Josh Ruiz and Monsanto Seeds have partnered up to harvest broccoli mechanically. Ruiz is vice president of AG operations with Church Brothers Farms in Salinas.
“They brought us a genetic variety of broccoli where the head does sit up higher. When it comes to broccoli, all varieties have their heads mature at different rates,” Ruiz explained.
That being said, the fields must be harvested multiple times as the crop matures. With these new genetics, you can get it all done in one sweep.
“I want it to be as simple for my people because I want them to be happy. Cutting once and moving on is what makes them happy,” Ruiz said.
There are a bunch of growers around California, Arizona and in Mexico; they want to get that ground back and use it one more time before the season’s over.
“This gives them about a month’s worth of time back in their hands, which, in the world we live in, is huge,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz said he is going to continue to develop mechanical harvesting for other crops.
“Iceberg and Romaine are the next two big projects,” he explained.
Iceberg is known to be the “holy grail.” Ruiz has a prototype in the works, and he’s willing to work with anyone who is willing to partner.
“The Broccoli Project, the last five years, has overwhelmed my team and me, but we are ready for the next challenge,” he said
“My day to day is focused on not only running the AG operations for Church Brothers, but I spend a lot of my day focused on innovation and how can we do things better, quicker, faster, cheaper,” he continued.
Ruiz is passionate about automation and innovation. He is currently working with lettuce, romaine, broccoli, cauliflower, spring mix, spinach, and kale.
He said his interest in mechanical harvesting is mostly based out of labor issues, but it goes further from there.
“I see this as the future. I’m not the computer guy, and I’m not the engineer, but I love that stuff, and I want to go find out how to make it possible for me to learn,” he said.
Approximately five years ago, Ruiz began his relations with Monsanto with the Broccoli Project.
“We just unveiled our brand new version of our machine, and I have no doubt in my mind that it’s going to be out there in the field. You’ll see it going down the Salinas Valley from here on out.”
A Statement from Monsanto Following San Francisco Verdict
No Evidence that Glyphosate Causes Cancer
By Scott Partridge, Monsanto Vice President
Like everyone else following the Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto Co. trial, my colleagues and I have deep sympathy for Mr. Johnson’s plight. Our hearts go out to the Johnson family, and we understand their desire for answers. Glyphosate is not the answer. Glyphosate does not cause cancer. The jury got it wrong. We will appeal the jury’s opinion and continue to vigorously defend glyphosate, which is an essential tool for farmers and others. We are confident science will prevail upon appeal.
The jury’s opinion does not change the science. Glyphosate has a more than 40-year history of safe use. Over those four decades, researchers have conducted more than 800 scientific studies and reviews that prove glyphosate does not cause cancer.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) both recently reaffirmed glyphosate does not cause cancer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other regulatory authorities in Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia, Korea, and elsewhere routinely review all approved pesticide products and have consistently reaffirmed that glyphosate does not cause cancer.
Rather than arguing the science, the plaintiff’s lawyers repeatedly crossed the line, distorted the facts and used baseless and egregious emotional appeals to inflame the jury. We are deeply troubled by the conduct of the plaintiff’s lawyers in this case. The judge admonished this conduct on several occasions and instructed the jury to ignore these statements. However, we are concerned that this conduct unduly influenced the jury’s deliberations, and we will be raising this issue in our appeal.
The plaintiff’s lawyers know they cannot win on the science. This lawsuit is based solely on the opinion of one organization called IARC. IARC is not a regulatory authority and did no independent studies. IARC is the same organization that determined beer, meat, cell phones, and coffee cause cancer. Investigative reports by Reuters and the Times of London have uncovered that IARC members reviewing glyphosate concealed important scientific data, edited out the conclusions of key studies, and were closely aligned with U.S. trial lawyers.
After IARC’s opinion was announced in 2015, U.S. trial lawyers started running advertising campaigns to recruit people for their lawsuits against Monsanto. There were no lawsuits blaming glyphosate for cancer until after IARC’s opinion. A federal judge overseeing some of these lawsuits recently stated that plaintiffs’ evidence is “shaky” and any lawyer faces a “daunting challenge” in bringing a case to trial based on IARC’s opinion.
