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Growers ready to put technology to work commercially.

Todd Fitchette, Associate Editor

June 21, 2019

2 Min Read
California Capitol
California agriculture could be doing more to educate urban lawmakers about what it takes to be economically viable.Tim Hearden

My job is more about observations than anything else. What do I see? What do I hear? What are the implications to an industry that generates nearly $50 billion in gross receipts for California farmers and almost $5 billion in Arizona?

We covered a farmer and a mechanical engineer in the last issue who collaborated on a driverless tractor. Their goal: create a commercially viable product to improve on-farm efficiencies. They’re almost there.

About 100 farmers and industry representatives braved the hottest day of the year to date to see a demonstration of the tractors in wine grapes near Lemoore, Calif. The tractor pulled an air blast sprayer with clean water.

Conversations I overheard and discussions I had with business partners Ted Sheely (the farmer) and Connor Kingman (the engineer) suggest they’re ready to put the technology to work commercially by leasing the machines and their services to growers who seemed more than tacitly interested in it.

In early June I had the high honor of helping choose the 2019 World Livestock Auctioneer Champion in Tulare, Calif., at an annual event put on by the Livestock Marketing Association and hosted by the Tulare Sales Yard. The opportunity came to me at the recommendation of David Macedo, Tulare Sales Yard owner and the 2006 World Livestock Auctioneer Champion. Macedo mentioned my name to LMA staff, who invited me to participate.

I’ve known Macedo for nearly 20 years and have had the chance to vote for him when he served on the Tulare City Council. His unsolicited recommendation of me to be one of five judges for the interview portion of the LMA contest was humbling. The chance to meet folks in a facet of the agriculture industry I don’t cover because the company that owns Western Farm Press has livestock publications that fill this role quite well was professionally beneficial and personally satisfying.

Through a conversation I had with Ian LeMay, the new president of California Fresh Fruit Association, and a keynote address by Roger Isom, president of two agriculture associations in California representing cotton and tree nuts, I’m gaining confidence in my belief that California agriculture must do more to assure its financial sustainability in a state with half of its population of 40 million living south of an imaginary east-west line that bisects downtown Los Angeles.

For the geographically challenged, Los Angeles is just over 100 miles north of the international border with Mexico. The bulk of the remaining 20 million people live on or near the coastline, with most of those residing in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Because of this California has seen its public representation become firmly ensconced with a single political party that holds super-majority control of the state legislature and governor’s office.

This will force a significant shift in how agriculture promotes its value to the public and their elected representatives.

About the Author(s)

Todd Fitchette

Associate Editor, Western Farm Press

Todd Fitchette, associate editor with Western Farm Press, spent much of his journalism career covering agriculture in California and the western United States. Aside from reporting about issues related to farm production, environmental regulations and legislative matters, he has extensive experience covering the dairy industry, western water issues and politics. His journalistic experience includes local daily and weekly newspapers, where he was recognized early in his career as an award-winning news photographer.

Fitchette is US Army veteran and a graduate of California State University, Chico. 

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