produced globally goes to waste, Hazel Technologies CEO Aidan Mouat has made it his mission to use chemistry to improve efficiency in the supply chain and solve the food waste problem…and he has been wildly successful. The Hazel Technologies team has invented tech (a small, sugar-sized sachet!) that will extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables by up to four days. How? Listen to the episode as Aidan shares his tech secrets and the steps he took raise $90 million and gain 150+ of the world’s biggest growers/packers/retailer as clients.
October 12, 2021
Building Autonomous Farm Tractors…and Totally Winning
Will C-3PO and R2-D2 be working on the farm anytime soon? According to robotic tractor startup Bear Flag Robotics, the possibility may happen sooner rather than later. In this episode of Voices of the Valley, Bear Flag Robotics’ CEO and Co-Founder Igino Cafiero walks us through the journey of how his agtech startup successfully “exited” and now works hand-in-hand with John Deere to accelerate autonomous farm technology. Igino shares key tips on how to reduce the cost of growing food while increasing global food production through machine automation. He also speaks about the steps for building autonomous technology for farm tractors and how to effectively work with farmers and the ag industry early on to co-develop your product. © 2021 Western Growers
October 05, 2021
Rise of the City Bee: Building Urban Bee Farms
Detroit Hives has one goal: transforming vacant lots in Detroit into urban bee farms. In this episode of Voices of the Valley, Detroit Hives’ founders Timothy Paule and Nicole Lindsey speak about the steps it took to build one of the very first urban bee farms. During the interview, they delve into how their ever-expanding bee farm is bringing diversity and cognizance to bee awareness, rebuilding inner-city communities and supporting bee-saving technology. Plus, they speak about the magic behind local raw honey curing “incurable” colds! © 2021 Western Growers
September 21, 2021
Peter Wren-Hilton of Wharf42/Agritech New Zealand
For decades, Peter Wren-Hilton has supported initiatives to address the impact of burgeoning threats on farmers and growers across the globe. In this episode of Voices of the Valley, Peter outlines major themes surrounding ag technology – from New Zealand to Singapore to North America. Peter, who is founder & CEO of Wharf42 and head of global alliance Agritech New Zealand, shares his vision on how robotics – specifically how automation will compliment labor and ways people and machine can work together to alleviate the lack of labor plaguing farmers worldwide. He also speaks about food security spurring alternative methods of food production, such as vertical farming, aquaculture and cellular meats. © 2021 Western Growers
June 30, 2021
Tim York of California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement
Food safety expert Tim York expands on the importance of data sharing for advancing food safety. York, who currently serves as the CEO of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, shares how the fresh produce industry has made several efforts to anonymize and aggregate food safety data, but in the end, they have all fallen short because of lack of trust. In this episode, he urges the need for trust among competing growers and handlers—as well as partnership with government agencies—to improve the industry’s food safety record and build a future kill step. © 2021 Western Growers
June 22, 2021
Walt Duflock of Western Growers and Neill Callis of Turlock Fruit Company
Listen to episode 2 of 2 of the “On the Farm” episode with Neill Callis of Turlock Fruit Company and Walt Duflock of Western Growers. In this episode, Neill and Walt dive deeper into the topics of technical cross pollination and a distributed collaboration model. They speak about the impact of general technology crossing into agriculture and share updates on how this trend is bringing new players into the agtech game. They also touch on factors driving change in agricultural cultural practices, such global trends and technology that is both available and economically viable. © 2021 Western Growers
June 17, 2021
Neill Callis of Turlock Fruit Company and Walt Duflock of Western Growers
Hear episode 1 of 2 of the “On the Farm” episode with Neill Callis of Turlock Fruit Company and Walt Duflock of Western Growers. In this episode, Neill and Walt speak about what tech development, adoption and success look like. What does it take to get a technology across the finish line? Neill, a NASA systems engineer turned farmer, and Walt, a 25-years veteran in the agriculture and technology sectors, provide detailed insight into how to build and pitch agtech. © 2021 Western Growers
June 10, 2021
Amy Tomlinson of Concentric Power
Voices of the Valley speaks with Amy Tomlinson, project development director at Concentric Power. Tomlinson speaks about her experience as the first female Blue Angel of the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, and provides insight on how her career in the Navy has played a role in her agtech journey. She also gives guidance into hiring the next generation of agtech workers as well as shares updates on how Concentric Power is developing first-of-their-kind microgrids across California that will deliver reliable and resilient energy to customers at rates lower than the current utility. © 2021 Western Growers
June 01, 2021
Candace Wilson of GreenVenus
Voices of the Valley is back with a brand new episode on how agricultural technology has evolved in 2020 and 2021. Candace Wilson, who led operations at Seminis/Monsanto/Bayer for the past 15 years and now serves as Vice President of Business Development at GreenVenus, touches on the incremental gains in both traditional and new breeding, and speaks about the difference between CRISPR gene editing and GMOs. She shares tips about how to bring real solutions to growers and consumers. This includes conversations that start on the farm and then flow into the marketplace, developing technology as a “team sport,” and taking a global approach to solving problems and moving agriculture forward. Want more tips? Listen to Episode 63 of Voices of the Valley! © 2021 Western Growers
May 24, 2021
Hank Giclas of Western Growers
For nearly 3 decades, Hank Giclas (former Western Growers’ Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning, Science & Technology) served as one of the leading experts on science & technology in agriculture. In this episode of Voices in the Valleys, Hank shares his thoughts on ag and agtech industry priorities. He also discusses the type of technology today’s farmers are interested in and how the WG Center for Innovation & Technology is working toward becoming an increasingly important resource for the future.
