Specialty Crops: Industry Dynamics, Challenges, and Opportunities

If you’re an investor in the food and agriculture industry, you won’t want to miss iSelect’s Deep Dive series on Specialty Crops. In part one of this two-part series, experts from across the industry discuss the challenges and opportunities facing specialty crop growers in California and beyond.

One key topic of discussion was the impact of water scarcity on specialty crop production. As California faces increasingly severe drought conditions, growers are struggling to find enough water to sustain their crops. However, experts are optimistic that new technologies like sensors and drip irrigation systems can help growers use water more efficiently and effectively.

Another major challenge facing specialty crop producers is the complex regulatory landscape. As more regulations are implemented to ensure worker safety, protect groundwater, and reduce food safety recalls, growers face ever-increasing costs. However, experts argue that rules based on data-driven decision-making can be effective, while those that mandate specific actions can be counterproductive.

Despite these challenges, there are many exciting opportunities in the specialty crop industry. For example, advances in genetic tools such as CRISPR can help breeders develop crops that are more resistant to abiotic stresses like drought and cold weather. And innovations in food safety testing and fix technologies can help reduce the risk of foodborne illness and recalls.

Investors interested in learning more about these topics should watch the full video of the Deep Dive. They’ll hear from experts in the field, including Walt Duflock, John Kuhn, and Vonnie Estes, who offer insights and perspectives on the latest trends and technologies in specialty crop production.

Overall, the iSelect Deep Dive series on specialty crops is a must-watch for investors in the food and agriculture industry. From discussions on water scarcity and regulation to exciting new technologies like CRISPR and food safety testing, there’s something for everyone in this informative and engaging series.

We were joined by Vonnie Estes, Vice President of Technology with the Produce Marketing Association; John Kuhn, Business Development with Wilbur-Ellis; and Walt Duflock, Vice President of Innovation with Western Growers.


iSelect Deep Dive Specialty Crops Pt 1

David Yocom: good morning everyone, and welcome to iSelect’s Deep Dive webinar series. My name is David Yokom, I’m an associate here on the iSelect Fund Ventures team, and I’m excited to walk you through today’s presentation and findings. For those of you who are new to these webinars, iSelect is an early stage venture capital firm in St.

Louis, Missouri. Focused primarily on early stage companies in healthcare and agriculture. At iSelect, we are privileged to live at the forefront of innovation, seeing emerging problems, solutions, and macro trends at their beginning, before they make their way into popular culture. We use these deep dive presentations not only as a way for us to better engage with and understand new science and technology, but also to engage with experts and entrepreneurs who are driving change in innovation in their respective fields.

One such macro trend that we’ve been researching is the specialty crops industry. Specialty crops represent unique class of crops and food products from fruits and vegetables to tree nuts and flowers. The products produced by this industry make up a significant portion of US agricultural output by value and represent a diverse and important source of high quality nutrition as well.

Especially crop industry has numerous unique challenges that call for similar, unique solutions. And because of this we split this deep dive into two parts. Today we’ll focus on the industry and hope to better understand it. It’s challenges, dynamics, and opportunities. And in August we’ll dive back in, in part two which we’ll focus on technologies that can better serve the specialty crop industry.

A few process comments. Before we begin, we are not soliciting investment or giving investment advice in any way whatsoever. This presentation is general industry research based on publicly available information. We have invited you to do this because your’re technologists thought leaders, entrepreneurs, industry experts, early adopter customers, or sophisticated investors that are part of the iSelect Network.

We value your thoughts, questions, comments, and insights into this topic and would greatly appreciate it if you actively engage during the presentation. We will have an opportunity for questions at the end. If you’d like to ask any questions of our speakers. Finally we ask that you put yourself on mute for the time being.

However, we hope for this to be an engaging interactive presentation. So if you have questions or comments, please feel free to unmute yourself, ask a question and provide commentary. This presentation is being recorded and will be available for replay. And so with that, I am pleased to bring you this week’s deep dive on specialty crops.

Brief agenda before we jump in. We’re gonna do speakers introductions. So you have a great sense of who’s gonna be on and providing a lot of the knowledge and insight from the industry today. I’m really excited about today’s panel. Then I’m gonna do a brief walkthrough of some current definitions and trends to help set the stage for a deeper discussion of the specialty crop industry.

And then we’re gonna have our experts chime in a good amount on some of the key challenges and opportunities of the industry. And then finally, we’ll spend a couple minutes just talking about some of the key takeaways and some opportunities for questions at the end. So with that, I’d love Vonnie, John and Walt our esteemed guests.

Would love if you guys could just give us a really brief intro on yourself and your background before we jump into the presentation today.

Vonnie Estes: Okay, do, I’ll start since I’m first picture up there. My name is Bonnie Estes. I’m the Vice President of Technology at the Produce Marketing Association. I’ve been at PMA for about two and a half years, and prior to that I had a long career in working for different types of companies, both large companies, Monsanto, Syngenta, and DuPont, and also small startup companies.

Pretty much across the whole supply chain of growing and crop inputs and genetics. Thanks.

David Yocom: Happy to be here. Thanks. Mine. John? Yeah.

John Kuhn: John Coon with Wilber Ellis company on our business development team. Work closely with our Partners out in the field as well as bringing new technologies and innovation to our customers.

I’m primarily located on the west coast but do stuff across the nation and yeah, just excited to be a part of the conversation and learned a lot.

David Yocom: Thanks so much, John. And last one, not least Walt.

Walt Duflock: Yeah, good morning everyone. Walt du flock. I’m a fifth generation family farmer from Monterey County with specialty crops, cattle and wine grapes, and 30 years Silicon Valley career.

EBays and startup, you’ve heard of a couple others. Got acquired non AgTech and then last couple years helped build the Thrive Accelerator and join Western Growers as VP of innovation last fall focused on harvest automation and food safety. Excellent. Thanks.

David Yocom: We’re really excited to have all three of you on today.

I’m really excited to hear some of your insights and share that with the audience. So with that, I’m gonna talk for a little bit and then I’m gonna try and talk less. But of course, at any point from any of our speakers, please feel free to jump in with any comments thoughts or additions that you might have.

So let’s just to set the stage here I wanna talk a little bit about the specialty crops industry for anybody who might be new to this topic. The specialty crop industry represents some of our most beloved foods and some others that you may not typically associate with the category.

I think what most of us think the specialty crops think of fruits and vegetables, but there’s a lot more than meats. The immediate imagination included here are tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, nursery crops for culture, even the beloved Christmas tree. Whereas the American Midwest dominance US production of wheat, corn, soy the Pacific Northwest ca, Florida, Southwest, and specifically California, dominate the production of specialty crops in the United States.

