The new variety of broccoli had to have a head that sat up higher, while growing uniformly and maturing at the same time from plant to plant. The Bayer vegetable breeding team was able to breed a new High-Rise broccoli hybrid, where the crop had a larger, firmer head and cleaner stalk that has less stem trim. After five years of being fully submerged in the Broccoli Project, Church Brothers unveiled a new automated broccoli harvester in 2018. The harvester cuts the broccoli, which then goes directly into a bin and transported to the processing facility where the florets are washed and bagged.
retail packaged salad available nationwide —the Fresh Express Family Classic Garden Salad Blend. Fresh Express was the very first to successfully package and nationally distribute fresh-cut, ready-to-eat bagged salad. This eventually led to a rollout of salad kits and other blends a few years later. Today, Fresh Express produces nearly 40 million pounds of salad each month. 2. Automating Broccoli Harvest to Enhance Farm Production Methods Agriculture continues to face a labor shortage that has lasted longer than a decade. Over the past few years, the number of farmworkers migrating to the United States from Mexico has dropped,
worsening the shortage. This, paired with an ever-increasing blizzard of regulations, have encouraged farmers and ag-related businesses to adopt mechanization and explore new growing practices to make harvesting crops easier. Church Brothers Farms has been at the forefront of automation, understanding that the farm must change the way they grow and harvest in order to continue to feed a growing population. More than half a decade ago, Church Brothers partnered with Bayer (legacy Monsanto) to harvest broccoli mechanically. The farm wanted to develop an automated broccoli harvester, but first they needed a plant that would work with the machine.
Flooding the vineyard at Terranova Ranch
3. Collaborating to Recharge California’s Groundwater Supplies One of the biggest issues facing California is depleted groundwater supplies; this is especially true in the Central Valley where groundwater levels have hit extreme lows. Don Cameron, vice president and general manager of Terranova Ranch in Fresno County, has stepped up to combat this issue head on. “We take the water that normally flows by our ranch—the flood water that usually causes problems downstream and
eventually ends up in the ocean and is lost to agriculture—and we divert it and bring it on to our farmland,” said Cameron. Cameron launched a pilot of the groundwater recharge program in 2011, where he opened his irrigation ditches to take excess water from the Kings River to blanket hundreds of acres of vineyards on his farm. He continued to flood his fields for several month, while the grapes lay dormant, in hopes that this effort would recharge the groundwater basin that his farm and surrounding communities
depended on during times of drought. Working with Sustainable Conservation, an environmental group that works with agriculture to recharge California’s groundwater supplies, Cameron was able to prove that the idea worked! Aided by gravity, the water seeped through the soil and filled up the basin, leaving the grapes were unharmed. Today, Cameron has replicated this innovative idea across his farm to commodities such as pistachios and alfalfa hay.
SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2019
Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com
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