Since 1926, Western Growers Association (WGA) has represented local and regional family farmers growing fresh produce in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico. WGA has worked to advocate grower issues in areas of water supply and quality, crop protection, work place regulations, immigration, health care, and the environment. WGA’s advocacy reaches policy makers at the regional, state, and national level. Within the past few years WGA has taken a lead in providing information to its membership regarding Ag innovation and technology, by working with industry regulators, universities and industry experts on critical industry concerns. A result, WGA has created a series of webinars, lunch and learns, an Innovation Center in Salinas, CA, and conferences dedicated to innovation and technology. The goals are to provide collaboration with innovators and entrepreneurs to solve the largest challenges facing ag, and to gain early exposure to new and winning technology.
On Thursday February 8th, UC Riverside faculty from BCOE and CNAS were invited to participate in a major Imperial Valley WGA conference which focused on Ag Innovation and Automation. The conference was segmented into three sessions which included 1.) innovation in harvesting, 2) Jobs of the future emphasizing high school and college students, and the main event which featured panel discussions on robotics / automation, water technologies, the “Internet of Things” in Ag, and the role of venture capital in the rapidly progressing ag technology movement. AVC of Technology Partnerships, Rosibel Ochoa participated in the noon session regarding innovation, and preparation of a new Ag workforce based upon changes in agricultural technologies and innovation. Dr. Ochoa also provide opening remarks during the main session, emphasizing UCR’s role in developing innovation in science and technology, and an educational ecosystem connected to the Imperial Valley and the region. UCR faculty who participated on panels included:
Water Panel: Hoori Ajami, Ph.D.; Assistant Professor of Groundwater Hydrology
Robotics Panel: Konstantinos Karydis, Ph.D.; Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Director of the Autonomous Robots and Control Systems Lab
Internet of Things : Juan Pablo Giraldo, Ph.D.; Assistant Professor of Plant Physiology
This event was a tremendous opportunity for UCR to demonstrate research in significant areas impacting California growers, and to work closely with WGA in their outreach to its grower membership. The Office of Technology Partnerships will continue to collaborate with WGA, and engage UCR faculty and researchers in future WGA conference and events, emphasizing the world class research being conducted by our CNAS and BCOE faculty as it aligns to challenges in agriculture.