Napolitano Says Ag Needs Technology

UC President Janet Napolitano: Technology Drives Ag

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Janet Napolitano, President of University of California, gave the opening keynote presentation on the first of two days at the recent 3rd annual Forbes AgTech Summit in Salinas in late June.

She spoke with California Ag Today, noting that technology is driving agriculture like never before.

“I think this is a great time in California history, where you have the Salinas Valley and Silicon Valley all focused on innovation and where it’s now time to have these two areas converge – agriculture and technology,” she said.

And of course, agriculture is open to new technology to help farmers produce food more efficiently and safely.

“It’s all about the world food supply; it’s all about the food supply in the state. It’s all about the economy in the state of California; it’s going to need technology to really thrive,” Napolitano said.

Napolitano noted that she has seen first hand how technologies have driven solutions to age-old problems.

“A UC Santa Barbara Materials alumnus professor, James Roger, realized that a third to a half of our fresh fruits and vegetables end up in landfills due to consumers throwing the produce out due to browning or other decomposition,” she said. “In 2012, Rogers founded Apeel Sciences, where his team created a product from natural plant extracts that can be sprayed on fruits and vegetables, which can protect them from bacteria, doubling their shelf life and therefore decreasing the amount of food waste.”

Rogers is one example of many within the UC system who have come up with innovations to help agriculture.

“We know we drive innovation by supporting innovation in our classroom and in our laboratories. And we support it with faculty, we support it with our own monies, and our own investment dollars,” Napolitano said. “And, we also bring together the private sector with the university to look at different kinds of partnerships that can be undertaken.”

The UC system has the resources to fund the early stage capital that is needed to get ideas off the ground.

“We have set aside a billion dollars of our own investment capital for early stage investment, and an additional 250 million dollars for sustainable energy technologies,” Napolitano said.

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John Hartnett on Ag Tech

John Hartnett on Forbes AgTech and Urban Appreciation for Agriculture

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

 

Forbes AgTech Summit

John Hartnett, founder and CEO of Los Gatos-based SVG Partners LLC, a Silicon Valley area investment and advisory firm, has played a pivotal role in the organization of the Forbes AgTech Summit in Salinas every summer. Hartnett said before partnering with Forbes, “we ran the first one here in Salinas and another one in Monterey. Two hundred people attended the Monterey Innovation Summit.”

John Hartnett, founder and CEO of Los-Gatos-based SVG Partners LLC, and pivotal organizer of the annual Forbes AgTech Summit in Salinas.
John Hartnett, founder and CEO of Los-Gatos-based SVG Partners LLC, and pivotal organizer of the annual Forbes AgTech Summit in Salinas.

“Then we partnered with Forbes and it brought us to a whole new level. Partnering with Forbes for the past two of four major AgTech Summits,”has been great,” Hartnett said. “Last year we had 400 people. This year, we had 700 people. Increased attendance has put Salinas on the map of being the center of AgTech.

“I bring leaders from technology and agriculture together,” Hartnell said. “It is a great event for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to be onstage and get recognition in front of investors, customers and key business people they will work with.”

“Having Forbes and the Ag industry from across the country here in the heart of Salinas is phenomenal. We’ve executed this overall plan well. We are delighted with the outcomes.”

The next Forbes AgTech Summit will convene again in Salinas on June 28-29, 2017.

Urban Appreciation

Beyond AgTech, Harnett said helping urban American populations understand the rural Ag community is one of the agricultural industry’s biggest challenges. “The first thing you need to do is bring people around the table. I’m a consumer of food. I am the end user of what’s going on, but many people just don’t understand the supply chain.”

“They understand some of the water challenges at a high level because these issues are in everybody’s face today. This is part of the education process and it starts by bringing people and key groups together.”

“What we’re doing, in small part, is focusing on technological leaders and companies from Palo Alto and San Francisco that are coming, probably for the first time, to Salinas. They are absolutely impressed and blown away by what is actually here. And, instead of driving past farms, they are going into the farms.”

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Julie Borlaug Honors her Famous Grandfather

Julie Borlaug Honors her Famous Grandfather, Norman Borlaug, in Advancing Science in Agriculture

 

Editor’s Note: Julie Borlaug spoke recently at the 2016 Forbes AgTech Summit in Salinas, and shared with us the legacy of her Grandfather, Norman  Ernest Borlaug, a man who used technology to ward off starvation and the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, as well as the importance of advanced technology in Agriculture. 

 

Julie Borlaug, associate director for external relations, Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University, introduced the Institute’s mission, “We design and implement development and training programs. We take the legacy of my grandfather and we carry it out through the land-grant mission of teaching, research and extension. We’re primarily funded by organizations like USAID and USDA, so we truly are a development agency.”

