Good Question: What looked good at the World Ag Expo?
The World Ag Expo, held three days each February in Tulare, California, is touted by its organizers as the largest farm show in the world. During the show, some $130 million in business transactions take place. This year, more than 100,000 attendees from nearly 75 countries attended the February 12–14 event, including those who were there as part of the recent International Fruit Tree Association's annual meeting and study tour in Visalia, California. We asked a sampling of the IFTA attendees for their impressions of what they saw at the farm show.
Sodus, New York
Global Positioning System (GPS)
Todd Furber, an apple and peach grower, was most impressed with the size of the farm equipment that he saw at the World Ag Expo. "I've been
to different New York farm shows, and thought that they have some big equipment displayed. But this was on a huge scale." He was also awed by some of the new technology developed for agriculture, such as new precision spraying equipment.
Furber was specifically looking for Global Positioning System (GPS) technology that he could install on his existing tractors. He found some for around $7,500 that were accurate down to six inches. "I was surprised at the number of vendors from the East Coast that were there," he said, noting that the products on display were from all around the world.
Although this was the third time that Palisade, Colorado, grower Bruce Talbott has visited the World Ag Expo, he still marvels at the "immensity" of the show.
"You look at the automated grape and cotton equipment, and the size of some of the equipment—it's humbling."
Talbott, who grows wine grapes, apples, and peaches, said he found it valuable to talk to people with whom he does business, from software designers to equipment dealers to nurseries. He said he enjoyed meeting sales representatives in person and further developing these business relationships.
Kelowna, B.C., Canada
"There was so much, I was overwhelmed with everything," said Sam DiMaria, tree fruit grower from British Columbia. "They had machines for things I never imagined."
The machine he found most interesting was a soil-sampling machine that looked like a "mini Caterpillar" that mechanically collects soil-probe samples and uses GPS technology to map locations of the soil samples. The on-the-go sampler, called the Autoprobe, and manufactured by Agrobotics, LLC, collects samples at a precise depth and interval, with the machine guided and steered by GPS. He noticed a great emphasis on mapping soil fertility at the California farm show.
Though many of the machines and equipment were not designed for tree fruit growers, he said the Expo helps to visually show how technology is changing and how GPS is being adapted to things like soil mapping. "GPS is really starting to revolutionize the agricultural industry," DiMaria said.
Lake City, Minnesota
Chet Miller of Pepin Heights Orchard in Lake City, Minnesota, said that portable employee housing constructed from shipping containers was the most interesting concept he saw at the World Ag Expo. The containers were complete with bunk beds, plumbing, and electricity, and could be set up on the spot. Small units sold for $16,000 with larger ones selling for $27,000, he said. In his area, growers rent hotel rooms and homes if housing is short for their employees. The units could help alleviate housing issues for the H-2A temporary guest-worker program.
Dean Spencer, orchardist from Boyertown, Pennsylvania, was hoping to find at the farm show a device for his fertigation system, which he did.
But he was especially interested in seeing an offering of three-point hitches that go in the front of tractors, allowing hook up to implements in the front of the tractor instead of behind. "I'm getting really tired of always looking behind my shoulder when I'm chopping brush or using a chipper," Spencer said.
New Paris, Pennsylvania
Describing himself as a "tractorhead," New Paris, Pennsylvania, tree fruit grower Matt Boyer was impressed with the diverse offering of tractors and wheels of all types, from rubber tires to cleats. He saw John Deere's new tractor model for orchards with low profiles, and thought it to be very user friendly. Boyer was also interested in seeing the many components available for different types of tractors, such as large fuel tanks, GPS units, and sprayers. "If you wanted cutting-edge technology and the components that go with it, you'd find it there."
Another item that caught his attention was the portable frost protection machine called S.I.S. (selective inverted sink). Developed and patented by family farm Shur Farms, the system acts as a cold air drain, drawing in the coldest air that settles along the ground and thrusting it up 300 feet. It can be moved to different locations and comes in a variety of sizes for different acreage.