Annual Almond Conference Announces AIM Strategy and Improved Leadership
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor
Leadership was the recurring theme for the 3,000+ attendees over the three-day 43rd Annual Almond Conference, hosted by the Almond Board of California last week in Sacramento. “We are focused on the fact that the almond industry is accepting its responsibility to provide leadership for California agriculture and to use our treasure and talent to work on solutions for a lot of the problems that are very daunting,” said Richard Waycott, president and CEO of the Almond Board. “We have talked a lot about what is expected by consumers and by consumer product goods companies, which is our customer base,” Waycott noted.
At the conference, the Almond Board launched Accelerated Innovation Management (AIM), a major strategic effort designed to further increase the almond industry’s efficiency and sustainability, that features four major initiatives described by Waycott:
Water Management and Efficiency – A focus on accelerating almond farmer transition to more efficient irrigation scheduling and management practices to maximize the most crop per drop of water. This initiative, which builds on the 33 percent reduction in water used per pound of almonds achieved by the industry over the last 20 years, includes working with farmers to fine tune irrigation techniques and adopting more advanced water management technologies.
Sustainable Water Resources – First, an exploration of how to best leverage a unique strength of the California Almond industry—its acreage—to accelerate natural flood-year groundwater recharge of aquifers. Collectively, California’s aquifers are the state’s largest water storage system; water recharged through this program would benefit all Californians, not just farmers. Second, an investigation of opportunities to recycle water from multiple sources, such as municipal wastewater, as a way of increasing overall water availability for farmers and all Californians.
Air Quality – Investigation of various methods the almond industry can help meet the Central Valley’s exacting air quality standards. This initiative will scrutinize all components of almond farming that impact air quality and evaluate opportunities to decrease emissions. This initiative will identify alternatives, such as decreased fossil fuel use, that will result in cleaner air for all those who live in California’s Central Valley—farmers, their families, and surrounding communities.
22nd Century Agronomics – A recognition that we need to better understand and then adopt the technologies that will lead California farming into the 22nd century. The Almond Board of California will lead a comprehensive exploration of almond farming techniques, bringing an exploratory mindset to consider all options as to what innovations and technical “leap frogs” will be needed to sustainably farm in the future. Each component of almond farming will be considered, from land preparation and varietal development, to equipment and processing.