The Colorado produce industry is gathering Feb. 19-20 to cover a range of topics, including an interesting approach to showing off agricultural technology. The event, to be held at the Renaissance Denver Stapleton Hotel in Denver, is the fourth annual conference of the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, and it will feature experts on labor and food safety — key topics of concern for the state’s growers. But there will be more, with an interesting look at four new ag tech companies.
Taking on the farm labor topic is Reginald Brown, executive vice president, Florida Tomato Exchange. Brown was involved through the evolution of the Tomato Suspension Agreement, which limited the impact to U.S. growers from the dumping of Mexican-grown tomatoes on the U.S. market.
On the food safety front, Laura Strawn, assistant professor and Extension specialist of produce safety from Virginia Tech, will tackle a tough topic: Listeria monocytogenes. Her talk will offer insight about procedures, policies and practices that produce growers, packers, shippers and processors can implement as preventive measures to reduce risk of the foodborne illness.
Taking on ag tech
In the produce industry, there are several startup companies working to bring new ideas and approaches to market. But how will those play with the real producers, packers, shippers and processors? Organizers from CFVGA have lined up four companies to share their stories in a presentation similar to the reality television show “Shark Tank” (in which entrepreneurs present their products to potential investors, trying to persuade the investors to put venture capital into those products), offering the companies feedback from attendees, and attendees a look at future tech.
Innovators present at 2:40 p.m. Feb. 20. They include:
• Augean, a company that has developed Burro, a robotic cart that can be programmed to follow a harvest crew and deliver product to a collection point
• Impello, creator of Tribus, a liquid plant-growth-promoting rhizobacteria that serves as a pathogenic inoculator
• Tortuga, maker of robotic harvesting, inventory tracking and data collection systems to enable precision ag in the fruit and vegetable market
• Visugen, a company that has developed systems for early detection and on-site water monitoring to comply with U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations
The conference will also feature speakers covering water, soil health, organic and conventional disease control, recall readiness, and produce marketing. There’s also a grower-buyer network session set for 3 to 5 p.m. Feb. 19. More than 300 people are expected to attend, including more than 35 exhibitors and 40 innovative produce growers in the region. Learn more at cfvga.org.