Our next step is to file post-trial motions with the Court. Following the Court’s ruling on the motions, we will file our appeal with the California Court of Appeals if needed. We are fully confident that science will prevail in the end. Glyphosate-based herbicides are too important to farmers and others for these baseless lawsuits to go unchallenged.
Sebastian Langbehn is the commercial lead for the Vegetable Division within Monsanto. California Ag Today spoke to him recently, and he is busy.
“We are right now in the process of integrating into Bayer Crop Science, and we’re pleased about the outcome of the whole regulatory process, where Bayer has purchased Monsanto,” Langbehn said. “We finally got the approval slightly more than a month ago, and there will be a clean cut.”
Langbehn said that the vegetable seed division from Bayer will be divested and will be acquired by BASF, and now the company is in the process for integrating the Monsanto vegetable division within Bayer.
“We see this as an amazing tool that will enable us to tap in with an integrated solution to farms so that we don’t restrict ourselves only to provide solutions through genetics, but through the entire portfolio that we will have within Bayer, as the company’s new vegetable division,” Langbehn said.
With all the clamor that glyphosate herbicide is a cancer causing material, let the facts tell the real story.
Liza Dunn is an emergency medical doctor and also a medical toxicologist on the faculty at Washington University in St. Louis. And she’s also been working with Monsanto on anything that could show that glyphosate herbicide could not be safe when used correctly.
She discussed a robust study showing no evidence that glyphosate is cancer causing. None!
“The Ag Health Study is a study of more than 57,000 farmers with their pesticide applicators, and they had followed them since the mid ’90s to look at effects of pesticides exposure. And one of the pesticides that they’ve looked at is glyphosate,” Dunn explained.
“In 2005, there was even a journal article that demonstrated that there was no association between glyphosate in any kind of cancer whatsoever. That data was refreshed in 2013, and once again, the data demonstrated unequivocally that there was no association between glyphosate and any kind of cancer,” she said.
However, that second set of data was never published.
“Which is just incredible because the person who had that data said that it would have changed the outcome of the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) decision.”
“That was in 2015, and why the research was not published is beyond me,” Dunn said.
According to her, IARC is going completely in the wrong direction.
“The IARC have gotten much more involved in looking at things that are not carcinogens, and out of abundance of caution, I guess – I’m not sure what their motivation is – they’ve decided to classify them as carcinogens anyway,” Dunn said.
Herbicide is Non-Toxic if Used Correctly, Expert Says
By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor
Glyphosate herbicide, produced under the well-known brand of Roundup, or any of its generic labels, has been studied around the world with absolutely no findings showing it to be toxic if used correctly. California Ag Today recently interviewed Liza Dunn, an emergency medical doctor, and also a medical toxicologist on the faculty of Washington University in St. Louis, about the herbicide. She’s been working with Monsanto for about a year.
Monsanto has done lots and lots of studies, and not only Monsanto, but there are six full data packages that review using very, very, very intensive laboratory and epidemiologic techniques to look and see if something is actually causing a problem,” Dunn said.
But according to media reports, glyphosate does cause big problems.
“We have never found any problem with any health claim with glyphosate, and this is both independent researchers and researchers who are based with industry, so when you look at the evidence objectively, there is no health claim that has ever been demonstrated with glyphosate. If you use it as directed, it is incredibly, virtually non-toxic,” Dunn explained.
According to Dunn, that’s been proven by more than 100 toxicology studies.
“There are different levels that you have to study when you’re bringing your product to market, so different things that you have to look at. We have produced multiple, multiple studies, way in excess of what regulatory agencies have required, in order to demonstrate the safety and virtual non-toxicity of our product,” Dunn said.
“We were really excited to feature California agriculture, because it’s such a huge part of the American economy,” said Nierenberg. “Californians are feeding the world, and we need to really highlight what these amazing producers are doing. When the Farm to Fork program of the Visitors Bureau reached out to us, we were thrilled to partner with such an amazing group of people, as well as UC Davis folks and the Center for Land-Based Learning,” she said.
Food Tank, an abbreviation of Food Think Tank, is a 501(c)3 non profit organization focused on building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters that values education, inspiration and change.
Food Tank is for the 7 billion people who have to eat every day. We will offer solutions and environmentally sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty by creating a network of connections and information for all of us to consume and share. Food Tank is for farmers and producers, policy makers and government leaders, researchers and scientists, academics and journalists, and the funding and donor communities to collaborate on providing sustainable solutions for our most pressing environmental and social problems.
