Tractors and fertilizer, sure, but 51st World Ag Expo offers sci-fi glimpses too

2018-02-14 | The Bakersfield Californian

Feb. 13--What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Silicon Valley and Big Ag, the two giants of California's thriving and vastly diversified economy, don't always seem to understand each other, despite abundant evidence that better cooperation would be mutually beneficial.

That schism was clear enough at the 2018 World Ag Expo, which began its three-day run Tuesday at the International Agri-Center near Tulare.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, who in the morning addressed a town hall-style gathering of Central Valley farmers, fielded questions about a number of challenges: water, regulation and immigration among them. But just as confounding was this issue, lobbed his way by an expo attendee: How can government and industry work together to better integrate farming with technological innovation?

The consensus in the banquet room: Silicon Valley just doesn't get it sometimes.

Well, it works both ways.

""A lot of people (in farming) are skeptical of Silicon Valley," said Chris Laudando, head of strategic partnerships for Motivo Engineering, a Fremont- and Gardena-based company with an intriguing solution to persistent agricultural problems. "They say Silicon Valley doesn't understand hardware. The (new high tech) tractor gets halfway down the row and stops and farmers say, 'That's it, we're never doing technology again,'"

The annual farm show had its usual array of sleek and shiny farm equipment, better built than last year's models to shake, gather, irrigate and fortify countless crops in a dozen climates, but it also featured innovations that a decade ago might have seemed straight out of a Ray Bradbury novel. If Ray Bradbury had written about farming on Earth.

One such innovation, right around the corner from the GUSS company's autonomous orchard sprayer -- a galvanized, beetle-like specimen the size of a Hummer limo -- was Motivo's Harvest Mobile Power Platform, which transfers power from its own portable solar panel to a tractor-like energy station capable of turning barren landscape, hundreds of miles from the grid, into productive farmland. And then, with the proper equipment, refrigerating the harvest.

Is this what farming might look like in a starving 21st century world? Motivo is among the companies banking on it.

One immediate application for Motivo's HMPP: Bringing the subsistence farming of the Third World out of poverty -- and perhaps into the marketplace -- by bringing electricity to the outback. Laudando said it's already happening in India. Next up, Africa.

Noted Motivo's Dean Case, one HMPP unit could be shared among several under-resourced independent farmers, co-op style. Co-owners could "sign out" individual units with a phone app. Call it the Uberization of agriculture in developing countries.

Motivo hopes its success in that sort of environment attracts the attention of U.S. agriculture, which could expand the finite resources of land and labor while cutting the emissions of diesel power generation.

Perdue, who stopped in Tulare as part of a multi-city tour of California, spoke to an invited audience that included four members of Congress. Besides water and regulation, he touched on infrastructure challenges, distribution logistics, dairy industry issues, California's "sanctuary state" status, and labor shortages.

Perdue, a former governor of Georgia, called an immigration bill that serves agriculture "absolutely vital." He told the story of another Georgia governor's plan to backfill a farm labor market hurt by a new state immigration law that threatened undocumented workers with deportation -- prompting them to flee the state and leave their ag jobs.

The governor "came up with the idea of using probationers" as farm laborers, Perdue said. "The middle of the (second) day they all said, 'We'd like to just go back to prison.'"

Perdue sought to leave no doubt that, even as a member of Donald Trump's cabinet, he still embraces his blue collar background in dairy farming. Addressing Rep. David Valadao of Hanford, a dairyman himself, Perdue noted that he well remembered "the slimy mouth of a Holstein on a January morning."

After the town hall, Perdue walked the expo grounds. No word on how much of the show's 2.6 million square feet of show space he took in.

The expo continues Wednesday and Thursday.

Schedule

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 14

7 a.m.

VIP Event Tent -- Jesus and Generosity, with speaker David Kieser, Midwest Food Bank

Seminar Trailer 3 -- Coffee Talk, hosted by Women in Agriculture for Mentoring and Empowerment

9 a.m.: Show opens

9:30 a.m.: Seminar Trailer 3 -- Federal Legislation Review: Insight on Water, Pesticides and GMO Labeling, with speaker Richard Gupton, Agricultural Retailers Association

10 a.m.