Specifically, California produces 20 billion in output annually in just fruit tree nuts and berries, and in total produces 50 billion in agricultural value. Which for context is more than the states of Wyoming in Vermont’s total g d p and equal to that of states like Alaska and Montana. Each year, the US produces 79.8 billion in value from specialty crops, representing 17.6% of agricultural output play value in the United States in a significantly higher value per acre than your typical stable crops.

The top vegetables Americans buy as of the past year are potatoes, tomatoes, and onions. While the top fruits consumed by Americans are bananas, apples, and strawberries on average farms that grow fruit, Trina and berries have fewer acres in production, but higher sales expense and higher expenses, but also a higher net income than the average US farm.

It’s a higher risk, but a higher profit game in all.

So specialty crops are indeed special and an important to numerous applications in the food system. Notable are their dense nutritional content, dense diversity of flavors and high value in the field. They’re clearly important food in the food system and given their desirability, specialty crops are enjoyed by retail, food service and direct to consumer markets alike.

And though I’ve seen different estimates, depending on the geography, it’s typically around sort of 40% to retail, 40% food service, 20% to other applications, which could be consumer applications or farmer’s markets, et cetera. So there’s a 20% other kind of category on the right here just to show a testament to the value the specialty crops hold on a per acre basis.

I pulled this from the USDA’S 2017 survey and then just count out the dollars per acre on a per crop basis. In descending order with flowers and berries, holding the top spots followed by tree fruits, vegetables, nuts, citrus. In comparison to corn, for example, all these crops generate substantial substantially more value per acre, where I think based on recent estimates for corn prices and bushel bushels per acre, you’d be receiving around $550 an acre for corn depending on what your yield was and what the price of at market was.

So it’s significantly higher on a per acre basis compared to some of these other crops. And as we’ll see really shapes the focus of grower decisions and what’s, what challenges really drive the industry. And so some of the trends that we’re gonna cover today are really more trends that are associated with challenges in the supposedly crop industry.

But I wanted to highlight sort of three adjacent trends that I think are interesting and potentially have some applicability in in specialty crops and that may have some applicability going forward and may affect growers, buyers, consumers. So to start during Covid 19, consumers, many ourselves included, became a lot more comfortable buying stuff online.

And us e-commerce penetration nearly doubled than two months after a steady growth over the last decade. The packer whose stats are listed below that chart on the left surveyed consumers and found that consumers who purchased produce online last year, of those who purchased online last year, 42%, that they would continue to buy fresh produce online 62% that they would continue using curbside pickup.

52% said they would keep doing home delivery, and 59% said they were purchasing more fruits and vegetables. Than 10 years ago. And so Vonnie one thing, I’d be curious to get your perspective on here is that given this significant shift in, in buying behavior and also an increased focus on immunity boosting foods, which typically includes fruits and vegetables, do you have any sense of what this will mean for specialty crop, especially crops industry as a whole, and where it might create either opportunities or challenges or difficulties?

Vonnie Estes: Yeah, I think this is an interesting one because we all eat and we all ate during Covid and someone in our house was involved in procuring food. And so this is a very personal one for people because we did see a lot of our behaviors change, and as you said, just a huge increase in online shopping.

And the reason that. People didn’t buy food online before is becasue they really had this idea that, I wanna go in and peruse and pick my own fruits and vegetables and no one else can do that for me. And now people becoming a lot more comfortable with having other people pick their fruits and vegetables and they’ve had.

Overall good experiences and really like the convenience of getting it at home. So this has become something that’s gonna continue and it’s estimated that e-commerce will grow 40% over in 2020. And more people will just continue to buy this way. So it, it does have an impact on the industry as far as what the supply chains will look like.

I think it gives a boost to some of the indoor ag which I know you’re gonna talk about as well. But as far as making those supply chains shorter and having less pieces and moving parts in the supply chain the digitization that’s had to have happened over the time. That of how we actually get the product, from the field to these different places.

The supply chain change, where we’re going to warehouse instead of just the just the stores. So I think it’s an opportunity. There’s new technologies that are coming in to make this easier and more easier around traceability. And it’s also an opportunity for growers and producers to tell their story.

Cuz along with this online shopping, some of the other consumer changes were that people are more interested in their health. They wanna know about the sustainability and social responsibility of the crops that are grown. And so this is all gonna come about in, in people being able to tell their stories more and getting that to the consumer.

David Yocom: Excellent. Thanks, Vonnie. Yeah, that’s a, that’s really insightful context. And I think you, you’ll alluded to the indoor farming piece, so maybe we’ll jump to that in this sort of, in this next piece. So another trend that has continued to mature has been the encompassing greenhouses, high tech greenhouses and vertical farms.

And typically in what are considering when they talk about indoor farming. To date indoor farming has been focused in any commercial context on specialty crops. So mostly greens like spinach and kale, or high value herbs. Though I’ve seen others that have experimented with with fruit crops like a strawberry we’ve seen recent public offerings for App Harvest and AeroFarms in significant later stage funding for groups like plenty Gotham Greens and Bowery.

Image here is a highlight from the National Geographic article that I always highlight when I’m talking about indoor farming, which shows the efficiency of, in the Netherlands on a square I think they do on a square mile basis. And if you look at it closer, click on the link in, in, you can dive deeper, but it’s a, it’s an order in the way that they produce tomatoes.

And so the yield per square mile is really astounding. And highlights the potential of indoor farming as a resource efficiency in a year round production pool. And so I would go back to an maybe two to see if you have a perspective here as well. Is that just given the challenges that we’re gonna talk about in more depth that specialty crop industry is facing and will continue to face, clearly some of those are outside of our control including climate.

Do you have a long-term vision for the role that you think indoor farming or indoor production in general can play in the specialty crop supply chain? And whether you think that this is something that will end up being a larger part of the food system or if it has a smaller role to play in higher end markets.

Vonnie Estes: I can jump in and then Walt can add certainly the growth that we’re seeing in Leafy Green specifically, all the growth is coming from indoor ag, with the, all the companies that you just talked about that are continuing to grow more farms, all the big ones now I think are saying our next farm that we’re building is gonna be the biggest indoor farm.

So it’ll be interesting to see which one really is biggest. But they’re all, going big and building new farms, plenty and aero farms and bright Farms on the greenhouse side, and so people are continuing to build more farms and I think that’s where the growth is right now.

And what I mentioned before around supply chain is super important that, their supply chain is less complex and shorter, and that has advantages. So I think as looking forward over the long term, we’re just gonna have to figure out what’s the best and most suitable way to produce food that has the most return on investment.