June 30, 2020
Rodrigo Nieto Gómez of Naval Postgraduate School
Rodrigo Nieto Gómez shares his thoughts on how there needs to be a global collective effort by humanity to innovate our way out of Coronavirus. How? Doing things in the right order: 1) Aggressive Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions; 2) Regular Testing; 3) Public Health Breakthroughs; and 4) Vaccine Deployment Gómez, who is a research professor at the Naval Postgraduate School (one of the Navy’s flagship schools), goes into detail on how to “Innovate to Zero COVID-19” in this episode of Voices of the Valley. He also details how agriculture and the supply chain can adapt in a current and post COVID-19 world. :::this episode was sponsored by Harvestport:::
April 22, 2020
Carol Snyder of Trimble Inc.
During this episode, Dr. Carol Snyder of Trimble Inc. joins WGCIT Director Dennis Donohue to peak on Trimble's expansion in the agricultural space. She starts with an overview of her background in water management. She then does a deeper dive into autosteering and precision ag., an area that Trimble is most known for. Dr. Snyder covers an array of other topics pertinent to the farming community and Trimble's work to alleviate these issues. A special “thank you” to Harvestport for sponsoring the Voices of the Valley podcast! © 2019 Western Growers
March 05, 2020
Dennis Donohue of WG Center for Innovation and Technology
This episode of Voices of the Valley, WGCIT Director Dennis Donohue has gone from interviewer to interviewee to speak about what to expect at the upcoming seventh annual Salinas Valley Ag Tech Summit. This year the Western Growers CIT will be partnering with the event to discuss the latest trends in Ag Technology. While this is the seventh annual summit, Dennis shares some key differences between this year's event and previous years. A special “thank you” to Harvestport for sponsoring the Voices of the Valley podcast! © 2019 Western Growers
February 19, 2020
Brian Curtis of Concentric Power
Concentric Power’s CEO and founder Brian Curtis joins WGCIT Director Dennis Donohue on this episode of Voices of the Valley. With over 20 years of experience in energy, Curtis reports on the changes of the marketplace and stresses the importance of people being aware of the dramatic changes in the energy infrastructure. Curtis also provides insights into the Salinas Valley Energy Forum which will cover what’s happening across the state from an energy perspective, how to invest in sustainable infrastructure, and how Salinas Valley cities are improving and promoting economic development. A special “thank you” to Harvestport for sponsoring the Voices of the Valley podcast! © 2019 Western Growers
January 27, 2020
Richard Strafehl of Healthy Cow Corporation
Richard Strafehl of Healthy Cow Corporation joins WGCIT Director Dennis Donohue during this episode of Voice of the Valley. Healthy Cow is an ag-biotechnology company focused on helping dairy farmers improve the health and welfare of their dairy cows by developing a system of products that address the critical stressors during the critical 100-day transition period right around calving. CEO Richard Strafehl provides listeners with how their company identified dairy farmers’ needs and Healthy Cow’s continuous efforts in supplying those needs. A special “thank you” to Harvestport for sponsoring the Voices of the Valley podcast! © 2019 Western Growers
January 22, 2020
Jon King and Robert Forsythe of Milk Moovement
Jon King and Robert Forsythe are co-founders of Milk Moovement, a supply chain software for the raw milk industry. This monitoring system handles everything from milk production to transportation, with applications for producers, processors, labs and more. During this episode of Voices of the Valley, King and Forsythe reveal the functions of their program and how it compares to similar traditional systems. Due to their previous employment with dairy cooperatives, these trailblazers were able to meet the data needs of the industry in a considerably more efficient way than competitors. A special “thank you” to Harvestport for sponsoring the Voices of the Valley podcast! © 2019 Western Growers
January 14, 2020
Martha Montoya of AgTools (part 2)
During the second part of this Voices of the Valley episode with Martha Montoya of AgTools, the founder and CEO discusses customers of her tools across the industry, leveraging worldwide data to stay competitive in markets and insights she's acquired while working in the industry. She also addresses how technology has impacted businesses and how AgTools can reduce margins of loss by being able to improve decision-making. A special “thank you” to Harvestport for sponsoring the Voices of the Valley podcast! © 2019 Western Growers
December 31, 2019
Martha Montoya of AgTools (part 1)
Martha Montoya, founder and CEO of AGTools, shares how her company has come up with a tool designed to assist farmers, suppliers, and buyers, with gathering and simplifying data to improve a consumer’s decision-making. During this episode of Voices of the Valley, Montoya goes beyond the field, sharing some of the capabilities of the tool and how leveraging worldwide data helps companies stay competitive in markets. She also explains how the data provided through AGTools allows for full transparency across the entire supply chain, while preventing farmers from spending more money than necessary. :::this episode was sponsored by Harvestport:::
December 26, 2019
Aaron Archibald of CO2 GRO Inc.
