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2017 Tech Trends: Solving for Labor

Wednesday, 14 June 2017 | Posted in Technology by Renee Harrison

The shortage of labor has had significant impact on the produce and floral industries in recent years.

The crisis has grown to the extent that many commodity groups rate labor as the most concerning issue they face today, surpassing water availability and food safety. At the same time the industry is facing labor uncertainties, a number of new technologies are emerging that offer produce and floral growers and distributors across the global supply chain options for mechanizing or automating select operations or alternatives that permit them to work more effectively and efficiently, thereby reducing overall labor needs.2017 Tech Trends: Solving for Labor

Tools to enable precision agriculture, automated field and processing operations, artificial intelligence (AI), an array of new sensors, and increased computational capacity are fueling serious efforts to reduce reliance on manual labor and evolve the produce and floral industries to their next growth phases. Believing that we learn best from our peers, we will examine current produce and floral innovations focused on automating various tasks within the industry and discuss the opportunities and challenges they represent.

We will also explore the potential impact of AI and the gains that are being made to harness this technology that will permit machines to take on tasks that heretofore have been the province of humans. We will also describe how to evaluate your operation to identify areas where automation might make sense and how to develop a technology road map to guide your efforts. However, the effort to reduce reliance on manual labor is more than just automating operations; it can also be about simply working smarter and more efficiently.

We will look at several areas where technology is driving the development of tools that can facilitate a more efficient and productive workplace and thereby reduce labor dependence. Lastly, we will focus on the impact the adoption of new labor-related technologies will have on the remaining labor force and the expertise that will be required to operate that technology.

The current labor issues we face are real and not likely to be solved by a wave of new immigrants willing to take on the challenges of agricultural work. Therefore, the decisions we make in the next 5-10 years to evolve our industry via the adoption of new technologies and away from its dependence on heavy manual labor will be critical for its sustainability.

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2016 Tech Trends

Monday, 6 June 2016 | Posted in Technology by Renee Harrison

Technology in the produce and floral industries and what it means for you

by Dr. Bob Whitaker, Chief Science and Technology Officer

Are you ready? The data really are staggering. The World Health Organizations says that we will have nine billion people on Earth by 2050. Of those nine billion people, 70% of them will live in urban areas and the middle class will continue to expand. It has been estimated that the middle class will reach 4.9 billion people by 2030. Experts tell us that the ramifications of these data are that food production will need to double over the next 30 years to accommodate our expanding global population. Yet, we face these extraordinary challenges at a time when the availability of new farm land is in rapid decline, climate variability is a daily news item and natural resources like water are becoming more precious. Indeed, at the November 2015 California State University at Monterey Bay’s Greater Visions conference, Silicon Valley insider Tom Rolander stated that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be impacted by water scarcity in a world where 70% of the water goes to agriculture.

Read about how technology solutions are addressing these pressing industry challenges and more in the 2016 Tech Trends paper, focusing on the following trends:

  • We are in a period where there is a significant convergence of technologies. Our ability to generate, collect and analyze data through ever-increasing computer computational capacity is coinciding or enabling equally impressive achievements in the worlds of biology and genetics, sensor technology, robotics, communications, behavioral modeling and logistics.
  • The power of the consumer cannot be underestimated as they have the ability to change industries overnight. Access to information has made transparency not a cost of doing business but foundational. The concept of product quality includes communicating corporate responsibility issues such as sustainability, social causes, environmental policies and ethical treatment of workers.
  • The aforementioned pressure to produce more food with less impact on dwindling natural resources will force the produce industry to look at new seed technologies and production techniques to provide greater yields using fewer inputs. This increase in demand will also require innovation in product creation and processes.
  • Consumer preferences in where to reside are contributing to worldwide urbanization that is changing not only purchasing power but also where and how production is taking place. In the last few years we have witnessed the growth of protected agriculture spanning the spectrum from covering field-grown berries and grapes to traditional greenhouse production to vertical farming where inner-city buildings are being converted to vegetable production utilizing an array of new technologies to achieve commercial-scale production amidst urban population centers.
  • There is a focus on reducing waste and becoming more efficient across the produce supply web. The collection and analysis of data, the sophistication of sensors that can monitor the movement and distribution environment of products, the continued emergence of robotics and the gathering of consumer behavioral data are driving a smarter, more resilient produce industry.
  • Satisfying the needs of the consumer is an industry-wide endeavor to ensure consumers are receiving safe product where and when they want it. Collaboration throughout the supply chain is crucial in today’s environment where the pace of change and the adoption of disruptive technologies are faster than ever before.
  • The increasing awareness of technology and the growing sophistication of the produce industry are creating a demand for a new generation of employees that are tech-savvy, innovative and ready to embrace change to grow the industry.

Read the full Tech Trends report now.  

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The future demands unlearning: produce and emerging technologies

Wednesday, 4 November 2015 | Posted in Technology by Renee Harrison

9 Fast-Growing Tech Fields to Watch 

With new sources of data and new technologies on the horizon, growers are poised to reap dramatic improvements in their operations and yields—and tech providers have rich opportunities to disrupt and transform the Ag industry.

In The Future Demands Unlearning: Produce and Emerging Technologies, Jack Uldrich, author and futurist, describes trending topics like:

  • Field monitoring through wearable technologies and robotics
  • Supply chain transformations via 3-D printing and virtual shopping
  • Artificial intelligence and consumer behavior forecasts
  • Internet of Things: a $7–19 trillion opportunity for tech providers 

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2015 Tech Talks: Innovation and Produce

Tuesday, 17 March 2015 | Posted in Technology by Erin Hart

PMA Tech Talks 2015 was a fast-paced learning experience featuring expert speakers woven in with video vignettes and hands-on workshop sessions to help attendees understand the importance of innovative thinking and to examine what it actually takes to create corporate cultures where innovative thinking is rewarded.

The challenge of preparing to meet these global trends and to claim a portion of the increased need for fresh food for the produce industry is at once daunting and simultaneously full of opportunities for those who recognise the need to innovate. Dr. Bob outlines key highlights from Tech Talks provide a roadmap for the produce industry as we seek to create innovative business cultures and integrate emerging technologies into our business operations.

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Putting predictive modeling to work for you

Monday, 24 November 2014 | Posted in Technology by Erin Hart

The one thing there's no shortage of is data. Big data. Electronic data. Everyone seems to have more of it than they can use. Predictive Modeling -- or predictive analytics -- is the type of data mining that forecasts probabilities and trends. This Fresh Summit education session helps give you clarity about how to use your data and examines companies that have created models that drive increased sales, quality and efficiency. It gives you practical ideas about how to use your data in creative ways to transform your company's future. 

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A recording of this Fresh Summit session is available via pma.com

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