Here is more of what she shared:

Norman Borlaug

We all know why we care about agriculture and a lot of why we care is pretty much some of the same reasons my grandfather was up against during the green revolution. My grandfather was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal and now a statue in the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. However, when I speak about my grandfather I like to humanize him a little and make people realize he was a normal person and that anyone can, if they’re dedicated, change the world.

Norman E. Borlaug Statue
Norman E. Borlaug Statue, National Statuary Hall, U.S. Capitol.

Growing up with him, we didn’t really know what he did. We just knew he flew through Dallas on his way to Mexico or Africa or India. In third grade, I took him to show and tell, and he was upstaged by a hamster. I think it was good for him.

When he got the Congressional Gold Medal I got to sit with him on stage and he had two minutes to talk. The entire Congress was shut down. At 10 minutes, Nancy Pelosi‘s staff [was] poking me from behind saying, “You’ve got to stop him.” I leaned forward to President Bush and I said, “They want him to stop. You’re the President.” He said, “This isn’t my thing, this is the Congressional.” Right at that point, I think we were about 18 minutes in, my grandfather said, “Poverty and hunger are fertile seeds for isms, and terrorism is one of them.” At that point Bush leaned back and said, “Don’t stop him now.”

Norman Borlaug, Congressional Gold Medal
President George W. Bush Presents Congressional Gold Medal to Dr. Norman Borlaug. Also pictured is House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, left, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. (Source: White House photo by Chris Greenberg)

My grandfather was many things. He was a warrior against hunger, he was a teacher, but first and foremost he was a scientist. He often said, “The fear of change is the greatest obstacle to progress.” He came down on the side of innovation and was known to be bold and quick.

He was a fierce advocate for innovation and technological change, especially when it came to developing countries and small-scale farmers. His most potent view of science was that man’s most advanced knowledge and technology should be used in the battle against hunger and poverty.

Like my grandfather’s green revolution, we have a huge challenge in front of us: How to feed 9 billion people. This is going to require new economic, political policies, new rounds of innovation, of technological advancements, but most importantly in agriculture, it will require a new way of agriculture to address things.

Transformation

Norman E. Borlaug Statue
Norman E. Borlaug Statue

We have to change our thinking, we have to have new partners and we can’t be the traditional Ag and take a silo approach. We have to be interconnected, transformative, with greater transparency and we need to bring the life science technology entrepreneurs—everyone, even the medical community—to the table.

That’s one of the reasons why my grandfather’s green revolution was so successful. He realized he had to bring the government, economic infrastructure and technology together for the small-holder farmer for it truly to work, because agriculture alone cannot transform.

Like my grandfather, I strongly believe in biotechnology and innovation. I always get asked, “Can we feed 9 billion people?” My answer is yes, if we are allowed to. If my grandfather were here he’d say, “We are not going to be able to do this without science and without pushing the boundaries of innovation.”

To feed 9 billion we need to realize we have a new strain of fact-resistant humans and we have a lack of transparency, that’s all you can call them. I could call them something else, but that’s the most polite way.

Consumer Confusion

We need to realize that our consumer is very different. We have mommy bloggers, we have foodies driving the conversation and the table is moving closer to the farm. We have all the misconceptions; a backyard garden is not farming.

Pretty backyard gardens with chickens running around is not going to feed the world. It takes more than that and we have a public who thinks that’s what it is. I always ask those people, if they want to go see reality, come with me to rural Kenya and let’s ask a female farmer what she needs. It’s seeds, inputs and technology.

We also have market confusion. We have vegan green beans, we have gluten-free cranberries, we have GMO-free beef. I was at an opening of Whole Foods a few years ago and there was a North Texas cattle company that was showing GMO-free beef and I had to walk over and ask what he meant. He said, “We do not genetically modify our cattle.” I said, “Well, of course you don’t. Do you mean you’re not giving feed that has been genetically modified?” He said, “No, no, no, we do that. We just don’t genetically modify our cattle.” It was great marketing.

Julie Borlaug -2
Julie Borlaug, associate director for external relations, Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University

We had GMO-free salt that sold at stores. I like that one. We have a public that believes everything on social media, especially what their 20-year-old yoga instructor says, who got a degree in nutrition online. We also have fear campaigns; look at what Greenpeace has done.

You cannot be anti-hunger and anti-innovation. If you are going to be anti-innovation, you better have a solution for us because we’re willing to accept it.

Innovation and NextGen

What’s really [fascinating] is where my grandfather would be excited about the future of Agriculture. My grandfather would be most excited about the gene revolution. We have gene-editing and synthetic biology. There are so many new solutions out there. We have a sharing economy, internet of everything, cloud biology, MachineryLink—something I’m involved in. It’s an uber platform for sharing of equipment.