CO2 GRO Inc. is dedicated to increasing the growth of all indoor and outdoor value plants using their advanced CO2 Delivery Solutions. During this episode of Voices of the Valley, Aaron Archibald, CO2 Gro Inc. Vice President of Sales and Strategic Alliances, speaks about the work CO2 GRO is doing to benefit farmers. He also touches on the value of CO2 and how it makes plants grow bigger and faster. :::this episode was sponsored by Harvestport::: © 2019 Western Growers
December 20, 2019
Abby Taylor-Silva of Grower-Shipper Association (part 2)
During part 2 of this special Voices of the Valley episode with Abby Taylor-Silva of Grower-Shipper Association, the vice president takes us through a host of water topics, including the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and how it differs in the Salinas Valley, and some of the critical water issues producers in Monterey County are experiencing. She also touches on traceability in ag and it’s progress while she’s worked in the food safety space. Taylor-Silva also stresses the importance of government agencies talking to the industry. A special “thank you” to Harvestport for sponsoring the Voices of the Valley podcast!
December 13, 2019
Abby Taylor-Silva of Grower-Shipper Association (part 1)
Abby Taylor-Silva speaks on how her role as vice president of policy and communications at Grower-Shipper Association of Central California helps advance agricultural technology – especially as it relates to food safety and water regulations. During this episode of Voices of the Valley, Taylor-Silva shares what new technologies she has seen that support food safety traceability. She also delves into the need for rapid development of immediate detection and building a system that simultaneously harnesses and analyzes food safety data while protecting grower information. Taylor-Silva also touches on the importance of new innovations that simplify groundwater and surface water management, which she will dive deeper into during the next episode of Voices of the Valley. :::this episode was sponsored by Harvestport::: © 2019 Western Growers
December 04, 2019
Brian Dawson of HarvestPort (part 2)
During part 2 of this special Voices of the Valley episode with Brain Dawson of Harvestport, the agtech entrepreneur takes us through the journey of raising a series A round of financing. He shares what next steps are crucial for success after raising substantial funding from a venture fund and reviews the thought process behind slowly transforming your business model to meet changing needs and trends. Dawson walks us through how he transformed HarvestPort from an ag equipment marketplace to now a service-based company. A special “thank you” to Harvestport for sponsoring the Voices of the Valley podcast! © 2019 Western Growers
November 27, 2019
Brian Dawson of HarvestPort (part 1)
Brian Dawson, founder & CEO at HarvestPort, speaks on the importance of bridging the gap between technology and agriculture. He shares how he originally launched HarvestPort as a platform that allows agribusinesses to share their seasonally-used equipment and assets, so farmers can monetize idle equipment during their off-season. Known as the “Airbnb” of agriculture, HarvestPort allows participants to both lease and procure planting, harvesting, transportation and storage resources through an online marketplace. This episode of Voices of the Valley is a special two-parter. Tune in next week to hear how Dawson transformed his business into now a service-focused company. A special “thank you” to Harvestport for sponsoring the Voices of the Valley podcast! © 2019 Western Growers
November 14, 2019
Roi Adar of RootsTalk
Roi Adar, general manager of RootsTalk, provides an inside look into what it’s like being an agtech entrepreneur. He reveals how he identified which crops to target while forming his agtech start-up company, RootsTalk, and how he made it a priority to build a team who has experience in all facets of agriculture. He provides insight into the future of agtech and how data is not the answer – agtech companies much compile AND analyze the data to provide real-time action items. He also delves into how RootsTalk’s tech, which offers an advanced drip irrigation system. :::this episode was sponsored by Harvestport::: © 2019 Western Growers
November 06, 2019
Genevieve Griffin-George of PICMI
Genevieve Griffin-George speaks about her New Zealand-based agtech company, PICMI, addresses the seasonal labor shortages in the agriculture industry. During this episode of Voices of the Valley, she explains how PICMI simplifies the employment process and seamlessly connects growers to the right workers at the right time through an easy to use platform. :::this episode was sponsored by Harvestport::: © 2019 Western Growers
October 24, 2019
John McPherson of rfxcel
For 15+ years, rfxcel has been a leader in track and trace solutions for the life science and pharmaceutical industries. The company is now looking to transform its highly successful supply chain visibility platform to be a tool for agriculture. During this episode of Voices of the Valley, John McPherson, director of global solutions for rfxcel, will share how the flexible platform can capture data in different ways, integrate into various systems and connect the dots from harvester to end user. He will also detail how to leverage rfxcel’s technology to add value and help brands further provide safe products. :::this episode was sponsored by Harvestport::: © 2019 Western Growers
October 15, 2019
Elliot Jaramillo of Concept Clean Energy
