In California’s San Joaquin Valley, the future of farming is in tech
FRESNO, Calif. – Smart farms, electric tractors and remote-controlled wheelbarrows.
Those are just some of the new technologies that could soon be hitting the agriculture industry in the San Joaquin Valley in the upcoming year.
The latest inventions created by researchers and students across the Valley were displayed at Fresno State earlier this week. They are being developed as part of a project called the Food, Farm and Future (F3) initiative.
It’s a partnership among Valley community colleges, Fresno State, UC Merced, community organizations and industry associations representing growers and workers.
The F3 project started last year after the U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded the region $65 million through the “Build Back Better” Regional Challenge to boost economic recovery from the pandemic.
“We will change the way agriculture is done,” said Leigh Bernacchi, executive director of the UC Merced Valley Institute for Sustainability, Technology and Agriculture. “It will be climate ready. It will be accessible. It will be technologically advanced and we'll be making data driven decisions.”
Aside from the F3 initiative, the Economic Development Administration also granted $23 million to the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation to expand equitable job opportunities across underserved populations and communities through its “Good Jobs Challenge.”
The Valley was the only region in the country to receive both grants.
The community was recently blindsided by the collapse of Bitwise Industries, a startup that promised to bring thousands of tech industry jobs to the city of Fresno and diversify the largely agricultural-based economy.
The fall of the company has placed a larger focus on tech to improve the economy.
Officials see a lot of it coming through the F3 initiative, which they hope increases the regional GDP over the next four years, attracts more than $20 million in private investments and creates more than 10,000 jobs.
The prospects are also running up against efforts to adapt to climate change.
“It's been our vision to develop world recognized climate smart food and agricultural systems and technology to solve our own problems,” said Ashley Swearengin, executive director of the Central Valley Community Foundation.
This story is part of the Central Valley News Collaborative, which is supported by the Central Valley Community Foundation with technology and training support by Microsoft Corp.