So we are gonna talk about the problems later, but certainly climate change is gonna affect how much water we have, where we have water. The quality of that water regulations are gonna have an effect on where we can grow. So I can’t really predict what the timeline’s gonna be but producers are only gonna produce when there’s return on investment.

And so I think we’re gonna slowly see. Some migration where it makes sense for indoor, where you don’t have as much water, so you’re gonna see a migration and you already see companies like Driscolls that are doing both. And so I think we’re gonna see less of this fine line of, only indoor growers and only outdoor growers, but we’re gonna see, continue to see leafy green and other crop production being done by people in the industry.

Walt Duflock: Yeah, I would echo that, Vonnie. Totally agree. And I think where indoor plays relative to traditional specialty crop A is in the higher end premium segments, right? So if you’ve got the top hundred DMAs. Where you’ve got a whole bunch of nice restaurants and they wanna do a locally growing indoor option where you can just all feed off the same indoor farming options.

I think that type of setup will be popular and growing in the next 20 years. I compare it to Yelp a little bit, right? Yelp does great in San Francisco. Maybe not so good in Fresno and Milwaukee, although I suppose they might have cracked Milwaukee by now. So the question is this, from a market adoption perspective, from an addressable market perspective, is can they get beyond that initial locally growing premium segment?

And it’s an open question because the unity economics are so tough. You just, you can’t build, Vonnies’s point, you can build the biggest and biggest, like the skyscraper sky skyscraper rush from a hundred plus years ago. But at the end of the day, it still costs money to grow. And so I think the one place where people may see a, a.

A larger advantage than just building out more greenhouses is genetics, which makes the Driscolls and Plenty relationship really interesting. Those people that can figure out creative genetics with some IP behind it for indoor specific projects, I think will do pretty well.

David Yocom: Yeah, that’s a, that’s another really interesting point and I think some of this mimics almost some of the discussions that we have around meat alternatives.

Whether it’s been plant-based meats or cell-based meats in terms of the types of markets that they can access over time. And then ultimately it ends up always coming back down to price and quality. Do you have something that tastes better than the other products out there? And can you compete on price?

And so I think that, I think the quality piece is there, but the price still remains to be seen. The last trend that I want to cover here, because you can’t talk about impact and ag without talking about soil carbon. And for anybody who’s curious we did a deep dive into soil carbon a few months ago that’s in our YouTube channel.

I encourage you to check out, that was a really fun conversation. But most of the conversation to date about using. Agriculture is a way of sequestering carbon in the soil has been around row crop operations largely because these are much, significantly larger pieces of land, and so there could potentially be a larger amount of carbon that could be stored in those operations.

They also represent some of the networks that are better serviced by those who are standing up These markets like an indigo ag or a nutrient where they’re reaching to Roe is obviously very significant. And so I personally haven’t heard a ton of conversation about how the specialty crop industry gets engaged here.

But I’d be curious to get John’s thoughts and as someone who works really closely as a retailer with growers, but also Wal and Vni. I would love to get your perspective as well. Do you think there is a significant opportunity or any need for the specialty crop to industry to decarbonize or capture soil carbon credits?

Are growers thinking about this here, or are there just simply other bigger fish to fry in terms of challenges? And this is just something that’s just not a big enough issue for specialty crop growers? I think the

John Kuhn: opportunity is there. I think the, what we’re lacking right now is clarity around some of the requirements and regulations around

David Yocom: and standards around the carbon piece, on the

John Kuhn: specialty part, right?

That you look at in the broad acre row crop a lot of the requirements are minimum or no-till Targeted or reduced nitrogen cover cropping a lot of those additionality requirements. I’m not saying a blanket statement, but they’re pretty widely adopted across the specialty market already.

Wh and in permanent crops, how do you do a minimum till or cover crop of something, of an orchard or a vineyard that’s been established? And so I think those questions have yet to be answered. I think the opportunity, like you said, the low hanging fruit prop, no pun intended, is probably in the broad acre, upper Midwest corn belt area right now.

Hence the focus of these companies. But the opportunity for the story of sustainable and regenerative agriculture on the West Coast, I think is promising. There’s just a lot of. Factors that need to be considered and thought through for that to really become a sustainable carbon

David Yocom: market or credit piece.

Yeah, I would definitely agree with that. Vonnie, Walt, anything you guys would add to that?

Vonnie Estes: Yeah, I would just add, I did a think tank with a bunch of our members last month and just brought people together to just have a discussion about this. And the biggest feeling that I got from people is that there’s this feeling of I’m missing out.

I’m a producer, I of fruits and vegetables and I’m missing out on this. Everyone else has got it figured out. And so I think that was a really interesting conversation of everyone’s talking about this and it keeps coming up. And so they think that there’s something to be done.

And I think what we can do, as associations and people in the industry is to maybe try to help figure out what is the path for produce growers because it is a different path and, it’s, we don’t want people to go down some direction that isn’t really helpful to them. So I think it’s, there is some possibility there to, to get some carbon credits and to be good for the growers, but we’re not there yet.

We don’t have a way to measure it. The regulations aren’t there, the markets aren’t there, but I think we should continue to try to figure it out.

David Yocom: Yeah. Yeah, I agree with that. Great. There’s one more slide I want to cover here before we get into sort of core challenges. And we have some spend some time talking through the main challenges in the industry.

But one thing I, we were really curious about where some of the core cost drivers for especially the crop industry, and for anybody who is curious to look into some of these resources, uc, Davis has a really interesting bank of studies that they’ve done across a wide variety of crops in the specialty crop industry.

And they basically itemize the operating costs of an operation and then the value per per acre on average for that operation. So obviously this changes depending on what kind of crop you’re looking at. But I, I looked at crops across strawberries, apples, spinach, and broccoli. Strawberries are are highlighted here.

And what I noticed across all four of those crops was that while there were some variations in terms of. Some of the input costs and some of the costs that are unique to that crop specifically. So like for strawberries like clamshells for actually like storing and and picking strawberries into is a larger cost that you wouldn’t see in some of these other crops.

But across the board when I averaged out the where most of the costs were coming from. It was around 40% labor as a percent of of total costs for all four of those crops. And there was some other variability within that. So sometimes they would, sometimes the, these items included a little bit of labor, but most of the time, labor was listed as a as harvest as harvesting labor, as being one of the most expensive pieces of the operation.

And so this differs significantly from row crops where the cost of labor as a percentage of total costs is significantly lower. You can see this on the chart on the right, which shows that sort of on average, most of the crops that are at the, on the higher end in terms of percentage of total costs being from labor are all specialty crops.