Elliot Jaramillo, CEO of Concept Clean Energy, will speak about the renewable energy startup’s newest product – the Solar Tub. Jaramillo speaks about how the Solar Tub is a self-contained plastic tub that allows you to put solar on leased farmland without driving steel into the ground. It allows farmers to now put solar anywhere with virtually no heavy equipment and no power tools. :::this episode was sponsored by Harvestport::: © 2019 Western Growers
October 11, 2019
Jamie Bacher of Boost Biomes
Jamie Bacher, cofounder and CEO of Boost Biomes, shares how his company is harnessing the potential of microbiomes (the microorganisms in a particular environment). During this episode of Voices of the Valley, Bacher gives listeners an exploratory tour of the startup’s proprietary discovery platform, which uses high throughput sequencing, selective enrichment and advanced informatics to identify microbial products with important commercial roles. He also explains how the company is using the platform to develop safe and effective naturally-occurring microbes and consortia which can manage diseases of high-value crops. :::this episode was sponsored by Harvestport::: © 2019 Western Growers
October 01, 2019
Jason Mellow of Croptracker, Inc.
Jason Mellow, president of Croptracker, Inc., speaks about his startup’s cloud-based record-keeping and farm management software service. During the interview, he delves into how growers, associations, and co-operations of all sizes use Croptracker's cloud-based desktop and mobile apps to execute and monitor their harvest, schedule and track their chemical usage, cut operational costs associated with supervision and auditing, enhance their traceability and food safety, and make more informed decisions for their operations. The mission of Croptracker, a resident of Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology, is to make crop production safer, more efficient, and more profitable for growers. :::this episode was sponsored by Novihum Technologies::: © 2019 Western Growers
September 25, 2019
Natasha Shields of Nuffield Australia Farming Scholars
In this episode of Voices of the Valleys, Natasha Shields—a farmer and innovator from Baxter, Australia—shares how her farm is battling issues such as drought and climate change, using technology. As Nuffield Australia Farming Scholars’ 2019 Scholar, she has traveled internationally to discover how other countries are implementing technology and innovation to grow more food with less resources. In this interview, she delves into her international findings, the landscape of technology and innovation in Australia and alternative packaging options and shelf-life outcomes for fresh produce. :::this episode was sponsored by Novihum Technologies::: © 2019 Western Growers
September 17, 2019
Harry Ferdon of SWIIM System
Harry Ferdon, Sr. Regional Sales Manager at SWIIM System, speaks about helping growers obtain, understand and apply their data to help with implementation of the new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) regulations. Ferdon explains how SWIIM’s Technology can be adapted to help manage new pumping restrictions, as well as meet other regulations related to both water supply and quality. :::this episode was sponsored by Novihum Technologies::: © 2019 Western Growers
July 25, 2019
U.S. AG Solutions
Don Lewis and Mark Giangiorgi of US AG Solutions, LLC, discuss how technology is becoming more pervasive in the agricultural industry and with that, there is a great need for the industry to understand new tech coming to the forefront. Lewis and Giangiorgi provide a service where they translate and interpret data collected from agtech start-up companies who provide solutions to growers’ pain – such as water, energy and labor – into an action plan. :::this episode was sponsored by Novihum Technologies::: © 2019 Western Growers
July 18, 2019
Tensorfield Agriculture is building agricultural machines with a focus on applications for specialty row crops in a post-herbicide world. CEO/Co-Founder Xiong Chang and CTO Cheehan Weereratne provide an inside look into how these autonomous weeding machines use robotics, computer vision and deep learning to take precision agriculture to the next level. :::this episode was sponsored by Novihum Technologies::: © 2019 Western Growers
July 11, 2019
John Skardon of Tailwater Systems
John Skardon, founder of Tailwater Systems, discusses how his agtech start-up company designs, builds and operates high-performance bioreactors for removing nitrates and other contaminants from field drainage and drinking water wells. The systems are compact and can be placed anywhere—in a field, next to a greenhouse or near a lift station. :::this episode was sponsored by Novihum Technologies::: © 2019 Western Growers
July 01, 2019
Amy Wu of From Farms to Incubators
From Farms to Incubators Founder Amy Wu speaks about her content-based startup that uses digital storytelling including video, documentary, photography and articles, to spotlight women entrepreneurs and innovators dedicated to agtech. A long-time journalist, Wu talks about the importance of showcasing female innovators and investors in the agtech sector. :::this episode was sponsored by Novihum Technologies::: © 2019 Western Growers
June 03, 2019
Harrison Enright of iTradeNetwork
Harrison Enright, product manager of iTradeNetwork, Inc., gives an inside look into what it’s like to be an entrepreneur in the agtech-traceability scene. He also speaks about the technology behind iTradeNetwork – a leading global provider of on-demand supply chain management and intelligence solutions to the retail, hospitality and foodservice industries. Built upon deep industry expertise, a rich data foundation and our industries’ most extensive trading partner network, ITN’s collaborative solutions allow distributors, manufacturers, operators, retailers, suppliers and wholesalers of all sizes to reduce cost, grow revenue and strengthen trading partner relationships. Today, ITN’s growing customer list includes over 5,000 global companies. :::this episode was sponsored by Novihum Technologies::: © 2019 Western Growers
