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Big Farmers Meet With Silicon Valley To Automate
Date 16/06/29/19:23

BIG FARMERS MEET WITH SILICON VALLEY TO AUTOMATE-among sponsors were Monsanto, Wells Fargo, PGE, and the Santa Rosa-based financial group, American Ag Credit

LEADERS OF CORPORATE farming met with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and deep-pockets investors in Salinas last week to review the technological revolution in agriculture.

The second AgTech Summit was organized by Forbes business magazine and sponsored by the Western Growers Association and major Central Valley conglomerates such as Taylor Farms and Driscoll’s.

Also among sponsors were Monsanto, Wells Fargo, PGE, and the Santa Rosa-based financial group, American Ag Credit.

The 500 attendees from around the world were admitted by invitation only. Though the conference was to include “stakeholders” in world food production, no representatives of the United Farm Workers or any other such organization were invited.

Members of the Western Growers Association have fought workers’ attempts to unionize since the Great Depression in the 1930s. Generations of the family owning Taylor Farms have battled attempts to unionize.

Most recently that includes the 900 food-processing workers in Tracey who are trying to join the Teamsters Union. They charge that Taylor has fired, harassed, and otherwise punished workers for supporting the union.

With 10,000 employees, Taylor is the world’s largest producer of fresh-cut vegetables. It supplies major supermarket and restaurant chains, such as Walmart and McDonald’s

Now, Taylor and other California agribusinesses are working with Silicon Valley to automate their fields and food-processing plants. Partnering with global chemical giants Monsanto and Bayer, they unveiled a new Center of Innovation and Technology in Salinas six months ago.

With proposals for a wall at the Mexican border -- and robots replacing workers in the field -- this year’s AgTech Summit asked what the future is for labor on U.S. farms.

Last year, the summit demonstrated tractors that plow fields on their own, drones that monitor vineyard operations, and a robot that thins lettuce plants in the field.

They also toured a Taylor Farm state-of-the art vegetable processing plant -- viewing, it said, “the amazing automation that allows a head of lettuce harvested in the Salinas Valley to safely make its way to the salad shelf of Whole Foods.”

“Farming is in the midst of an automation revolution,” organizers told this year’s summit.

KBBF News Santa Rosa

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