In order to really get to my grandfather’s legacy, we have to remember that we are responsible for the next generation. We have to build the hunger-fighters that my grandfather built. The next generation is growing up with technology, they’re creative, they have bold ideas, they collaborate across discipline and they want change. We need to bring them to the table and support them.wheat

When my grandfather got the Nobel Peace Prize, the Chair said, “Behind the outstanding results in the sphere of wheat research for which the dry statistics speak, we sense the presence of a dynamic, indomitable and refreshingly unconventional research scientist. We still need more of those today. It’s going to be unconventional partnerships and innovations that help us end hunger. Just remember, if we don’t allow it to happen here, if we try to ban the future of agriculture and innovation, it’s just going to happen somewhere else, and I think we want that to happen here.”

If my grandfather was here he would thank you for your dedication and he’d tell you to move faster, because there are 25,000 people who are going to die today while we’re debating future technologies. I think we need to always remember that.

Before he died he said he had a problem. This was when he was told he was going to pass away, and it was 3 days before he died. My mom and I asked what his problem was and he said it was Africa. “I never brought a green revolution to Africa.”

I quickly said, “All the hunger-fighters, everyone you’ve trained, everyone in this room is going to ensure we bring a green revolution to Africa that’s appropriate for each country and each area, and we will do that everywhere.” That is what you’re doing, but remember, your innovation and technology is only good when you take it to the farmer.


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Lt. Governor Newsom Supports Calif. Agriculture

Calif. Lt. Governor Newsom Says Ag is at a Hinge-Moment in History

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

In an exclusive interview with Gavin NewsomLieutenant Governor of California, during the recent Forbes AgTech Summit in Salinas, Newsom declared, “It’s interesting about California—outside of Hollywood—no two more iconic industries exist than Silicon Valley’s technology, and the agricultural industry.

“It seems self-evident to everybody here that we have a unique opportunity to collaborate,” Newsom said about the event which joined the Silicon Valley high tech industry with the state’s farming industry to create digital solutions for agriculture. “We have the unique opportunity based on proximity and based on history. It is also a cultural opportunity as it relates to relationships that have been formed over the course of generations to begin to build bridges and connect some dots.”

Newsom said he believes in bottom-up inspiration, not top-down. “I don’t think you can sell down your vision from Sacramento. It’s about regions rising together and creating conditions for just these type of collaborations,” he said.

Newsom particularly appreciated comments about innovation. “I wrote a book, [“Citizenville”] and I’m not here to promote that book,” said Newsom, “but the whole idea was about platform thinking. The concept is the federal government, state government, and even local government cannot prescribe a federal, state or local pill for every problem,” he said.

“The point is,” he continued, “if we’re going to solve the big problems of the day, we have to create an environmenta platformto engage folks like yourselves to deliver the applications, literally and figuratively, to solve big problems. It’s self-evident to anyone who lives here in California, that we’ve got some big problems.”

Citizenville, by Gavin Newsom
Citizenville, by Gavin Newsom

“We have regulatory challenges in this state, and I say this as a business person with many businesses. I have a sense of kindred connection in spirit to the entrepreneurial ways that are here today,” he commented. Owner of three wineries, several restaurants and hotels, Newsom stated, “I am in the Ag business, of sorts. My point is, we could do a lot better to make a point that [agriculture] matters and we care,” he said.

“At the same time,” he added, “Silicon Valley is center-tip of the spear—all the innovation and discovery, and the change in the way we live, work and play,” Newsom said.

“We’re here on a hinge-moment in history where we are going from something old to something new, a world of mobile, local, and social; and cloud and crowd. It’s a moment of anxiety for a lot of people, a moment of mergerthe detonation of globalization and technology coming together. Again, there’s a lot of anxiety,” he noted.

Newsom suggested this is an opportune time to try to connect dots and address challenges, not just on the regulatory side and on the economic development side in this state, but also on the self-evident issues of water scarcity in this state. “You may have different opinions about climate change, global warming or violent disruption,” said Newsom, “but, as a guy who told me the other day up in Dutch Flat, Placer County, ‘I don’t care about all you folks from San Francisco talking about climate change, but something just ain’t right.’ Which is another way of describing a connection that things have changed,” Newsom explained.

Newsom said that kind of predictive nature, in terms of how we construct a water system for a world that no longer exists, and for a population that is twice the size; self-evidently, we have to do things differently. “We’ve got to be more creative and we’ve got to be more strategic,” he noted.

“It’s a long way of saying we are grateful for the work [California farmers] are doing. The goal for us in California is to make these conversations sustainable. ‘Not just situational and not just one annual conversation, but these are dialogs that must continue every day in this state,” Newsom said.

“I’m one of those people who believes in the combination of nature and technology, bringing cross-disciplines together,” Newsom said. “Cross-pollinating, literally and figuratively, ideas and people—values. “I think we have an incredible opportunity here in California, not just to survive in the agricultural industry but to truly thrive in a growing, competitive environment.”

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