May 21, 2019
Virginia Corless of Novihum Technologies
Virginia Corless, Chief Growth Officer at Novihum Technologies, explains how her clean tech start-up is developing a unique and innovative agricultural technology to return fertility to poor and degraded soils around the globe. Wherever intensive land use or climatic changes have degraded soils and reduced yields, Novihum quickly replaces natural humic matter, rapidly improving soil quality and productivity while sequestering CO2 in soils and biomass. Listen to this episode to learn how Novihum delivers healthier plants, higher crop yields, enhanced drought resilience, and substantial environmental and climate benefits in agricultural, horticultural, recultivation, landscape, and roof greening applications around the world. :::Novihum Technologies is a proud sponsor of Voices of the Valley::: © 2019 Western Growers
May 14, 2019
Mike Dodson of Pago
Envision a future where digital systems completely replace hand-written time sheets and where farmers can receive real-time visibility of crew time, production and labor costs. With Pago, that future is here. Mike Dodson, founder of agtech startup Pago, speaks about how this is the first product to serve both farm labor contractors and growers by offering a platform where the two parties can work collaboratively to carry out crucial labor activities. :::this episode was sponsored by Novihum Technologies::: © 2019 Western Growers
May 07, 2019
Richard De Andrade of Solare Trace Inc.
Richard De Andrade, CEO & Founder, Solare Trace Inc., delves into what exactly precision ag means and how data can drive decisions on the farm that result in more yield. He shares how to apply integrated solutions to collect precision ag data, as well as discusses how his startup is currently developing next generation systems to deploy advanced item-level traceability in agriculture, with GPS tagged field and worker data. :::this episode was sponsored by Novihum Technologies::: © 2019 Western Growers
April 30, 2019
Aaron Gobin of AgVoice
Aaron Gobin speaks about a revolutionary speech-to-text data service that was designed with and for food and ag professionals—AgVoice. AgVoice is the world’s first voice and data management start-up company that allows ag professionals the freedom to work hands-free while on-the-go. Using proprietary analytics and processing of raw voice files, anyone in agriculture can conveniently and safely capture data when both hands are occupied. :::this episode was sponsored by Novihum Technologies::: © 2019 Western Growers
April 17, 2019
Charles McGregor of GeoVisual Analytics
Charles McGregor, the Business Unit Manager at GeoVisual Analytics – an analytics firm that focuses on yield forecasting for specialty crops (fruits, vegetables and nuts). He explains how his startup uses routine monitoring of fields with airplanes, drones and mobile phones, as well as their NASA-funded AI algorithms, to help farmers to dramatically reduce production uncertainties and increase profits. :::this episode was sponsored by Novihum Technologies::: © 2019 Western Growers
April 01, 2019
Jesse Arteaga of Ganaz
Jesse Arteaga leads business development at Ganz, an agtech startup helps farms recruit and engage with their workforce using a novel communications platform. Arteaga shares how the company has change since its inception; the company originally started out as an app-based product and has transformed into a communications platform where no data plan is needed. :::this episode was sponsored by Novihum Technologies::: © 2019 Western Growers
March 26, 2019
Pádraig Whelan of ApisProtect
Dr. Pádraig Whelan of ApisProtect—an Irish company that recently opened its first U.S. office at the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology — explains how this agtech startup uses the Internet of Things (IoT) to help beekeepers manage colonies more effectively. He explains how ApisProtect places the power of advanced sensors and machine learning technology into the hive to deliver a 24/7 early warning system so beekeepers can give at-risk hives immediate attention and improve bee health. :::this episode was sponsored by Novihum Technologies::: © 2019 Western Growers
March 14, 2019
Hank Giclas of Western Growers
For nearly 2 decades, Hank Giclas (Western Growers’ Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning, Science & Technology) has served as one of the leading experts on science & technology in agriculture. In this episode of Voices in the Valleys, he shares his thoughts on innovation in production agriculture; issues surrounding technology adoption in agriculture; rising technologies that solve challenges surrounding food safety and labor; and efforts Western Growers is spearheading to advance agtech. :::this episode was sponsored by Novihum Technologies::: © 2019 Western Growers
March 06, 2019
Connor Cunningham of WaterBit
Can smart technology offer remote irrigation for agriculture that’s affordable? With the help of WaterBit, the answer is “absolutely.” Listen to this episode of Voices of the Valley, where WaterBit Field Specialist Connor Cunningham explains how his agtech start-up company offers a complete irrigation program that allows growers to automate irrigation across their crops.
