Western Growers Center Promotes Innovation and Technology to Meet the Needs of Agriculture

Farm Credit helps support Salinas-based Center to keep farming healthy and vibrant

Without new technology, growers will have a difficult time addressing the many challenges they face. And that’s where the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology comes in.

Since 2015, the Salinas-based organization has supported efforts to find tech-based solutions to the problems facing vegetable growers in the West. And because of Center’s important role, Farm Credit has supported it since the beginning, said Leili Ghazi, Farm Credit Alliance Chair and Senior Vice President of the Farm Credit Banking Group for CoBank.

“Ensuring that agriculture remains healthy and vibrant is absolutely essential and supporting efforts to develop new equipment and concepts is a top priority for Farm Credit,” Ghazi said. “It’s been exciting to see the new products being developed to help growers meet the challenges they face.”

Center Director Dennis Donohue said its job is to find solutions for Western Growers members – family farmers who provide over half the nation’s fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts.

“We’re the physical manifestation of the board’s commitment to technology and innovation and making sure all our members have the tools they’ll need to meet the challenges of the future,” Donohue said.

“When Western Growers embarked on this effort, there were three priorities – food safety, labor, and the drought. Within each of these areas, we’ve seen a number of new companies emerge. Today, we have more investment and more players working on our issues.”

Among the innovations the Center has helped develop are a new class of robotic grippers for mechanical harvesting, smart and autonomous robots to solve the problem of weeds and precision guidance systems for ground applications.

Donohue said the Center could not do its work without the support of sponsors such as Farm Credit.

“We’re a not-for-profit, and we’re just looking to cover our costs. Financial support matters and Farm Credit is a marquee name,” he said. “It’s important to point out that organizations like Farm Credit support us.”

The Center is also a major sponsor of the Forbes AgTech Summit in Salinas. The annual event, held in late June, brings together more than 600 agricultural leaders and entrepreneurs from around the globe to tackle critical challenges facing farmers.

“The Tech Showcase that’s a part of the event lets attendees see the types of companies trying to solve the problems in our industry,” he said. “There are a lot of challenges facing production agriculture, and this event contributes to bringing the changes we need.”

About Farm Credit:

American AgCredit, CoBank, and Farm Credit West are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. For more than 100 years, the Farm Credit System has specialized in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com.

About Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology:

Founded in 1926, Western Growers represents local and regional family farmers growing fresh produce in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico. Our members and their workers provide over half the nation’s fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts, including nearly half of America’s fresh organic produce. In December 2015, WG opened an agtech incubator—the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology—in Salinas to provide startups with the resources and mentoring needed to get their companies and technologies up and running. The Center now houses 51 startups. Connect with and learn more about Western Growers on Twitter and Facebook.