And then you see corn and soy at the bottom as that not being as significant of an issue. And in fact the dominating costs for a corn soy operation are seed fertilizer, and And chemicals labor’s gonna dominate some of the conversation we have here going forward, but I would be curious, Walt and John, to get your perspective on, while labor is the dominating factor in terms of farm operating costs, are there any other key drivers that you work with growers on, and what are they thinking the most about?

Because labor’s not always in their control. So what are the other pieces of the operating budget that are of the most concern that growers are tinkering

Walt Duflock: with the most? Yeah. It’s not surprising David it’s the top three problems when I was a kid or the top three problems today, right?

Labor, water, food safety. And what’s really crazy about today is think about California, right? Food safety you’ve got recall challenges and product challenges. And here we go into another specialty car crop session and we’ll see how we can do this year in managing that. Water. You’ve got sigma and historic drought conditions, and yet with all that backdrop, labor is the number one thing we hear about.

I’ve got a colleague, Dennis Donahue at Western Growers. We do the drive right from the Bay Area down to Yuma on the five back up to 1 0 1, talk to probably 20 to 30 growers Every couple weeks we do the drive and we’re going in a couple weeks again. And labor is by far the biggest challenge.

It’s both in terms of both the regulatory costs, pushing the economics in a bad direction and the, just the core availability of labor. So I would argue, water and food safety right there in terms of concern. But labor definitely number one for the moment. Thanks,

David Yocom: Paul. John, any, anything that you’re that you’re working with some of your growers on and other in, in, in addition to labor?

Other things that keep them up at night or that they’re looking for new solutions inside of some of these line items? Yeah. And,

John Kuhn: Along the labor piece, just to build upon that even right to echo what wall, I don’t think I’ve talked to a customer that says they’re overstaffed, that they need to cut people.

Everybody’s looking for everybody’s understaffed. But I think one of the biggest things we hear from a lot of customers is what can they do? How can they become more efficient with the current labor and current constraints that they have right now as as regulatory increases, as labor access and access to quality labor decreases, how can they produce the same amount of apples and better quality apples with the same resources that they have?

And so that efficiency factor really really has started to become top of mind for a lot of these big fruit producers, even up in the northwest of managing full transparency into managing their operation. And how to extrapolate each detail from the field and maximize their roi. So just more transparency into their true costs and opportunity to improve that.

David Yocom: Yeah. The, the, something you just said reminds me of a conversation that you and I had thinking about how the specialty crop industry isn’t necessarily so much about yield per, obviously yield’s important, but it’s really so much more about quality. Can you talk a little bit about how your relationship what the relationship looks like for a retailer with a producer and how that’s different when you’re focused on quality over, like trying to get as much yield outta the land as possible?

Like what, how does that end up looking different compared to something like a corn and soy operation in their relationship with a retailer? I think

John Kuhn: a lot of it From a retailer’s perspective is gonna be touchpoints on the farm. We see in the specialty the, a lot more connection a lot more connecting points to a retailer through subject matter experts, through nutrition, through pests, through water, through fertility.

And there’s, probably six to seven people that are connected on the farm with one customer working on a per acre basis to produce a better apple. Whereas in the broad acre row crop you, that person is one person that does all of those facets. And it’s a lot more integrated approach.

There’s a lot more risk. We on the fruit and veggie market, we see a lot of our business being risk management of how can we help the growers navigate through all the different abiotic and biotic stresses that are outside of their control to produce the best quality fruit. And in instead of maximizing the bushels in the bulk tank, and so there is an inverse relationship there.

And from the retailer side. Yeah. A lot of it about is connectivity with the customers.

David Yocom: Yeah. No, it certainly seems like it’s a higher touch operation and you simply have more people involved with the operation as a whole on a, yeah. Per farm. It seems like there’s five or six people committed from Wil Ellis who are all working on various aspects of them.

Absolutely. And, sorry, we did have one question in the audience. I just wanted to clarify on this slide. Within the line items of materials, contract and custom, which are obviously very vague in, in inside of that includes fumigation, soil testing, trays, and clamshells were one of the major pieces of the custom line item in the strawberry operation specifically.

So you wouldn’t necessarily see that in other in other crops. But I would encourage anybody to walk to, to click on the link for operating budgets below and you can go look at the cost drivers for a bunch of these different crops. Excellent. The next section here is focus on challenges and opportunities.

And we’re gonna focus on four ch four key challenges that are in the specialty crop industry. And we’ll see if we can get through all of them. And then also into the opportunities as well. The opportunities really meant to be a preliminary discussion to allude to part two where we’re gonna bring some of the innovators who are working on technologies that we can then can solve some of these four, or at least chip away at some of these four.

Key challenges that I’m gonna right now. So after speaking with the panel the panelists prior to today’s webinar we narrowed down the industry’s core challenges to four or five key buckets. Those general agreements that labor is the largest unmet challenge in the specialty crop indu in specialty crop production to date.

Followed by water scarcity and food safety tied for tier two. And then finally regulatory compliance, which the more I read about re regulatory compliance really is just Largely medical regulations surrounding issues one through three. So increased regulatory costs around human labor food safety and then water regulation.

Like the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. And so finally there also is a problem at the consumer level on the food waste side. It’s also at the farm gate level, cuz there’s always gonna be waste at the farm gate level. But most of mo, the majority of the waste that occurs in specialty occur, occurs at the consumer.

But in general, the waste issue is significant at about 34 to 36% of total produce. And so you start to look at that from an environmental standpoint. The numbers are pretty staggering. We’re not gonna dive into that issue today. We actually have content that is on that specifically, but we’re gonna talk about the first four here.

So I want to kick things off. By jumping into the labor issue. So to start a few stats to frame the challenge between 2002 and 2014 the US lost 146,000 field crop workers and that issue has continued to exacerbate. 56% of California farmers reported not being able to find enough laborers in the last five years.

And while availability of labor has fallen, cost of labor has increased as both a function, one of scarcity but also two of regulation. In the US, agricultural wages increased 10% as it on average from 2014 to 2018. But in California, wages will have increased by 42% between 2017 and 2022 with a minimum wage at $15 an hour.

And as you can see on the right California and the West have been the hardest hit. The inability to find sufficient labor, particularly at harvest time, is one of the reasons the US has continued to see increased exports of or Im sorry, imports of fruits and vegetables into the United States from countries like Mexico.

Walt, I have a question for you here and others. Please do feel free to chime in. While there’s a number of significant issues faced by especially crop growers, you and I discussed that this one really takes the cake. And so can you give us a sense of how challenging the issue has been over the last 10 years?

And in the same token, can you speak a little bit to the way in which, harvest automation really hasn’t matured quickly enough for the industry as it is really clearly needed. And do you have any perspective on sort of solutions that can help in the meantime? And I guess finally any sort of perspective on the future of labor and automation and how they coincide on the farm given that, given how immediate this issue is.