January 14, 2019
Eyal Amit of FieldIn
Last year, FieldIn saved specialty crop growers millions of dollars in pest management by monitoring spray applications and providing alerts, in real time, on more than 6,000 application errors. More impressively, this agtech start-up company has only been up and running for three years and it already monitors almost five percent of the almond crops in California. In this episode of Voices of the Valley, Eyal Amit, VP Business Development at FieldIn, shares how his Israel-based startup offers specialty crop growers a data software service that provides automated traceability on pest management trends, patterns, usage and efficacy.
January 07, 2019
Dan Reighn of iTrade Network
During this episode of Voice in the Valley, Dan Reighn, the director of sales at iTrade Network, delves into new technology that brings simplicity and agility to the perishables supply chain. iTradeNetwork, a company working out of the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology, offers web-based software that automates the supply chain for the retail and foodservice industries. Their network—which is comprised of 5,000+ retailers, operators, grower-shippers, manufacturers and distributors—helps maximize efficiency and end-to-end visibility.
November 29, 2018
Willard Lewallen of Hartnell College
Willard Lewallen, Ph.D., is superintendent/president of Hartnell College, and in this episode of Voices in the Valley, he speaks with host Dennis Donohue on the future of agtech. He also touches on how academia and education has played a role on the growth of agtech thus far and what the community can expect moving forward.
November 20, 2018
Chris Becerra of Terrapin Systems
Network security is the theme of today’s Voices of the Valley episode. Chris Becerra, CEO of Terrapin Systems, provides his thoughts on how agriculture is relying more on technology than it has in the past and speaks about how crucial data security is. Becerra founded Terrapin Systems in 2005, and today, the company is the leader in open networking and a trusted partner for comprehensive networking services and solutions. Becerra touches on how his company’s vendor-agnostic approach gives them the flexibility to customize a solution for customer needs and adapts that solution as their needs evolve. © 2018 Western Growers
November 06, 2018
Capp Culver of California Safe Soil
California Safe Soil Vice President of Strategic Sales Capp Culver speaks about the start-up company’s breakthrough technology that recycles organics from supermarkets into a proprietary liquid fertilizer called Harvest to Harvest (H2H), and a solid livestock feed, called Hog Heaven. He shares how California Safe Soil uses heat, mechanical action and enzymes in a three hour patented process that eliminates waste, cuts GHG emissions, increases crop yields and improves the sustainability of agriculture. The startup expects its technology to make a meaningful contribution to eliminating food waste and improving agricultural productivity.
October 23, 2018
Ruchit Garg of Harvesting
In this episode, we explore credit risk profiling and monitoring for agricultural economies. Ruchit Garg, the founder & CEO of Harvesting, shares how you can make lending decisions faster, transparent and more reliable using his agtech startup’s award winning digital platform – which is built on top of powerful machine learning & satellite based technologies. Harvesting leverages its team’s global understanding and your customer data to provide dynamic risk assessment aligned with your business goals.
