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Ag faces challenges in age of tech

While most Americans drift further and further from their agricultural past, the business of farming is still booming. But it is changing—and technology is a big part of that.

At a May 22 public panel discussion, California Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross said, “How we manage our land is critical to how we mitigate climate change, and how we can work the soil to keep it fertile for fruit, vegetables and grapes while keeping up a $2 billion industry.

“We have a severe problem that is not being addressed by policy,” Ross said. “We are trying to catch up on what can be automated, and we need to do that soon.”

The shortage of labor has hit farmers hard who depend on hand harvesters, who often pick fragile crops year-round. Automation could serve as a solution, and it may not be as far away as it may seem.

“There has been a tremendous evolution in robotics,” said former state ag secretary A.G. Kawamura. “Automated tractors are just around the corner, and recently I was just at an automated dairy.”

Ross and Kawamura were in Morgan Hill as featured speakers at an event hosted by the Silicon Valley Business Journal, “Disruption on the Farm.”