Walt Duflock: No. And I know you’ve got a slide with some comparison and how fast stuff happened over 12 years and I’ll just tell you it’s real for California agriculture, and that’s, those are two cal poly studies that are really good because they were 12 years apart with the same farmer, same crop.

And again, 800% lift in regulatory cost. And if you look at it, three of the top four line items weren’t even on the 2005 study. And they’re on the 2017 study. So you go from 109 an acre to, 7 99 77 an acre. It’s a massive hit. And along with that, the labor numbers you just outlined David, are right.

So what’s happening is you’re just seeing a lot of pressure, and we talk to the growers about this all the time. Why are we importing so much stuff because we’re growing at other places, right? So the reality is a lot of this regulation’s an attempt to, to grow agricultural products better in California, in the us and the FDA and U S D are driving a lot of those regulations and yet in practical impact that has the effect of losing a lot of acreage for California.

So you and I talked about asparagus. There were 60,000 acres of asparagus when I was a kid, and lots of different growers. Imperial Valley was very popular for asparagus and we’re down to about 600 acres. Today with much, much less grower impact. And it’s to the point now where is there even a critical mass of asparagus for the automation folks, right?

So it’s a great example. And at the same time, crops like strawberry, look at the Strawberry Commission reports the last couple years. There’s a critical mass issue with this regulatory cost that I just want people to think about for a moment. When you put all these costs onto the strawberry farmers and you lose a couple, 50 acre fields here, 50 acre fields there in a county, the supporting infrastructure that helps with strawberries can no longer afford to provide in county resources, right?

So the equivalent of the Wilbur Ellis is on the strawberry side. You all of a sudden start providing support from outside the county. So this regulatory cost has a twofold impact. Costs go up and then supporting costs go up behind it. The stuff that helps the grower do their stuff effectively, and that just accelerates the trend.

The good news is there is some silver lining here. What’s managed to save the day for a lot of this, while we have all this production growth the last 50 years and all the shrinking labor force that you mentioned, David, is automation, right? So whether it’s thinning, planting, weeding, harvesting, it’s never moving fast enough, but it is moving and it is having a big impact.

And the one place that I would say is popping up on the radar screen is harvest aid, where you don’t actually help harvest, but you help with things around harvest. So think about the Gian Burrow Charlie and his team I’ve worked with for a couple years now, they don’t harvest, but they run the harvested product back to the truck, which again, to the grower is, it solves some of that gap between the labor I have and the labor I need by putting a little, little flatbed truck on the way back to the real truck.

So I think automation’s gonna continue to happen. And Harvest aid will continue to happen. But, we’re all doing automation and the Harvest Automation project we launched in Tula in February with Western Growers is focused on this because it’s such a big percentage. It’s, the reality is it’s gonna take a while because you’ve gotta build a whole lot of pieces, do a whole lot of field testing and get the economic model working.

It’s probably, I would argue AgTech is one of the hardest tech segments I’ve ever seen. And harvest is probably the hardest segment in AgTech, unfortunately.

David Yocom: Yeah. No, it’s definitely much easier said than done, unfortunately, for how badly it’s needed. Yo, I would, one thing I would just follow up on that when.

When you talk to growers, do you get a sense of what kind of solution is the most ideal to them? Is it something that’s more of a transitory? Let’s reduce the number of people we need and make them more efficient so that maybe we can pay them a better wage, but also just reduce the over the overall cost of production?

Or are more growers looking for, let’s get a silver bullet, let’s get something out in the field that can pick, pack, sanitize, and do the whole thing.

Walt Duflock: I think the former David really nails it. I think they’re looking for point solutions that they can integrate into their operation and just quite simply, for all the AgTech entrepreneurs that are out there, the innovators are out there.

Flip, flip the bit around. I see so many, I see a lot of decks from startups, right? And I love watching startups. I mentor a lot of ’em, work with a lot of ’em, look at ’em from an investment lens. And I would just say, put your solution. Here’s how I’ll describe it. I see a lot of decks that are a solution desperately in search of a problem.

And if you can’t get your solution framed in terms of an economic problem that keeps the farmer up at night, keep trying. Because there’s so many of you out there. We all see the increased funding numbers from AG funder and eight x lifton funding over the last 10 years. That means more and more startups banging on growers doors.

And that means your pitch has to be that much better to get heard. So if you’re talking, tying it to, buzzwords like sustainability that are interesting, right? And re and relevant. But if you can’t tie it to, I’m gonna help you solve this problem with this kind of better economics, it’s gonna get hard to get above the noise.


Vonnie Estes: would just add one thing, echoing what Walt said on automation, because the crops in this sector are so different. When you look at how can we build some harvesting incredibly expensive, a hundred million thing to put in the field to do harvesting that’s gonna be a bill, really big leap.

And it costs a lot of money. And I’m not sure the industry’s gonna be able to support those kinds of huge kind of silver bullet things like you were talking about. So these kind of half step harvest aids like Walt was talking about, I think focusing more on that, look at the whole system of harvesting and look for places that we can actually do something that’s half a step instead of looking for the silver bullet that costs a hundred million to

David Yocom: build.

Great. That’s

John Kuhn: fine. I would agree. I would even go a step further of outside of the harvest realm. I think customers are interested in, they’re making multiple passes over the same acre in a year, depending on the crop can be up to probably 18 to 20. How can they maybe with automation, can they minimize votes to go, from 18 passes to 15 to 12, can they do two?

Can a automated piece of equipment do two operations in one and minimizing their cost reducing the constraints on labor to get people to drive tractors? I think growers are also interested

David Yocom: in those type of solutions. Yep. Yeah. And there’s some inter, there’s some interesting ones that I’ve seen as well, actually in your neck of the woods, they’re even as simple as we make it easier to count the number of apples on a tree, which.

Humans aren’t that good at doing that. We’re not very good at estimating how many apples are on a tree. Yeah, I think there’s a really interesting set of pieces of technology that are from the most simple to some pretty incredible pieces of machinery. Yeah, I’m

Vonnie Estes: gonna add one more piece of that, just as you’re talking about that and thinking about things like breeding, if like with broccoli and some of the other crops where you have to harvest four or five times out in the field and so you’re running over that field that many times just to harvest, and what can we do with breeding so that you only have to harvest once or twice.

And so I think really opening up that solution set, I know outside of automation, like you said, John and what are some other technologies that can just make it, so that we use less labor.

Walt Duflock: Yeah. No, it’s a great point, Bonnie. And I’ll tell you we’ve worked with a lot of subject matter experts on harvest the last two years as part of the Western Grower Harvest Initiative.

