Western Farm Press Logo

Tech to shine at third FIRA USA gathering

2024 edition to be held Oct. 22-24 in Woodland, Calif.; growers to be admitted free.

Tim Hearden, Western Farm Press

May 17, 2024

3 Min Read
Karen Ross operating an H bridge platform.
Software engineer Guy DeMoura of farm-ng shows California Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ros how to operate an H bridge platform. Demonstrations May 14 at the Yolo County Fairgrounds in Woodland, Calif., gave media members a taste of what will be featured at the third FIRA USA event in October.Tim Hearden

As business, agricultural and technology leaders gathered on a recent spring morning at the Yolo County Fairgrounds in Woodland, Calif., the word of the day was “excited.”

Luminaries led by state Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross used that word to describe their anticipation of the third FIRA USA event set for Oct. 22-24, when an expanded range of robots for specialty crops, vegetables and vineyards will be showcased.

Sponsored by the French nonprofit association GOFAR, the University of California and Western Growers, the outdoor extravaganza of high-tech demonstrations is coming to Woodland, near Sacramento, after stops in Fresno and Salinas, respectively, in 2022 and 2023.

A section of a dirt parking lot at the fairgrounds will be transformed this summer into a working farm for demonstrations geared to crops prevalent in the region. The event will take advantage of its proximity to the UC Davis campus as well as the Woodland area’s burgeoning ag and tech industries, said Gabriel Youtsey, chief innovation officer for the UC’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“One of the reasons this is so important is (to address) all the challenges facing agriculture at this time,” such as climate change, labor shortages and food safety concerns, Ross said. “These are generational challenges … Agriculture is about families. We know we didn’t get where we are in California agriculture without facing challenges and innovating.”

Ross and Youtsey were joined at a press event May 14 at the Woodland fairgrounds by Gwendoline Legrand of GOFAR, Walt Duflock of Western Growers, Barry Broome of the Greater Sacramento Economic Council and representatives of startups that will be featured at the October gathering.

Robotics events

GOFAR, which stands for Global Organization for Agricultural Robotics, has been hosting World FIRA (International Forum for Agricultural Robotics) in France since 2016. “We had this crazy ambition to bring the event to the USA,” Legrand said, so GOFAR approached Duflock, who had just launched Western Growers’ initiative to automate specialty-crop harvests in the West.

“We are convinced that robotics are the new era of climate-smart agriculture,” Legrand said.

This year’s FIRA USA event, which is free for growers to attend, will kick off Oct. 22 with a Tech and Education Day showcasing the latest advancements in technologies, regulations and safety, and will include a robot parade.

The next two days will provide participants with insights into the “levers” enabling deployment of robots in the fields, organizers said. It will include discussions of the role of distributors, dealers and manufacturers, as well as pitches and networking time. An awards program will close out the show.

This year’s show will offer a new perspective for grower participants, featuring themed roundtable discussions and proposed robot solutions for various commodities. These will include:

  • Vineyards

  • Fruit trees, hosted by the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission

  • Tree nuts, hosted by the Almond Board of California

  • Vegetables, including leafy greens, lettuce and tomatoes; and

  • Berries, including strawberries.

For the first time, leading up to the Woodland show, a five-day “ag market tour” will introduce international attendees and delegations to farms and crops in the Salinas Valley and the San Joaquin Valley before proceeding to the Davis area. The bus tour will enable participants to deepen their market understanding and connect with key industry figures in California, organizers said.

A call for startup pitches and research abstracts is open; scientists will share their research during the Tech and Education Day.

Organizers are expecting more than 80 exhibitors and 2,500 attendees to the three-day show, including local students and FFA members who will also receive free admission. The pre-registration cost for other attendees is $449, or $299 for people in academia.

For information and registration, visit https://fira-usa.com/.

About the Author(s)

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like