By: Linda Zhang
Posted: Jan 18, 2017 10:48 PM PST
Updated: Jan 19, 2017 09:33 AM PST
SALINAS, Calif. - "I love Florida but we don't have anywhere near this kind of agricultural innovation," said Adam Kinsey, who traveled all the way from Gainesville to check out America’s Salad Bowl.
"Salinas Valley is the epicenter of agriculture in the United States. Most of our fresh produce comes either, if it doesn't come from here, it comes from companies that are based here," Kinsey said.
Companies at the forefront of ag technology are celebrating their one-year anniversary at the Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology in Salinas. The center opened in 2016 with six startups. One year later, it’s grown to 27.
"There (are) a number of companies here that are figuring out ways to make powers in ways that haven't been seen before, and to optimize the efficiencies of operations we've been doing for decades," Kinsey said.
One of those companies is doing that by helping growers trim their energy bills.
"WEXUS actually means the water and energy nexus,” said Aric Saunders, the company’s business development manager. “Through an app, they [growers] can actually click on the data, see how much they are spending at peak time, non-peak time to decide whether they should do any energy efficiency investments."
The center's goal is to free up more resources for growers to invest in technologies that can push the industry forward.
"Automation is a big topic,” said Dennis Donohue with the Western Growers Center. “This is a state, …that has some 400 different crops. So, how you get something off the ground, how you get something off the ground and directly into the box."
Many at the anniversary are looking forward to the innovations.
"Ag tech to me symbolizes and really means the future of Salinas,” said CSUMB student Anita Garcia. “It means my siblings will have opportunities in the area to stay and have really enriching jobs here, and it means that I can stick around as well. It means economic opportunity, it means a transformed community."
Some of the issues the center wants to focus on this year include food safety, improving energy efficiency across the industry and creating more jobs.