And it is really interesting. Your point is exactly right. The two things that optimize innovation impact the last 20 years are just that genetics as a major one in farming practices, right? So how can you present that food in a way that the harvester can see it better understand which food to harvest or weed or thin and which to leave for later.

3D to 2D for the trees is huge, right? Just that type of genetic impact. So I think innovators that, that are able to plug into all three parts, the innovation itself the mechanized part and the genetics and the farming practice and build that story for the grower are gonna have a lot higher likelihood for success.

It’s a startup, so never guarantee, but it’s gonna help if you can do all three and tell the story. Yep.

David Yocom: Excellent. Thank you all for your perspective there. The next piece I want to cover is water in the West. Anyone living on the West Coast knows that the drought has been a persistent theme for a long time.

And, but every time a new super drought comes along, the data is ever more foreboding. As you can see here right now 72% of the Western US is in severe drought representing California’s driest year since 1977. And for some states it’s the driest year since the last 120 years of record keeping drought affects all crops.

But as you can see on the heat map on the right, it particularly affects the regions that we covered earlier that account for the majority of specialty produce production. And as a result of this, farmers often face significant water restrictions. They force them to choose not to plant parts of their land or remove production entirely.

Sometimes in the case of tree crops and question here for John and Walt thinking through the drought in California and the west and southwest and northwest more broadly do you think things have reached a breaking point where it’s not as feasible for there to be as much production in, to occur in dry climates like California?

And what should the industry be thinking about from a long-term perspective as we as climate is likely to become drier and potentially more variable?

I think,

Walt Duflock: Yeah, I can take, go ahead John. Go ahead. No, I was just gonna say I think what makes California unique is that Mediterranean climate, that’s, that is so friendly for a lot of these specialty crops. And I think what’s really interesting is there’s only a few places in the world that have that, and I think California’s really done itself a disservice the last 50 years by not investing more in two areas that I think are huge opportunities and we’ve delivered significant innovation globally.

And that is water storage and how you store more of it right now. A lot of it runs out from the snow pack and the rainfall out back into the ocean never gets captured. Haven’t done a new water project in California in a couple decades and haven’t maintained the stuff that’s here and then desalinization for the counties on the coast, whether it’s San Luis Obisbo, Monterey, Santa Barbara, San Diego, and the rest of ’em. We really haven’t done any decal projects. So I think if we’re gonna take the drought seriously and try and manage the water resources that we have I think we’re gonna have to look seriously at putting more infrastructure in place.

And I think the Biden infrastructure plan is a, is an interesting capital source for some of this. And I think desalinization has to be looked at to date in California. There’s been some forces working against us that a pretty major way at scale. And we need to keep them at the table and talking about this because I think until we have more storage and more reliability, the situation’s only gonna get worse.

Ironically, I’ll throw this into the mix and see if the other folks have a thought on it. I actually think the regulatory environment is what’s gonna force our hand in water storage. If you look at where Sigma’s playing out and my sister’s on our groundwater sustainability agency for our basin, you’re gonna see reallocations potentially away from farming.

And the minute that happens, you will get massive lawsuits for water takings. And if you do the math on water takings and what that could add up to over years and decades, that may be the straw that actually breaks the camels back and forces some water storage investment, because it doesn’t take too many of those to justify some investment in storage.

But but we need something. We need innovation. We have it if we’re willing to adopt it. And there’s better and better storage out there and better desal options out there. We just haven’t adopted them in California while other regions have and gained the advantage.

I think

John Kuhn: Maybe talking more just specifically on the crop production piece. During drought we’ve put considerable effort into looking how can we help manage water combined with fertility practices to in continue to produce high quality fruit and grow. Actually collecting a database on water usage and what soil moisture looks and how can we compile that with, and combine that with fertility and other agronomic or horticulture growth aspects to continue to grow apples and pears and cherries with minimal amounts of water or smartly timed applied water through our irrigation.

I think the old days of just even in the potato ground of just turning the pivot on when it’s hot to help keep things cold, is probably gone. And how can we how can we better utilize the water resources that, the limited water resources that we still have? I think that’s still there’s a lot of room for innovation in that space.

David Yocom: Yeah.

Walt Duflock: Is there, I would echo that, David. Sorry. I would totally acknowledge John’s point. I think there are a lot of innovations like Drip over the last several years. Irrigation improvements. We’ve definitely seen some of that. And I think that’s part of the solution. I think it’s a portfolio of solutions that involve intelligent, conservation with sensors and equipment and drip evolving.

And then again, we’ve gotta think high level at a, what about all the water that gets away from us? Like those two things working in concert, or again, the water costs will keep driving up available, go down. And we know that’s gonna push acreage outside of California ironically to lower regulated environments as we mentioned earlier.

So it’s it’s an interesting trade off. And I think

John Kuhn: even going further to vni your point of earlier the breeding aspect of looking at, maybe drought tolerant plants need to be the standard now and a lot more emphasis on that. I think there’s a lot of tools some cool genetic tools that are being developed that can address some of those.

But again, the breeding process is also a long not a quick fix. It’s a long process to get to a solution.

Vonnie Estes: I think a couple of add-on points, one of the things that’s really changing in California is that we, in the past, in, our lifetimes have gotten our water through melted snow pack. And to Walt’s comment about infrastructure is we are now with climate change and going forward, likely gonna get more of our water through rain.

And so that requires a different kind of storage and a different kind of system that, we’re not really equipped for. So hopefully that will happen. And then also I haven’t worked as much on water technologies. I’m just starting to look into it, so there’s probably a lot more out there than I know of.

But I was talking to one company that is using sensors to, to help just open irrigation ditches and close them, based on different factors of need. And that helps one with using less water and then two, with using less labor because you don’t have to send a person out. So I think there’s.

There’s a great opportunity for using different types of technologies to solve these various different water problems.

David Yocom: Yep. Excellent. Walt Vni, John, thank you guys for your perspective on the water issue. The next piece I want to, I wanna touch on and trying to move quickly through here so that we can answer some of these questions that we have from the audience.

Walt Duflock: Yeah, David I think I got most of that question. I think what I see on the innovation front that’s interesting is I think we’re doing a better and better job with testing products that can identify this the food born, the pathogens out there that cost, that cause the recalls.

I think there’s been good. Soil, water and product testing out there for a while. I think those get more scalable better and cheaper every year, which is great. I think the on the truck stuff is emerging. I think there’s some technology out there that’s been in play for a while that’s gonna allow you to do food safety tests at the field and get reports back a lot quicker.

