DAVIS, Calif. — The Far West Equipment Dealers Assn. (FWEDA) is partnering with World FIRA, the leading event in Ag Robotics, for FIRA USA in Fresno, Calif., Oct. 18-20, 2022. 

FIRA USA 2022 will bring together specialty crop growers, robot manufacturers, industrials, academics, technologists, startups and investors for 3 days of problem-solving, decision making and planning. The event is jointly organized between the French association GOFAR, the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, Western Growers Association and the Fresno-Merced Future of Food (F3) Initiative. 

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

FWEDA’s partnership with FIRA USA offers equipment dealers a venue to showcase their products and demonstrate how equipment advances ag robotics and automation. 

“The intersection of the equipment industry and technology is an exciting place to be, and we’re pleased to be invited,” says Joani Woelfel, FWEDA President and CEO. “FIRA USA brings together farmers, manufacturers, technologists, educators, equipment dealers and the workforce of the future to align technological advancements with practical applications.”

Event to Focus on Autonomous Solutions for Speciality 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 the specialty crop harvest in the next 10 years.

FIRA USA Debuted in Fresno

FIRA USA organizers held a press conference April 12 at the event site in Fresno. The location is significant for several 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 U.S. 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,” Duflock says. “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.” 

3-Day Event Planned

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.

“FIRA USA is designed for developing practical, real-world solutions,” Youtsey said.

To keep the event focused on actionable outcomes, FIRA USA is structured to maximize opportunities for networking, learning and collaboration. Each of the 3 days has a theme: research and development, technology and business day, and demonstration. 

  • October 18: Research & Development Day

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

  • October 19: Technology & Business Day

With a full expo zone, an agenda of panel discussions, 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, 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.

  • October 20: 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: 

  1. Harvesting, weeding, seeding, thinning and planting robots; 
  2. Irrigation automation and data analytics solutions;
  3. Focus on field crops, fruits and vegetables, and vineyards

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