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Strawberry experts share the latest industry advances at Cal Poly summit

Posted at 7:53 PM, Apr 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-04 01:20:37-04

The California Strawberry Commission teamed up with the Cal Poly Strawberry Center Wednesday to talk about the future of strawberry production.

It was part of the Second Automation Summit at the university.

The all-day conference focused on the latest advances in production automation. Experts discussed on-farm robotics and how to integrate digital technologies in strawberry production.

“The Automation Summit is the only commodity-specific agriculture technology conference in the world. This is an example of how the partnership between the California Strawberry Commission and Cal Poly has brought together industry, academia, and technology to continue the history of innovation by California strawberry farmers,” California Strawberry Commission President Rick Tomlinson said. “We can’t wait for disruption to come to us; we must seek innovation and lead change.”

The commission recently committed up to $5 million over five years to establish and grow the Cal Poly Strawberry Center.

The commission originally invested $1 million in 2014, and the funds were used to launch the Cal Poly Strawberry Center. The center has 10 acres of farmland and a team of faculty members who specialize in plants.

“Faculty, staff and student research efforts are aligned with the needs of the strawberry industry,” said Gerald Holmes, director of the Cal Poly Strawberry Center. “Students are engaged in research and educational activities at the center and many are securing positions in the strawberry industry upon graduation.

The conference attracted more than 150 strawberry growers, processors, and shippers representing a large swath of the industry.

Organizers say the event is important to both Cal Poly and the agriculture industry.

“Here at Cal Poly, it’s kind of a hands-on institution and applied learning that leads to a very direct and immediate benefit to the growers in California. That’s one of the reasons the strawberry industry decided to come down here and work with the school in particular,” said Tom AmRhein, Chairman of the California Strawberry Commission.

The commission says California grows about 88 percent of all U.S.-grown strawberries and strawberries are one of the state’s top four agriculture commodities. The commission says strawberries accounted for $3.1 billion in value in 2017.