Agriculture leaders and entrepreneurs gathered Wednesday in downtown Fresno to lay the groundwork for a mission to make Fresno an agriculture-technology leader.
On the eve of Thursday’s Fresno Food Expo, about 60 people convened at the Fresno Convention Center for the Riding the Crest of the Third Wave in the Food Capital of the World summit hosted by Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin.
The meeting was a chance for agriculture producers and young software companies to share a space and come up with strategic ideas on how to merge advanced technology with agriculture to produce goods more efficiently.
“All of us are leaving here recognizing that there’s a lot more to ag-tech in the Central Valley than maybe we knew when we walked in,” Swearengin said.
Panelists discussed how they can grow and improve what the Valley has to offer and attract tech companies, locally and statewide.
“There was a lot of interesting sparks today and a lot of people who want to meet,” Swearengin said.
Eduardo Gonzalez, director of the Fresno State Small Business Development Center, says developers and farmers need to look into “feeding more people with less resources.”
Gonzalez brought up the idea that connecting rural communities to each other is necessary to expand the Valley’s agriculture produce.
As a leader of the San Joaquin Valley Broadband Consortium, a Fresno State initiative, Gonzalez said the purpose of the initiative is specifically to help small growers learn about their surroundings through a broadband connection where they can share information.
Swearengin said only when thinking like that can growers and developers implement business plans with advanced technology.
“We know that outside the metropolitan areas we still struggle with connectivity,” Swearengin said.
Swearengin agreed with panelists and the audience that there needs to be a push for legislation that gives rural parts of the state broadband connections.
Funding for projects was also an issue, Swearengin said, but panelists insisted that funds are available. But companies must first invest in the Valley.
Audience members also suggested that Fresno State work to make sure students stay in the Valley and help move the local ag-tech industry forward.
Giving the audience her takeaways of the discussion, Swearengin said she hopes more people realize what the Valley has to offer when it comes to producing food and what technology can do.
“We know that we really are the ag-tech capital of the world,” Swearengin said. “We just have to grow that and make sure other people know it as well.”