Which is great cuz when you think about a harvest operation, you know the number one thing you want to do is get data as close to the pick as possible on food safety. So I think testing we’ve seen some great pro progress in. And then I think in terms of fix, that’s really the new frontier for me is, okay, how can we fix this stuff?

Because identifying it’s one thing and keeping it out of the food stream is great, but. But not just identifying can we actually fix it? And there’s some interesting solutions out there that I think will get to scale in the next few years. That’ll be interesting on that solve. So not just IDing e coli and cyclosporine listeria, but actually getting rid of them during the food production process.

Those are the two places I see some nice innovation.

David Yocom: I know you’d mentioned a I think a sort of flash pasteurization or radiative technology of some kind. And I know we’ve seen some others that are in that universe as well. And those are using cold plasma for more, for more for mycotoxins, but also applicable to some of the food safety concerns here.

Exactly. I’m gonna jump, I’m gonna jump through to the next one cause I know we’re starting to bump up against time and I wanna make sure we have time to cover all of the segments here. And I ap I apologize for this brand, this grainy chart in advance, but it is a good grainy chart from a very good article that I’d encourage anybody who’s interested in reading about reor regulatory costs to read.

I saved


David Yocom: for last because again, the regulatory landscape, especially crops, has been heavily shaped by challenges in labor, water and food safety management. So in a study conducted by Cal Poly of the Salinas Valley Lettuce Grower regulatory cross costs between 2006 and 2017 increased by 795% largely as a result of policies focused on improving worker wages and conditions, improving groundwater management and reducing food safety recalls.

So it’s important to note that these are all important issues. And it goes without saying that growers, but it goes without saying that growers have borne the cost of the implementation of this regulation. So obviously these are all pieces where we want to have controls and checks and balances on these types of either natural or human resources.

But I guess, Wal, I would’ve a question for you and any others who would wanna chime in with a perspective, let me know. But do you have any perspective on where some of these regulations make sense, where they’re probably pushing ag out of California and into countries like Mexico, where they have lower regulatory thresholds, and so that we end up importing products that are produced with a lower cost.

We’re just pushing the impact that we were worried about in California and just pushing them off to somewhere else. Do you have any sense of what a

Walt Duflock: balance looks like? I have a lot of perspective on this one, David. I’ll try and share it quickly. I think the place where regulations make the most sense is when the regulators ask for data.

And then can make some decisions based on the data. I think where it’s proven much less effective is when they ask for a specific actions, right? So for example, a lot of the field perimeter traps that you see around production agriculture, right? Those are those white PVC pipes that everyone sees.

Those are pest traps, right? Those are rodent traps. And I. Asking for reporting data on that so you can identify where there are hotspots of activity is huge because if those rodents get inside the field, that’s an awful lot of food safety risk, right? In terms of foreign objects getting into the food supply chain.

And so asking for data on that is great. Mandating how they do it not great. And just to give you a cost structure on that, I talked to one of the growers in Salinas Valley who farms on our ranch. He says, one full-time employee per 1000 acres of specialty crops is required just to monitor those traps and do the reporting.

And that’s an awful lot of expense, right? But it’s the right thing to do. So specify the reporting, let the growers figure out how to do it. I would argue that’s the right way to do it. The wrong way to do it. And this is one of my favorite pet peeves, is the hefty bag fences that wrap around those fields, right?

That we all see those visual little black trash bag fences. Those create the appearance of food safety without actually doing anything for food safety. The deer jump over, the mice go under the animals walk around if they’re not fully enclosed and they can’t be. And so I would argue prescriptively mandating fences around production, agriculture, not the right way to do it.

So there’s a little comparison. Got it. Thanks.

David Yocom: Before we jump any other comments, Bonnie or John that you guys would want to add here?

Okay. So the last slide that I want to cover before we go into just some, any questions that we have from the audience just starts to allude to. Some of the techno, just a handful of technologies that are being deployed to solve some of these issues and some of them we’ve talked about today.

Others we haven’t. But that these are gonna be some of the solutions that we’re gonna cover in depth in part two of this deep dive series. And looking at the startups and technologies that are being deployed in this space. I’ve highlighted a few here. These include CRISPR and genetics automation and robotics.

Rapid food safety diagnostics water management solutions for sort of precision water management. And then extended shelf life solutions to reduce food waste, which I know we didn’t discuss ton in depth, but I think there’s a lot of companies that are really interesting that are working on this problem.

And each of these really has the potential to improve crop quality, resilience, crop resilience, reduce costs, and improve safety of food for everyone. One of these technologies I spoke with both Bonnie and John A. Little bit about, and so would be interested to hear your thoughts. We had spoken a little bit about opportunities for CRISPR inside of specialty crop production and the ability to use genetics to either improve the quality of crops or improve the resilience of crops.

And so across, across both you, are there any opportunities that you’ve been intrigued by? To date that CRISPR can help service. And is there any interesting work that you’ve noticed that you think is worth mentioning? I think,

John Kuhn: I think a lot of the interesting work that I’ve seen and maybe more specifically focused up in the northwest

David Yocom: around CRISPR is really

John Kuhn: been around dealing with abiotic stresses and so dealing with what some interesting work around freeze tolerance and tolerance to cold weather.

We in the right, in the fresh tree fruit market, we deal with that quite a bit of we get cold close to bloom and that can be pretty detrimental to to crops. So really looking at the The abiotic pressures stuff that historically and traditionally we can’t influence has been pretty interesting.

I’ve seen some work done very early stages around the soil salinity and soil pH some tolerance around that as well. I’m not sure again, a lot of genetic stuff is quite early in development and takes quite some time. And then you also pointed it out of I don’t, I’m not sure where the stance is on regulatory and as well as social acceptance.

I think that’s a big piece of it in the specialty market so far.

David Yocom: Yeah. Yeah, I definitely agree on that. On the, the regulatory piece seems like it’s definitely a type of, it’s a product class that has seemed to lean heavily and especially the organic and non GMO labeling piece. And so undoing that is a labor in and of itself.

Bonnie did you have a thought? Yeah, I think,

Vonnie Estes: The regulatory piece, at least in the US is pretty, we’re, I’m pretty strong footing with gene editing and that it isn’t regulated as a G M O in Europe, that it is still considered A G M O and hopefully that will change.

And, but that’s been one of the biggest slowdowns in the specialty crop area. Because so many of the products and or the genetics, the root stocks and the seeds are sold into Europe. And so a lot of the breeding companies, if they can’t sell to Europe, then it’s not worth developing cuz these things are really expensive and take a long time.

I’ve been working and involved more on the consumer traits. So looking at what can gene editing do for consumer traits like convenience and there’s a number of companies pairwise is one that is doing a lot of work on convenience types of consumer traits to get people to eat more fresh produce using gene editing, nutritional qualities, things like non browning.

