WGCIT SPONSOR Driscoll’s Innovation is Driven by its Mission By Tim Linden D riscoll’s has long been an innovator in the fresh produce industry as it was among the first grower-shippers to establish a proprietary breeding program. Today it has a robust research and development team affecting all aspects of its company. It still has an innovative crop breeding program, and has brought that same forward-thinking passion to water efficiency, labor improvements, agtech adoption, global marketing and sustainability efforts. “Everything we do is designed ‘to

and shared learning. Komar gave an overview of Driscoll’s R&D drivers, while his colleagues did a deeper dive into their specific areas of expertise. The R&D department’s top executive said the many projects launched under that umbrella have the ultimate goal of improving its sustainable farming practices for the long term. He reiterated that “more has to be done with less” including less water, fewer inputs and less labor. Seemingly, each of those broad areas deserves to rise to the top of list, but Komar did add that in today’s water shortage environment, conservation and the efficient use of that resource has to be the top priority. Driscoll’s Director of Sustainability Tannis Thorlakson discussed the overarching themes that are driving the company’s agtech solutions and the four approaches it is taking to achieve its goals.

In the first place, she did note that berry production has to coexist with the urban environment “because berries like to grow where people like to live.” It is a given that 21 st century farming in any environment requires sustainable practices, but it’s doubly important when you are sharing the land in close proximity to urban environments. Thorlakson said Driscoll’s must use inputs sparingly and ultimately produce more fresh berries per input to continue to be successful. The company’s four main approaches on this front involve the more efficient use of water, the adoption of innovative agtech solutions to lower costs and increase production, the continuation of its proprietary breeding program to address these concerns when possible in the architecture of the plant, and finally—and most importantly—working with growers to adopt these innovative practices. The Driscoll’s team reminded that the organization is heavily dependent on the hundreds of growers across more than 30 countries that grow its berries. Thorlakson noted that the innovations developed only become beneficial once they are adopted on the farm. Michael Seagraves, Director of Global Plant Health Research, discussed several initiatives his department has launched to improve berry quality and reduce pesticide usage. One project utilizes ultraviolet light to control fungi; traps are also being used to eliminate bugs, which ultimately reduces the use of pesticides. Driscoll’s growers are also using beneficial flowers that work in strawberry fields to reduce pest pressure. Seagraves also commented on Driscoll’s bug vacuum that was developed 30 years ago to literally vacuum the bugs out of the field. The machine was cutting edge when it was first used in the early 1990s and

continually delight our berry consumers through alignment with our customers and our berry growers,’” said Scott Komar, Senior Vice President of Global R&D for the international berry giant, in articulating the company’s mission statement. Komar and three other members of the R&D team recently sat down with WG&S to discuss the company’s journey in innovation and how its own path informed its decision to be a committed sponsor of the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology. Speaking to that sponsorship, Komar noted that the ag industry has to learn how to do more with less and Driscoll’s applauds the effort that is WGCIT. Through the center, Driscoll’s team is connecting with other industry members and agtech innovators and fully embraces the concepts of collaboration

Scott Komar, Senior Vice President of Global R&D, Driscoll’s



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