The organization begins with the premise, “Our food system is broken. Some people don’t have enough food, while others are eating too much. There’s only one way to fix this problem—and it starts with you and me.”
With the goal of feeding the hungry world of nine billion people in a few years, “Food Tank highlights hope and success in agriculture. We feature innovative ideas that are already working on the ground, in cities, in kitchens, in fields and in laboratories. These innovations need more attention, more research, and ultimately more funding to be replicated and scaled-up. And that is where we need you. We all need to work together to find solutions that nourish ourselves and protect the planet.”
Nierenberg clarified, “I don’t necessarily think we need to scale up food production; I think we need to scale out different innovations that are working. We’re wasting about 1.3 billion tons of food annually. That’s enough to feed everyone who’s hungry today, so we don’t necessarily need to ramp up production. We need to have better distribution, and processing practices that can help get food to people who need it the most,” she said.
“We need the political will behind those things,” she continued, “to build the infrastructure necessary for farmers to have better processing facilities, to have better storage facilities, to have better roads—if we’re talking about the developing world. I don’t necessarily think that we need to invest in producing more calories; we need better calories. We need more nutrient-dense food, and we need less starchy staple crops,” she noted.
Editor’s Note: Activists overtook the stage during the event, and the conversation was notably challenging for panelists. In an effort to Cultivate Common Groundto link consumers with the farmers who grow their nutritious food—and vice versa—California Ag Today has chosen to share some interesting statements from presenters and attendees to illustrate, perhaps, where the discussion could begin:
Regarding farms and processing facilities, big is bad, and small is good.
Regarding food quality, organic produce is healthy and safe, while conventional produce is unsafe and full of pesticides.
Eric Holt-Giménez, executive director of Food First, noted that farmworkers are invisible in California agriculture. “There is racism in the fields. We need more worker unions and we need farmworkers to be paid much more than they are now and the farmworkers should be getting pensions from the farmer.”
Michael Dimock, president, Roots of Change, said to the audience, “You guys are doing a great job. Keep doing it. Keep working with your NGOs. They know policy. In turn, they can work with the legislators.”
“You need to be in the capital, pursuading the legislatures to support their bills. They want to be reelected, and if they don’t do what we ask them to do, they are scared.”
“In the meantime, we have to be nice to farmers because farmers are scared. We are putting a lot of pressure on them; They are in a vice. Our movement has supported bills AB 1066 – the overtime bill, minimum wage increases, organic farming legislation, and workers’ rights.”
Kerryn Gerety, founder and CEO, Lazoka, referred to John Purcell, vegetables global R&D Lead, Hawaii business lead, vice president and distinguished fellow, Monsanto Company, and said, “There is an elephant in the room, the Monsanto rep. Monsanto has all the technology patents. We all want transparency and we need you to be more transparent.”
Continuing, “Why doesn’t Monsanto open-source some of your patents and release the intellectual property so others can take advantage of your teçhnology?”
Purcell answered, “We are an Ag company. Why would our company invest a million dollars on technology and let everyone have it? It is our investment and we need to have the opportunity for a return on that investment.
During a panel discussion of food companies including Blue Apron,Almond Board of California, and Bayer CropScience, that covered organics, Jennifer Maloney, food chain sustainability manager, Bayer CropScience, said, “We do support the organic industry, because we have biological products that work in organic as well as conventional [farming].”
Maloney also talked about agricultural Integrated Pest Management (IPM) technology such as smart sprayers that spray only targeted areas.
Matt Wadiak, founder & COO, Blue Apron, responded, “It’s not about smart sprayers; it’s about biological systems in the field and trying to lean on them instead of spraying.”
Maloney replied, “Yes, that is exactly what IPM is.”
Keith Knopf, COO, Raley’s Family of Fine Stores, commented on the organic question, “the way we see organic versus inorganic—that is not the discussion for us. What’s more important to us is, is it the candy bar or the apple?”
This two-day event featured more than 35 speakers from the food and agriculture field, interactive panels moderated by top food journalists, networking, and delicious food, followed by a day of hands-on activities and opportunities for attendees. This was the second in a series of three 2016 Summits, following the Washington, D.C. Food Tank Summit that completely sold out and drew in more than 30,100 livestream viewers. The third Summit will be held in Chicago on November 16, 2016.
