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What our Innovators are Reading Right Now

Posted on August 16, 2017 08:05 AM by WGCIT

Soil: It is much more than Dirt

Dirt-to-Dinner Contributors

We cannot underestimate the importance of soil. It is the foundation for our food and well-being. It must be managed and cared for in order to sustain the population of today, as well as the population of our future.


Hello Salinas! AgTech succeeds as a summit, but can it transform Salinas? 

The Californian, Amy Wu

Inside the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology, the agtech incubator, there are now 45 startups including from as far away as Israel and Ireland. This is a tremendous jump from the handful of start-ups when the center launched in December 2015. ...On any given day, the center is buzzing with activity — a round robin of meetings, presentations, and calls.


Can a pay raise fix agriculture industry’s labor crisis in California? Yes and no

The Mercury News, Lisa M. Krieger

For Christopher Ranch, the crisis came to a head last summer, with 50 empty positions, or 10 percent of its workforce.

“Our throughput went down. We turned away sales. We couldn’t get things made,” said Ken Christopher.

Even worse, the company had to bring in overtime workers, causing costs to skyrocket.

Christopher, with an MBA from the University of San Francisco, heard about the “Fight for $15” movement to boost wages, and decided to run the numbers. Concluding that they could afford it, he proposed the idea to his father, Bill Christopher, who studied economics at Stanford. Together, they pitched it to company founder Donald Christopher.

 …Higher wages and rising labor costs are prompting farmers to pursue four strategies, which Martin calls “stretch, substitute, supplement and satisfy.”

Stretching the workforce with tools like conveyor belts or hydraulic platforms can boost productivity and make work easier. Substitution of workers with machines creates enormous labor-saving changes in crops like corn, cotton and rice, although it’s harder with fragile fruits and vegetables. Supplementing the workforce with H-2A guest workers is another approach.

The fourth strategy is to satisfy workers — taking steps to make them feel wanted. Christopher Ranch offers on-site child care, college scholarships and pays all health insurance premiums. And — now — better pay.

“Our goal is always to stay one step ahead,” said Christopher. “The last thing we want to have an eroding workforce and be caught flat-footed. We want to stay competitive.”


Agtech: What the umbrella term really means

The Weekly Times, ALEX SAMPSON

ACCELERATOR, incubator, start-up, connectivity — the buzzwords of the digital age can be clear as, well, mud.

And when lumped under the umbrella term “agtech”, it’s no wonder farmers, investors and business leaders can be left scratching their heads.

Entrepreneur group Start Up Australia says the term agtech refers to “transforming the global food system” through digital technology.

Monsanto Australia technology boss James Nielsen says agtech is “about smart farmers getting smarter using digital technology”.


AgTech Perspectives From Two Days With the Crop Chemicals Crowd 

www.xconomy.com, Frank Vinluan

‘Continuous Improvement’ in Ag Innovation: Big companies can spend a decade or more to bring a novel chemical or biological discovery through testing, at the cost of tens of millions of dollars. That applies to both pharmaceutical and agriculture ventures. Ag companies are borrowing technologies and techniques from pharma, but they’re also forming their own strategies out of necessity. …Like pharma companies, big ag companies are ramping up efforts to acquire new technologies and product candidates that come from outside their own labs. Big companies can no longer do everything internally, said panelist Ray Shillito, a research fellow at Bayer. Bayer now offers programs that support startups doing early-stage discovery work.


VIDEO: the agtech revolution starts with people

Bluenotes, Simone Stella

“We’ve really got to get ourselves involved with a broader community of smart, young, diverse thinkers." Mark Bennett, Head of Agribusiness, ANZ Australia.


Lessons from Silicon Kiwi: How Silicon Prairie can encourage women leadership in agtech 

Silicon Prairie News, Lindy Nelson

For the first time in its 118 year history, a woman became the national president of industry group Federated Farmers of New Zealand. For New Zealand, this reflected the growing diversity of the country’s agricultural industry leaders. However, as pointed out by AgFunderNews, there is still much work to do in the U.S. where there remains a dearth of female leadership in the industry overall, and the agtech sector in particular. …Creating a pathway for women and ‘normalizing’ that women can and do lead in agtech appears to be working. According to Sprout, one of New Zealand’s leading agritech accelerator programs, 62 percent of the companies they work with have had female co-founders and half of their management team is female.