Apr 12, 2022
FIRA, agricultural robotics event, launches US edition

World FIRA, the leading event in ag robotics, will launch FIRA USA in Fresno, California, Oct. 18-20, to provide autonomous systems and robots to California and North American growers.

Jointly organized by the Global Organization For Agricultural Robotics (GOFAR), the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, Western Growers Association and the Fresno-Merced Future of Food (F3) Initiative, FIRA USA 2022 will bring together specialty crop growers, robot manufacturers, industrials, academics, technologists, startups and investors for three days of problem-solving, decision making and planning.

“Since 2016, FIRA has primarily hosted its flagship event in Toulouse, France,” said Maialen Cazenave and Gwendoline Legrand, FIRA co-directors, in a news release. “The expert event decided to join forces with local players to launch the first edition abroad: FIRA USA was born.”

An event focused on autonomous solutions for specialty crops

Specialty crops have much to gain from ag robotics and automation. Specialty crops, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture,” tend to be more labor intensive to produce and pick, and require more sophisticated technological solutions.

Walt Duflock, Western Growers vice president of innovation, is working to advance the pace of innovation in this sector through the Global Harvest Automation Initiative, which will be presented at FIRA USA 2022. One of the initiative’s goals is to automate 50% of specialty crop harvest in the next 10 years.

FIRA USA will debut Oct. 18-20 in Fresno

The event site is significant for a number of reasons. Fresno is part of California’s fertile San Joaquin Valley, a hub for specialty crop growers. The Golden State also provides a prime location for companies interested in tapping into a highly profitable agriculture market – one that produces more than 400 commodities and two-thirds of the total fruits and nuts crops in the United States. California farmers and ranchers earned $49.1 billion in cash receipts for their output in 2020 alone.

“We really wanted to bring a FIRA event to the U.S. because the U.S. market for specialty crop ag tech startups is the first or second market to enter, so it makes perfect sense to have this event right in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley,” said Duflock in the news release. “FIRA USA organizes the entire specialty crop community – educators, commercialization folks, startup companies, and large and small growers—and puts the entire event focus on specialty crop automation for three days.”

From research to robots in fields: A rich three-day agenda

To help ensure the success of this first-time event, FIRA partnered with Gabriel Youtsey, chief innovation officer at the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.

To keep the event focused on actionable outcomes, FIRA USA is structured to maximize opportunities for networking, learning and collaboration. Each of the three days has a theme: research and development, technology and business day and demonstration.

Oct. 18: The research & development Day

The R&D day will bring hundreds of scientists and students together.

This academic day will provide the opportunity for new agricultural technologists in universities around the country that are winning some of the new artificial intelligence grants for agricultural automation to present their projects.

By bringing this academic community together face-to-face in Fresno, FIRA USA aims to set priorities and focus on solving some pain points.

Oct. 19: The Technology & Business Day

With a full expo zone, an agenda of panel discussions and breakout sessions, and networking times, the second day will bring together the autonomous solutions and end-users.

FIRA USA will engage the grower in the conversation to make it real and make the presentation more relevant for grower audiences that want to get the grower and startup perspective on the solution.

In the panel discussions, breakout sessions and roundtables, the participants will build on several big-picture themes: understanding specific specialty crops, introducing different levels of automation and smart technologies, optimizing mechanization, prioritizing value for growers of all sizes, tackling labor shortage, addressing climate-smart objectives, determining appropriate ownership and maintenance models, and more.

Oct. 20: The Demo Day

On the third day, FIRA USA will host in-field robot demos at the California State University, Fresno campus farm.

Participants will have the opportunity to watch dozens of robots working in real conditions:

  • Harvesting, weeding, seeding, thinning and planting robots;
  • Irrigation automation and data analytics solutions;
  • Focus on field crops, fruits & vegetables and vineyards

FIRA USA will run Oct. 18-20, at the Fresno Convention & Entertainment Center in California. The event is organized by FIRA; GOFAR; Western Growers; University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources; Fresno State, Jordan College of Agriculture Sciences and Technology; and Fresno-Merced Future of Food Innovation.

To learn more about this upcoming event, visit www.fira-agtech.com/event/fira-usa.

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