October 15, 2018
Martha Montoya at AgTools
Martha Montoya, president of AgTools, joins us for episode 20 of Voices of the Valley to speak about her agtech company’s revolutionary solution that serves as a key component to address major communication gaps between farmers and food retailers. She explains how at its core, AgTools’ technology takes immense amounts of data and simplifies it down to key factors to improve decision making for farmers, corporate buyers and all food supply chain stakeholders. © 2018 Western Growers
October 08, 2018
David Moore & Cesar Martin at MagGrow
A first for Voices of the Valley, host Dennis Donohue is joined by two guests to speak about MagGrow, a magnetic spraying system that helps farmers grow more by using less. MagGrow Co-Founder & Chief Technology Officer David Moore and West Coast Sales Executive Cesar Martin share how their spraying technology system reduces drift by up to 70% and delivers superior coverage by enabling you to spray using fine droplets - a key challenge for conventional spraying technology. © 2018 Western Growers
October 01, 2018
Jim Stottlemyre at UNIBEST
In this episode of Voices of Valley, agtech start-up company UNIBEST International shares how it has been providing farmers and agribusinesses with soil monitoring products and data that are tailored to their own unique needs – whether that be to optimize crop management, understand environmental contamination or grow a healthier plant – for the past four years. Increased governmental regulation concerning environmental issues is continuing to greatly affect the agriculture industry. With less available farmland and a rapidly increasing global population, growers must maximize acreage by increasing crop yields and quality. Increasing yields often involves increasing fertilizer inputs, driving a greater demand for precision nutrient data. Current methods make the balance of plant uptake, nutrient application timing and the minimization of environmental impacts difficult. UNIBEST International, Inc. COO Jim Stottlemyre explains how the company’s precision nutrient monitoring products and services assist in achieving both agricultural and environmental objectives. Quantifying sustainable agricultural production is an attainable goal with UNIBEST precision nutrient data. © 2018 Western Growers
September 24, 2018
Kevin Payne of Zest Labs, Inc.
In this episode of Voices of the Valley, Zest Labs VP of Marketing Kevin Payne explains how agtech company Zest Labs is working to modernize fresh food distribution by delivering proactive shelf-life management solutions that have been proven to reduce field-to-shelf food waste by 50% or more. Reduced waste means better margins for retailers and growers, and consistent delivered freshness for consumers. © 2018 Western Growers
September 11, 2018
Aidan Mouat of Hazel Technologies, Inc.
Aidan Mouat is CEO and co-founder of Hazel Technologies, an agtech start-up company who invented packaging inserts (or sachets!) that extend shelf life. With Hazel's drop-in solution, the shelf-life of fresh produce can be extended by as much as three times by preventing fungus and decay. During this episode of Voices of the Valley, Mouat speaks about how this startup combats the growing global food waste problem by increasing the shelf life of produce. © 2018 Western Growers
August 28, 2018
Anita Garcia of CSU Monterey Bay
In this episode of Voices of the Valley, Anita Garcia speaks about her journey as a computer science student to an intern at several agtech start-up companies to, now, a Computer Science Education Coordinator at CSU Monterey Bay. She shares how she used her college education to assist start-up companies in development new technologies to advance ag. She also reflects on her career journey and delves into how she sees the world of ag and tech.
August 20, 2018
Bruce Rasa of AgVoice
In this episode of Voices in the Valley, we hear about AgVoice, the world's first voice and data management start-up company that allows ag professionals the freedom to work hands-free while on-the-go. AgVoice CEO Bruce Rasa shares the journey of how AgVoice came to be and how it can revolutionize the industry. AgVoice is a mobile voice-interaction service designed for food and agriculture professionals to capture insights on the go. By using proprietary analytics and processing of raw voice files—including captured time stamps and location data—users can improve productivity and workflow management, increase documentation accuracy and gain valuable insights to optimize the use of resources in production. © 2018 Western Growers
August 14, 2018
Nora La Torre of Ganaz
There is a severe ag labor shortage and it’s only going to get worse. Changing demographics and stringent regulatory barriers are causing the flow of workers crossing the border to dramatically slow down. These are the workers that help us harvest our crops—the workers that are crucial in providing the nutritious fruits and vegetables that feed our families. Answering the call to help solve agriculture’s severe labor shortage, agtech start-up company, Ganaz, has developed an app to help farms recruit and engage with their workforce. In this episode of Voices of the Valley, Ganaz Co-Founder Nora La Torre will speak about how they are using their growing network of thousands of farmworkers and their social media integrations to let farms recruit farmworkers with a few taps from their smartphone. Once on the job, farmers can get essential messages out to their workforce (like shift changes) and solicit feedback on working conditions to improve retention.
August 06, 2018
Diane Wetherington of iFood Decision Sciences
In this episode of Voices of the Valley, Diane Wetherington, CEO of iFoodDecisionSciences, speaks to Dennis Donohue about their startup journey. iFoods shares a little about how this agtech start-up company provides food safety and process control data management software solutions for growers, shippers, packers, processors and distributors.
July 31, 2018
Raja Ramachandran of Ripe.io
Ever been confused on exactly what blockchain is? Or how it can help agriculture? Raja Ramachandran is the CEO of Ripe.io, and in this edition of Voices of the Valley, he explains exactly when blockchain can be useful and how to harness its power. Raja goes into how Ripe.io leverages blockchain technology to create a digital bridge that engenders transparency, trust and honesty for food producers, distributors, and consumers.