So I think one of the things that we need to pay attention to, as John mentioned, is just the social license of using gene editing. And if we can come up with some traits that. Consumers are, totally wowed by and will accept the technology because they really want higher nutrition or better flavor or longer lasting.

Then I think that’s gonna pave the way for some of these other technologies that we can use in the field. Cuz it’s a really strong technology. We just need to, watch how we progress, make sure that we have social license to use it.

David Yocom: Yep, definitely agree. VNY and and Walt and John, appreciate all your perspective here on the last number of slides at this point.

What I’d love to do is just jump briefly to our sort of q and a section. I know we have a couple questions from the audience. That would be great. If you guys have a couple minutes just to see if we’ve got any answers that might be helpful. One is from Ray Riley and it’s too bad that John had to drop here, but The question is what input areas are growers looking for new solutions in?

While I don’t know if you had any thoughts or have heard anything from any of the

Walt Duflock: growers you work with, you definitely see a lot of natural tension between the chemical area and the biology area generally. So can we do more with biology and less with chemistry? I was at the bio role conference on a panel a couple months ago with Pam Marone and Crew.

And there it seemed like when not if biology takes over from chemistry, I think that’s a little bit aggressive. I think it’s a portfolio mix of solutions and I think as biological solutions show up that are better than chemistry or can perform better with chemistry, and again, I keep saying it broken record, but with economics that work for the grower, I think they’ll get a hearing and they’ll get some field trials.

But just biology for its own sake it needs to be better than the stuff we’re using now. And I think that’s starting to happen.

David Yocom: Group that. And then this question is from Connie. Hi Connie. How how do you drive scale? How do you drive to scale up regional specialty crop out production outside of the West coast within the us?

So thinking specifically about the Delta opportunity is it better to desal and figure out how to maintain California dominant exports? Or is it better dis to distribute production? And if the latter, how do we work together to figure out tech investment in diverse crops and diverse regions?

Walt Duflock: Yeah, I can take take this one vati and then jump in after. I, I think, so my argument for California, I didn’t Mind you, I’m a born and raised California and is very proud of our agricultural heritage. And I would argue this the, one of the strongest arguments for keeping ag in California.

Is that AgTech comes with it, right? So the reason that the US and California is the number two market for a lot of AgTech innovations in specialty crops is because everyone knows they need to be here. So I think your point is well taken. We could certainly distribute the production and again, subject to Mediterranean climates or things like indoor.

But from a policy perspective, the reason to keep California Ag strong is because then the AgTech innovation comes with it. So the G D P that follows ag G D P, that 50 billion that David mentioned earlier. There’s an AgTech G D P that comes with that, and it doesn’t take an awful lot of automation solutions on a per acre per year basis to get that G D P number pretty big.

You guys can find me on medium for a few of my thoughts. I’ve got a few on this one, but the AgTech GDP behind ag is is pretty significant. I

Vonnie Estes: think I would add that there is a lot of value to trying to distribute in other places, just to for one thing, just develop less complex supply chains that solves some of the problems.

And so indoor is certainly one that, most places if you have money, if you can bring and attract the money there. But App Harvest and some of these companies that are building in different places on indoors. So I think that’s definitely one that we could, pull cross country.

And there’s a number of indoors that are trying to do that. I think also where it’s economically viable and that, Connie, I know you have a lot of views on how to look at different regions and, how can we not, how can we not just have monoculture and just grow corn and soy throughout the whole Midwest?

Are there ways to grow other things and how do you make that economically viable? But I think it’d be great to, to pull things across. It’s just if people can’t make money doing it, they’re not gonna do it.

David Yocom: Thanks Bonnie. And then finally we have one last question. I think we’ll wrap things up here. How does vertical farming play to improve the resistance of disease reduction? Or the reduction of the use of chemicals and fruits and veg? I dunno if either of you want to provide any thoughts there.

I think the opportunity in theory is that yes, it could reduce diseases and reduce the use of chemicals.

Vonnie Estes: Yeah, I think most of the indoor farm production facilities will tell you they don’t use any I don’t work there, so I don’t know. It just seems I bet they have some problems that, come in on the media or come in on the seat or come in through people, but most of them will say they don’t use any pesticides.

But certainly because you don’t have, you’re not growing in an outdoor environment where I think what was mentioning earlier, where you have all sorts of animals moving through the field and, you’re using irrigation water that might have gone by, a farm or a poultry production.

And so I think the opportunity is certainly better indoors that you don’t have all these outdoor things coming in. But I don’t have the exact data, but most of the indoor places say they don’t use any.

David Yocom: Yep. Yep. Yep. Perfect. Sorry, Wal, did you wanna add something?

Walt Duflock: No, I totally agree with Bonnie.


David Yocom: gotcha. Before we wrap things up here I do want to highlight that Walt and Bonnie both have awesome content out on the internet that anybody’s interested in food and Ag should check out. Walt has a fantastic blog on his on his medium some really interesting insights across AgTech in California.

AgTech in general has obviously done a lot of really interesting work in this space. And then Vny do you wanna, did you wanna say something about the podcast that you’ve been running? Sure.

Vonnie Estes: We’re yesterday I dropped the 25th episode, so I’ve been doing this for a year now. And we have over 125,000 downloads and.

I just, I look mostly at problems in the in the produce area and then try to talk to startups and different companies that have solutions to the problems that we have. So it’s been a really fun journey on the podcast and hope you take a listen.

David Yocom: Excellent.

Walt Duflock: Bonnie’s, I fully endorse Bonnie’s podcast.

It’s called

Vonnie Estes: PMA Takes On Tech. You can go to our website or you can go to Spotify or any place where you listen to podcasts.

David Yocom: Awesome. And John, if you have content on the web, I apologize that you had to leave us soon. But if, I’ll be sure to follow up on that. Ronnie, John Walt, thank you all so much for your time today.

This is a really excellent, fascinating discussion. And I think provided a lot of clarity to our team and to other, hopefully others in the audience on how this industry works and what some of the core challenges and opportunities are within the specialty crop industry. As I had alluded to earlier this is part one.

So if you’re interested in learning more join us in August for part two of this deep dive series on specialty crops where we’re gonna take a closer look at the startups and technologies that are working to help solve many of the challenges that, that we covered today. We will have more information on what companies will be presenting as a part of, there’ll be a similar format to what we did today.

And the date in August is T v d, but probably gonna be the second or third Wednesday of of the month. Otherwise thank you everyone for your time today, both the audience and our panelists. We really appreciate your support and thoughtful questions. And we look forward to seeing you next month.


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