A panel discussion at the 2019 Salinas Valley Ag Tech Summit. This year's event will be presented virtually on March 18-19. (Contributed Photo)

SALINAS VALLEY — Salinas Valley Ag Tech Summit returns March 18-19 for its eighth annual event, recognizing the increasingly international scope of the produce industry, with a number of presenters from Latin America and a diversity of experience and expertise from California.

There is no charge for registration, as this year’s summit will be presented in a virtual format via Zoom. Anyone interested can sign up to attend by visiting the website salinasvalleyagtechsummit.com.

The 2021 lineup of speakers and panelists reflects fresh produce’s increasing complexity as competitors work to harness emerging technology and markets, while ensuring that their managers and workers are ready to meet those opportunities.

Preceding the full-day program of speakers and panels on March 19, a President’s Reception will kick off the summit on the evening of March 18. 

Raúl Rodríguez, interim superintendent/president of Hartnell College in Salinas, will give welcoming remarks. The college is co-presenting the summit with Western Growers. 

The reception will also feature a 5:30 p.m. Fireside Chat with Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, moderated by Dennis Donohue, director of the Western Growers for Innovation and Technology.

A full-day program on March 19 will open with morning sessions that feature agtech players and industry leaders presenting on key issues, including workforce challenges and the critical role of education.

Afternoon sessions will spotlight “AgTech, the View From Mexico and the Americas,” as well as presentations from tech providers and growers. Portions of the program will be available in Spanish and English.

Among international presenters are Tomás Peña, co-founder of S4, one of Argentina’s earliest agtech start-ups and a leading driver of the agtech ecosystem across Latin America; agricultural economist Elisa Blanco, offering a global perspective on water as co-founder of the Center for Water Law and Management in Chile; and Jairo Trad, a software developer, data scientist and entrepreneur with business in six Latin American countries and the United States.

The day’s first panel will be a wide-ranging discussion featuring Leon Brish, co-founder and CEO of FarmDog; Mariana Valdez, soil science manager for Ag-Wise Enterprises Inc.; and Sebastien Boyer, co-founder and CEO of FarmWise, which made Time magazine’s Best Inventions of 2020 list for its autonomous weeder.

The second panel, focused on education and ag technology, will include Peter Livingston, head of the BioResource and Agricultural Engineering Department at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and Chris Kitts, director of the Robotic Systems Laboratory and associate dean of research and faculty development for the School of Engineering at Santa Clara University. The moderator will be Clint Cowden, Hartnell’s dean of Career Technical Education and Workforce Development.

An afternoon Keynote Fireside Chat on “The Importance of Education for Tomorrow’s Workforce” will include a Central Coast panel made up of Tom Nunes, a fourth-generation farmer and president of the Nunes Company, a premier grower-shipper with production in California, Arizona and Nevada; John D’Arrigo, president, CEO and chairman of D’Arrigo Bros.; and Miles Reiter, CEO and chairman of Driscoll’s. The moderator will be Brie Reiter Smith, director of Driscoll’s quality systems design, supply chain.

Learn more about this year’s summit at salinasvalleyagtechsummit.com.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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