Three distinguished scientists — Marc Van Montagu of Belgium, and Americans, Mary-Dell Chilton, Founder and Distinguished Science Fellow, Syngenta Biotechnology, Inc.; and Robert T. Fraley, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Monsanto—share the 2013 World Food Prize for their independent, individual breakthrough achievements in founding, developing, and applying modern agricultural biotechnology.
Their research, which makes it possible for farmers to grow crops with improved yields, resistance to insects and disease, and the ability to tolerate extreme variations in climate, can play a critical role as we face the global challenges of the 21st century of producing more food, in a sustainable way, while confronting an increasingly volatile climate. The pioneering work of these three contributed to the emergence of a new term, “agricultural biotechnology.”
With particular ties to California, Dr. Robert T. Fraley, conducted post-doctoral research in biophysics at the University of California-San Francisco. Fraley led the successful introduction of genetically engineered soybeans that were resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, commercially known as Roundup. When planting these “Roundup Ready” crops, a farmer was able to spray an entire field with glyphosate—and only the weeds would be eliminated, leaving the crop plants alive and thriving.
The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing— without regard to race, religion, nationality, or political beliefs—the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.
The Prize recognizes contributions in any field involved in the world food supply — food and agriculture science and technology, manufacturing, marketing, nutrition, economics, poverty alleviation, political leadership and the social sciences.
The World Food Prize emphasizes the importance of a nutritious and sustainable food supply for all people. By honoring those who have worked successfully toward this goal, The Prize calls attention to what has been done to improve global food security and to what can be accomplished in the future.
Agriculturalist of the Year,
The Fresno County Farm Bureau announced that The Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce and Baker, Peterson & Franklin, CPA announced that Supervisor Phil Larson was selected as the 2013 Agriculturalist of the Year, an award given annually to individuals who exemplify leadership and integrity in the Central Valley’s agricultural business community.
Supervisor Larson, a lifelong farmer and Fresno County resident, has had a long and distinguished career with the Wilbur Ellis Company and retired in 2000. His list of community involvement is extensive and includes: President, Fresno County Farm Bureau; Charter member, California Agriculture Production Consultants; California Farm Bureau District 7 State Director; and Fresno City/County Chamber of Commerce.
Baker, Peterson & Franklin Ag Business Award
The Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce and Baker, Peterson & Franklin, CPA also announced Gar Tootelian, Inc., of Reedley was awarded the 2013 Baker, Peterson & Franklin Ag Business Award, an award to a for-profit service or product-related agribusiness or farming entity headquartered in the Central San Joaquin Valley whose achievements and impact have significantly contributed to the industry and the local community.
Established in 1949, Gar Tootelian, Inc. still prospers as one of California’s oldest and largest independent agricultural chemical and fertilizer retailers. Second generation and family owned, it serves over 1,400 growers from Madera to Kern County.
Gar Tootelian provides advanced, environmentally safe, bio-technology and crop services available. Crop Life magazine recognized Gar Tootelian as the largest, single location, ag retailer in the nation, and they were named in the 10 Best Companies to work for in the Central Valley by a Business Journal survey.
At the Ag Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, November 13 at Radisson Conference Center in Fresno, the Baker, Peterson & Franklin Ag Business Award and the Fresno Chamber Agriculturist of the Year Award will be presented.
Luncheon tickets are available through the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, www.fresnochamber.com, (559) 495-4800.
Source: Fresno County Farm Bureau, CA Avocado Society
Award of Honor, California
At its 98th annual meeting, the California Avocado Society (CAS) presented the 2013 “Award of Honor” to California Avocado Commission (CAC) Vice President of Marketing Jan DeLyser,CAS President.
“Jan DeLyser has specifically focused on the California avocado industry for the past 15 years. Her entry into the California avocado industry came at a difficult time, when foreign imports cast an ominous shadow over our livelihoods,” said CAS President Chris Ambuul. “In just 15 years, US consumption has increased five-fold, and we are still in business. Jan hasn’t just left a mark on our industry; she is a big reason why we are all still here.”
Ambuul noted that the CAS award recognizes outstanding contribution and dedication to the California avocado industry.
The California Avocado Society came into being on May 15, 1915 to promote efficiency of production and orderly marketing toward assuring long term profitability for the business of avocado growing.