Western Growers’ Incubator Focuses on High-Yield Innovation

The agricultural trade group, which launched its incubator last year, hopes not only to drive innovation in its industry but also to give the incubator's home base of Salinas, California, a major boost.

The Western Growers Association knows a thing or two about cultivation, but the trade group’s recent crop has been technological in nature.

Last December, the trade group opened its Center for Innovation and Technology in Salinas, California, with the goal of turning it into a major hub for solving some of the industry’s toughest problems and providing a way for entrepreneurs to work with local growers. It’s an area where the association anticipates significant growth.

“We have diminishing natural resources,” said Western Growers CEO Tom Nassif in comments to the Monterey Herald. “The future of ag depends on technology, new technology.”

A CBC News report from earlier this week framed the initiative as one of a few innovative strategies that could help bridge the gap between the poverty-stricken Salinas region, which grows four-fifths of the lettuce produced in the United States, and nearby Silicon Valley.

The center, which offers workspaces for ag-tech entrepreneurs for $500 per month, complements efforts by the city, local universities, and nearby entrepreneurs to equip local residents with new state-of-the-art skill sets.

Nearby Hartnell College, for example, has launched a program that allows students to earn a computer science degree in just three years—many under scholarships offered by the foundation of prominent flower-grower Andrew Matsui.

Western Growers’ technology center may have a place for some of those graduates, according to Lisa Dobbins, the center’s consulting manager.

“We have three companies that are currently hiring, and their priority is to find local talent,” Dobbins noted to the CBC. “The City of Salinas has really opened up and wanted to bridge Silicon Valley in terms of bringing ag and tech together.”

The center, which works closely with the startup incubator Thrive, has the backing of a swath of the agricultural and business world, with firms such as Bayer, Monsanto, Toro, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Coastline Family Farms providing sponsorships.

(via the Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology Facebook Page)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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