Seminar Trailer 1 -- Agriculture Conservation Easements, with speakers Daniel O'Connell and Scott Spear and Holly King; Central Valley Partnership, Sequoia River- lands Trust and Triple Crown Holdings LP

Seminar Trailer 2 -- Exploring the Myths and Realities of Exporting

10:05 a.m.: World Ag Women Pavilion -- Yoga with Lily Hart, Studio Vue

10:30 a.m.: World Ag Expo Arena -- Equipment Showcase, facilitated by Richie Bros.

11 a.m.

Seminar Trailer 1 -- Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, with speakers Paul Hendrix, Mark Larsen and Soapy Mulholland, Groundwater Sustainability Agencies

Seminar Trailer 2 -- Show Me the Money! Securing Payment for International Sales

World Ag Women Pavilion -- Cook with Karl Merten, Cafe 225

Noon

World Ag Expo Arena -- Equipment showcase, facilitated by Richie Bros.

Seminar Trailer 3 -- Conscientious Philanthropy and Community Involvement Ag Advocacy, with speaker Karen Musson, Gar Tootelian Inc. and Gar Esther Tootelian Charitable Foundation

World Ag Women Pavilion -- Cook with Jeff Riggs, Tulare Adult School Culinary Arts

1 p.m.

Seminar Trailer 1 -- Don't Kill Your Golden Goose: Succession Strategies, with speaker Larry Oxenham, American Society for Asset Protection

Seminar Trailer 2 -- Farm Wisdom: USDA Programs

Seminar Trailer 3 -- Selfies, Social Consciousness Inclusion What Matters to Millennials, How to Motivate Them and How They Can Master the Workplace, with speaker Kristi Sproul, AgCareers.com

World Ag Women Pavilion -- Cook with Christian Raia, West Hills College Culinary Arts

1:30 p.m.: World Ag Expo Arena -- Equipment showcase, facilitated by Richie Bros.

2 p.m.

Seminar Trailer 1 -- ABC's of Organic Certification, with speakers Callie Cooper, certification officer, Oregon Tilth, and Gwynn Sawyer Ostrom, review program technical supervisor, OMRI

Seminar Trailer 2 -- Manufacturing the Future: The Next Era of Global Growth and Innovation

World Ag Women Pavilion -- Sourced from History, with presenter Trevor Lewis, Rawson Wood Co.

2:15 p.m.: Career roundtable, with speakers Doris Mold, ag economist, University of Minnesota; Brandi LoForti, InsureCal Insurance Agency; Holly Carter, Carter Co. Communications; Stacy Whitner, Pecan Grove Farms; Shannon Douglas, California Farm Bureau; Kirti Mutatkar, United Ag; and Tara Smith Anderson, American Petroleum Institute

2:30 p.m.: World Ag Expo Arena -- Faster and More Efficient Ways to Rear High Performance Calves, with speaker Ben Helm, AB Neo/AHI

3 p.m.

Seminar Trailer 1 -- Italian Advanced Agricultural Technology: Innovative Solutions for High Quality Products, with speaker Marco Acerbi, director of EIMA

Seminar Trailer 2 -- Southeast Asia Emerges as Global Growth Leader

World Ag Women Pavilion -- Unique Container Gardening with Spring Flowers and Succulents, with presenter Devon Brown, The Gardens

4 p.m.: Seminar Trailer 3 -- 2018 Farm Bill

4:30 p.m.: World Ag Expo Arena -- Bud Light after-hours party, featuring Craig Campbell

5 p.m.

Seminar Trailer 3 -- Evening networking reception, hosted by Sigma Alpha sorority

Show closes

THURSDAY, FEB. 15

6:30 a.m.: VIP Event Tent -- Agricultural Leadership Foundation Breakfast, with speaker Father Gregory Boyle, Homeboy Industries

7 a.m.: Seminar Trailer 3 -- Coffee Talk, hosted by Women in Agriculture for Mentoring and Empowerment

9 a.m.: Show opens

9:30 a.m.: Seminar Trailer 3 -- The Future of American Energy: Workforce Opportunities in the Oil and Natural Gas Industry, with speaker Tara Smith Anderson, American Petroleum Institute

10 a.m.