July 24, 2018
Brian Curtis of Concentric Power
Brian Curtis is CEO and founder of Concentric Power Inc. Concentric Power has developed a pre-engineered, prefabricated, modular power plant design that can be installed at food processing facilities for fresh produce. Most recently, this agtech startups built a cogeneration plant for Taylor Farms that helps the ag giant generate onsite electric power for low temperature refrigeration, producing an annual energy offset of 64 percent. During the podcast, Brian speaks about his entrepreneurship journey into agriculture and explains the steps to how and why he jumped into cogeneration.
July 16, 2018
Colin Brown of TracMap
Colin Brown is Founding Director of TracMap, an agtech company that offers a complete precision guidance system for ground applications to improve how crops receive pesticides. He will touch on how his company’s Spray and Harvest Management System can help growers reduce costs and improve yields across a wide range of specialty crops. With their technology, growers easily select which blocks or rows need pesticides from a computer, which sends the data to the tractor operator and then tracks if any portion of the blocks or rows were missed during pesticide application. TracMap says their system works for 100% of vehicles, 100% of staff, 100% of the time!
July 09, 2018
Abby Taylor-Silva of Grower-Shipper Association of Central California
Abby Taylor-Silva is Vice President, Policy and Communications at Grower-Shipper Association of Central California. In this episode of Voices of the Valley, Abby speaks about the latest updates in groundwater and water technology. She also touches on the types of technology she has seen being develop to improve water quality and soil health.
July 02, 2018
Nathan Dorn of Food Origins
Nathan Dorn is the founder and CEO of Food Origins. Food Origins is a data-driven start-up company that works with growers to assess the impact of potential innovations. In this episode of Voices of the Valley, Nathan explains how his innovative technology will significantly improve the efficiency of the $20B hand harvested fruit industry with the single click of a precision data collection system. He shares the journey of how he developed tech to offer precision harvest data in real time with one click of a low cost handheld device in the field.
June 26, 2018
Patrick Zelaya of HeavyConnect
Patrick Zelaya is the founder and CEO of Heavy Connect. HeavyConnect, one of the first residents of the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology, prides itself on creating diversity in the workforce by offering youth opportunities and careers in technology. The startup builds mobile workflow platforms that automate and simplify many of the tasks that consume a farming manager’s day. In this episode of Voices of the Valley, Patrick shares how his agtech start-up company stays attuned to the needs of the industry and details the steps of how he got his company off the ground and into the agtech space.
June 18, 2018
Drew Ketelsen of HMC Farms
Drew Ketelsen is Ranch Operations Manager of HMC Farms. In this episode of Voices of the Valley, Drew highlights the water issues farmers in the Central Valley face and what types of innovations and technology available to help ease those woes. As a stone fruit grower, Drew speaks about the changes HMC Farms is making to their orchards and groves to allow for the possibility of automation. © 2018 Western Growers
June 11, 2018
Robert McBride of Boost Biomes
Robert McBride is Co-Founder of Boost Biomes and a biotechnology veteran. In this episode of Voices of the Valley, Robert describes how Boost Biomes' proprietary DNA sequencing-based discovery platform uses high-throughput next-generation sequencing, selective enrichment and advanced informatics to identify microbial products with important commercial roles. He goes into detail about Boost Biomes' first two products, which are focused on improving yield in the field and reducing spoilage after harvest, and are being evaluated in commercially relevant trials. Boost Biomes is a start-up company working out of the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology.
June 04, 2018
Colby Pereira of Costa Farms
Colby Pereira is currently the Chair of the Monterey County Farm Bureau and Manager at Costa Farms. In this episode of Voices of the Valley, Colby shares with Dennis the most important aspects of technology that gets farmers to “buy into” a certain piece of software or hardware. Colby also speaks about some of the innovations that her farm had already started implementing on the farm and how it has helped make operations more efficient.
June 01, 2018
Kevin France of SWIIM Systems
Kevin France is the CEO of SWIIM® System. In this episode of Voices of the Valleys, Dennis and Kevin speak about SWIIM’s easy-to-use technology that enable farmers, ranchers, municipalities, businesses and conservation groups to plan, manage and track their crop-water budget. They delve into SWIIM’s turn-key solution that allows it to act as its client’s on-farm water accountant, allowing agricultural water users to optimize water rights, monitor the crop water budget, conserve water and increase net income for agricultural operations.
June 01, 2018
Sean Duncan of Duncan Family Farms
Sean Duncan is the Supply Chain Manager at Duncan Family Farms, based in Arizona. In this inaugural episode of Voices of the Valley, Dennis and Duncan discuss how to adapt technology to different growing regions around the nation. They also discuss what Duncan Family Farms looks for in new technologies and provide tips on how agtech startups can start partnerships with farms of all sizes.
June 01, 2018