(photo credit: Manchester-Monkey)
When one thinks of California industry, the technological hotbed of Silicon Valley probably springs to mind first. Less prominent in the global public sphere but equally as important to maintaing a robust job market is the agriculture industry in California, which is one of the largest in the nation.
It’s no wonder that the intersection between technology and agriculture is becoming a critical juncture in ensuring the livelihood of both Californians and the farms that span vast swaths of land between Hollywood and Humboldt and feed millions at home and abroad every day.
Thanks to an i6 Challenge grant from the US Economic Development Administration (EDA), SARTA and UC Davis are working together to support, identify, invigorate and accelerate agriculture technology companies and entrepreneurs.
“Currently there is a huge, and growing, need for agriculture technology to increase productivity and yield, improve cost effectiveness, and enhance the efficient use of resources such as water, energy, and land,” said Meg Arnold, SARTA CEO. “Ag technologies can, among other things, turn farm waste into energy, improve the drought tolerance of crops, increase food safety, provide for integrated pest management, drive the efficient use of water, and so much more.”
“The Sacramento region has a long-standing legacy of success in agriculture and food systems, and today is poised to deliver new technology that will dramatically change agriculture as we know it.”
AgStart covers an area of 11 counties around Sacramento from Kern to San Joaquin and Stanislaus Counties.
“We are working with ag tech companies in their research and development,” said Dough Kohl, Program Director, AgStart. “We are making leadership series available, we are seeing where we can help introduce them to investors, as well as others in the ag tech industry who they might partner with and guiding them along the way to bring them to that next level.”
The Sacramento region plays a vital role in California’s ag industry with an impact of $36.6 billion. Helping ag tech companies is a key to enabling regional economic development and growth.
“It’s great to have a program where people are willing to bring in their resources to help other ag tech companies and it also gives them a little bit of visibility outside the Sacramento region,” said Kohl.
The cluster has an aggressive plan for its first year:
- Develop and maintain the first map of the region’s ag tech companies.
“Just in the first few months, we’ve identified 65 companies. Our goal is 120 by the end of the year.”
- Host a PitchFest, a competition to highlight successful ag tech companies.
- Represent the region at the prestigious Ag Innovation Showcase in Missouri next month.
“It’s the largest ag tech showcase in the world. Two regional companies are representing Sacramento– California Safe Soil and The Surface Irrigation Monitoring and Alert System (SIMAS). This showcase is going to give them that visibility. They’ll be presenting in front of investors and people from around the world who are invested in our ecosystem,” said Kohl.
- Bring the ag innovation sector to SARTA’s long-standing CleanStart Showcase in October.
“This is ag tech that will have effects throughout the world of agriculture, not just in the Sacramento region.”
“This is really an exciting time where we can bring together two of California’s core industries, agriculture and technology, and create a whole new sector of technology-oriented jobs in our rural, ag-based communities,” said Glenda Humiston, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s California state director for rural development and one of the leaders of the California Economic Summit’s Working Landscapes Action Team.
“In addition to a stronger, more diverse rural economy, California’s farmers benefit from new technologies and innovations that are critical aspects of continued growth in ag production,” said Humiston. “We are deeply engaged with similar efforts in Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley through their Ag Technology cluster, and I believe there are some great opportunities for the two regions to partner and build on each other’s resources.”
Since its launch in late June, AgStart has already been making some big strides.
“We are in our initial stages and it’s getting better. We like to say we planted the seeds of ag tech companies in the region and now are starting to see them grow,” said Kohl.