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June 29, 2022

Hartnell hosts conference on agriculture industry’s changing workforce needs

SALINAS VALLEY — Hartnell College hosted a special version of the annual Ag Tech Summit — a half-day, in-person program called AgTechX Ed — last month on the Main Campus in Salinas.

The Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology has joined with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to focus on developing the next generation of tech-savvy agricultural workers. That goal closely aligns with Hartnell’s mission of meeting its communities’ educational and workforce needs.

“The Salinas Valley and its fresh produce industry are at the forefront of fundamental change in agricultural production, processing and packaging, all of which demand new strategies to meet evolving workforce needs,” Hartnell said in a news release. 

Briana Layfield, president of Ag-Bee LLC, discusses her company’s drone capabilities with an attendee before the April 13 conference at the Center for Performing Arts on Hartnell’s Main Campus in Salinas. (Contributed)

On April 13, AgTechX Ed participants heard from such local leaders as Josh Ruiz of Church Brothers, Tom Nunes of The Nunes Company and Ted Taylor of Taylor Farms. Educators, such as Richard Chapman of Hartnell and Becca Fenwick of UC Santa Cruz, offered their insights, as well.

In a concluding “fireside chat,” CDFA Secretary Karen Ross shared her vision for cultivating homegrown talent through partnerships among government, industry and academia. Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce President Steve McShane moderated the discussion.

Afterward, the chamber hosted a reception with Ross that was combined with a robotics showcase.

Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, joins Steve McShane, president of the Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce, in a “fireside chat” on April 13. The chamber joined with the Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology, the CDFA and Hartnell College to present AgTechX Ed, the third of four events in a statewide effort to identify ways to “develop the next generation of tech-savvy ag workers.” (Contributed)

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