WG to Advance Harvest Automation through Global Initiative

By Stephanie Metzinger A utomating 50% of harvest throughout the fruit, vegetable and nut industry within 10 years is the goal of the new Western Growers Global Harvest Automation Initiative (GHAI). “What we’ve been able to do, and today’s assemblance is demonstrative of it, is collect the right players across the grower-shipper-processor, VC/ investor and industry partner segments to envision what we can collectively do to both tackle the challenges that afflict the specialty crop industry and also create immense opportunity for those that are willing to take the dive,” said WG President/CEO Dave Puglia during the official launch event in Tulare, Calif., on February 11, 2021. The GHAI is comprised of four key components: • Harvest Automation Cohort: A

automation on the specialty crop industry will be provided annually.

cohort of automation startups will be selected to receive exclusive access to fresh produce farmers for field trials and mentoring. • Top Harvest Automation Roadmap: A list of current harvest automation startups by crop type and in-market progress/traction will be distributed regularly. • Tech Stack: A standard technology stack (method of helping companies apply existing technology to future robots) that will enable AgTech startups to scale faster in the four key areas of harvest automation—visioning; artificial intelligence/machine learning to determine which images (plants) to harvest and which not to; harvest mechanism (the robot arm); and a tractor to transport the robot. • Impact Report: A comprehensive analysis on the impact of harvest

The GHAI launch event featured two panels to provide insight on the current state of automaton and what steps need to be taken in order for mechanization to advance. The tech panel—Candice Wilson (GreenVenus), Neill Callis (Turlock Fruit Company), Ted Batkin (Aequion), and Kathryn Van Weerdhuizen (Oxbo International Corporation)—shared what role they and like organizations can play to reduce the time and cost for startups to develop next generation harvest automation. The growers panel, which included Josh Ruiz (Church Brothers), Don Cameron (Terranova Ranch), Drew Ketelson (HMC Farms) and was moderated by WG Center for Innovation & Technology Director Dennis Donohue, discussed importance of technologists working together with farmers to develop the harvest mechanisms. The panel also spoke about the innovative technology being developed on the farm and how growing practices are being altered to enable harvest.

Ines Hanrahan, Executive Director of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, pledges a $200K commitment to the GHAI.

The growers panel provided insight on how innovative tech is being developed and utilized on their respective farm.



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