by Iris Nolasco
I recently had the opportunity to talk to Steve McShane, founder of the Salinas Ag Tech Summit, who has formerly chaired the event and is this year’s co-director of sponsorship. I wanted to find out more about the origins of the event, who the event is targeted at, and what highlights can be expected this year.
This will be the 5th Annual Ag Tech Summit in Salinas. There are expected to be participants from as far reaching as MIT, bringing a technology that may just provide that ah-ha moment, as McShane excitedly says during our conversation. This is encouraging to organizers like McShane who see it as an event open to everyone, in contrast to an event such as the Forbes Ag Tech Summit, that comes with a hefty sticker price. Unlike events hosted in big cities the focus of this event is on farmers, growers and students, and the perfect opportunity for techies to connect with their users.
This is what I learned:
- About five years ago, ag tech started to surface in the Salinas Valley. Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter, and other entities such as Western Growers, grower-shipper associations, and other trade associations realized that an event harnessing the innovation of ag tech was needed.
- Ag tech has been seen by the industry as a solution to challenges that have arisen, from issues finding reliable and legal labor, to food safety and environmental concerns. McShane said, “automation gets the attention of the grower.” Growers can gain confidence in technological systems as they help to automate production, or have accountability in cost savings mechanisms. As McShane states, “it may be as easy as a technology transfer that already exists in a manufacturing setting which can be adjusted and applied to an agricultural setting.
When asked specifically about From Farms to Incubators attending, McShane states that, “Amy Wu has done a lot to bring to bear women in ag tech. Technology for centuries has offered a level playing field, if you have technology you can improve upon it.”
New this year is the fireside chat the Tuesday before the summit, an attempt at deepening and growing the engagement across the board. With a line up of 46 diverse and great speakers of the event there is no doubt that being able to spend time with growers and entrepreneurs alike will prove valuable to making connections in the field of ag tech.