Michelin is one of the major tire manufacturing companies in the world with a commercial presence in 177 countries along with nine R&D centers and 123 manufacturing sites in 26 countries. We are a world wide leader in mobility solutions for all types of vehicles and the largest off-the-road tires and tracks company, and a proud sponsor of the Global Harvest Automation Initiative. Why are we a sponsor? Our decision to sponsor the Global Harvest Automation Initiative rests on two major pillars – innovation and sustainability. Innovation is at the core of everything we do as a business and the need for innovative solutions to assist growers, especially in the context of specialty crops, was a big pull. With sustainability being at the heart of our decisions for us, the initiative’s goal to reduce food waste was another strong motivator. Our experience with similar projects in Europe and our desire to bring that experience to North America was enabled by our collaboration with Western Growers. What does the sponsorship bring us? To better understand the developments in the field, Western Growers Association helped organize a field trip to meet with prominent growers and agtech start-ups across California. The trip was comprised of field visits, content discussions and start-up meet and greets, as highlighted in the illustration below. This was extremely helpful in sharpening our thinking regarding the evolving specialty crop automation space. First, it provided us with a deeper look into specialty crop ecosystem from farm to table. Second, it enabled us to better understand some of the key challenges that growers are facing today and what matters.

One of the surprising insights was that automation does not necessarily mean autonomous today. Third, it enabled us to see novel automation technologies in the field and understand complexities. Complexity of farm operations indicate that solutions need to be developed from the ground up and must strike a balance between common sense and technology push. Furthermore, it is equally important that growers are flexible in their approach to adapt their operations to the technology that they are using. What strategic role do we envisage for Michelin? Historically, we mainly have had exposure to crop farmers in the Midwest and cereal farmers in Europe, however, the partnership with Western Growers has introduced us to the specialty crop ecosystem. We are exploring opportunities to service stakeholders, both in terms of products and services. In our opinion, it is not only about automated products but also services along the multi-node supply chain of bringing produce from the farm to the supermarket that can help growers achieve a return. A grower, typically, invests significant amount of capital before even seeing one dollar of return and therefore is highly conservative in its approach to adopt a solution. The need of the hour is to clearly understand the voice of the customer and build solutions step by step from more conservative, assured ROI solutions to, eventually, fully autonomous solutions. Through the Global Harvest Automation Initiative, we can keep a close pulse on the development of rapidly changing solutions in the fresh produce industry and will be able to contribute as the industry eventually converges to the best solutions.

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