Robotic demonstrations in simulated orchards and vineyards highlighted Day 2 of the FIRA USA agricultural automation conference and trade show in Salinas, California. The conference will conclude Sept. 21.
Spectators leaned on fences as companies like GUSS, Blue White and Agtonomy released their driverless farm implements through potted plants lined up in rows to mimic an orchard on the rodeo grounds at the Salinas Sports Complex. Similar demos were held in a “vineyard” comprised of iron rails draped with camouflage netting.
In a nearby rodeo building decked out like a saloon, startups took turns giving public sales pitches, designed to resemble the reality TV show “Shark Tank.” Representatives of funding organizations listened, judged and awarded a winner later in the day. TRIC Robotics of Delaware, which makes automated ultraviolet pest control and bug-vacuum vehicles, took first place.
In the main presentation hall, growers discussed when, how and where they choose from the vast array of technological gadgets promised to make their farm safer, faster and richer. Among them, they said to ask lots of questions, keep the ROI math simple, include depreciation in that math, work with companies that have a local presence and engage with the company’s R&D process.
“Make sure you have the problem they tell you that you have,” said Josh Roberts, president of Triangle Farms in Salinas.
—by Ross Courtney