Seminar Trailer 1 -- Ag Tech Disruptive Technologies Saving Costs, with speaker Reinier van der Lee, Vinduino LLC

Seminar Trailer 2 -- Advances in Irrigation Flow Meter Technology, with speaker Jon R. Johnston, Irrigation Accessories Co.

World Ag Women Pavilion -- Bonsai demonstration, with presenter Bob Hilvers, curator of the Clark Bonsai Collection

10:30 a.m.

World Ag Expo Arena -- Equipment showcase, facilitated by Richie Bros.

Seminar Trailer 2 -- Transformation Through Mobile Drip Irrigation Technology, with speaker Monty J. Teeter

World Ag Women Pavilion -- Cook with Barbara Bennet, The Barking Bakery

10:45 a.m.: Seminar Trailer 3 -- FSMA: Food Safety and Water, with speaker Priscilla Rodriguez, Western Ag Processors Association

11 a.m.

Seminar Trailer 1 -- What You Need to Know: Antimicrobial Use in CA Livestock, with speaker Dr. Rosie Busch, veterinarian specialist, Antimicrobial Use Stewardship, California Department of Agriculture (CDFA)

Seminar Trailer 2 -- Close Spacing LEPA Applicators Improve Irrigation Efficiency, with speaker Dan Schueler, Senniger Irrigation

11:30 a.m.

World Ag Women Pavilion -- Cook with Kellie Black, MACHE

Seminar Trailer 2 -- Pulse Irrigation on Almonds: Drop Water Usage While Increasing Yields, with speakers Guillermo Valenzuela and Mark Yoshimoto, WiseConn Engineering Inc.

Noon

World Ag Expo Arena -- Equipment showcase, facilitated by Richie Bros.

Seminar Trailer 1 -- Get to the Root Cause and Unlock Operational Efficiency, with speaker Katy Griffin, Sustainable Productivity Solutions

Seminar Trailer 2 -- Water Management Issues and Opportunities: Lessons from Colorado, with speaker Bethany Reinholtz, GDS Associates Inc.

Seminar Trailer 3 -- Agroterrorism: Principles of Food Security Planning and Management, with speakers David Goldenberg, Western Institute for Food Safety and Security, and Sheldon Fung, WMD coordinator, FBI

World Ag Women Pavilion -- Cook with David Vartanian, The Vintage Press

12:30 p.m.: Seminar Trailer 2 -- Managing Soil Moisture and Salinity Data via a Cloud-Based Platform, with speaker Bridget Graf, Spectrum Technologies

1 p.m.

World Ag Expo Arena -- Equipment showcase, facilitated by Richie Bros.

Seminar Trailer 1 -- Advantages of Real-Time Soil Tension Data for Irrigation Management, with speaker Ben Smith, Hortau

Seminar Trailer 2 -- How are Farmers Adopting Technology Today for Future Profitability Growth, with speaker Scott Warr, Rain Bird Corp.

World Ag Women Pavilion -- Cook with Reagan Roach, Harris Ranch

1:30 p.m.

Seminar Trailer 2 -- Interpreting Soil Moisture Data, with speaker Brian Bourbonnais, IRROMETER Co. Inc.

Seminar Trailer 3 -- AgVocacy: How to Make a Lasting First Impression, with speaker Kristine Ranger, Knowledge Navigators, and Doris Mold, Sunrise Ag Associates

2 p.m.

World Ag Expo Arena -- Equipment showcase, facilitated by Richie Bros.

Seminar Trailer 1 -- Food Safety Management Can Be a Risky Business!, with speaker Radojka Barycki, technical training manager, SCS Global Services

Seminar Trailer 2 -- Advances in Irrigation Flow Meter Technology, with speaker Katie Englin, Seametrics

2:30 p.m.: Seminar Trailer 2 -- Compact, Efficient and Expandable Title 22 Treatment System for Small Water Systems, with speaker Peachie Maher Hytowitz, Amiad Water Systems

3 p.m.: Seminar Trailer 3 -- Cannabis: From Black Market to Mainstream, with speakers April Crittenden, Envirocann; Bryce Berryessa, California Cannabis Manufacturers Association; Nicole Anderson, Caliva; and Ian Rice, vice president at SC Labs

4 p.m.: Show closes

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