With Coastal Vistas and acres of green fields, California’s Central Coast is visually stunning, but it provides much more than that, it’s also an 8 billion agriculture powerhouse. “Known as the ‘salad bowl of the world,’ a nickname stemming from its cultivation and marketing of the easily shipped iceberg lettuce varietal in the 1950s, Monterey County’s Salinas Valley is one of the top producers of fresh and value-added vegetables in the world.” But as the world changes, so do the methods of conserving such space. Growers and producers are finding that they must find ways to change and develop, so they are turning to technology to improve their ag production and thrive.
Although the soil and climate of Salinas Valley are perfectly suited for agriculture, it’s rich land in a dry state. Drought has been plaguing much of the food production industry in the recent years, “but Salinas has a major benefit in technology that has allowed this region to stay relatively insulated against the worst of the drought’s effects.” The adoption of microirrigation techniques, like the drip tape strategy that delivers water uniformly and directly to crop roots, has been implemented to more than 60 percent of operations for the last two decades; this has saved water. According to Norm Groot of Monterey County Farm Bureau Executive Director, ‘we’ve grown our yield almost three times in those two decades and used less water while doing it,’ and they want to be more efficient by looking at new technologies such as soil moisture sensors, climate prediction systems; the aim is to link everything together so that the farmers can actually determine when a particular crop will be most receptive to an irrigation pattern. This will conserve water because they will be more precise in predicting irrigation as oppose to just going outside and turning on a faucet on a daily basis.
Safety is also important for the Salinas Valley. In 2006, more than 200 E. coli 0157:H7 cases were traced back to packaged baby Spanish originating in the Salinas Valley, but it is the push of every Salinas producer to be at the top on safety. Although Americans have become condition to expect their food to be safe when they buy it at the supermarket, they taken for “granted that the rest of the world pays a lot more for fresh fruits and vegetables.” Smart wash and tracking systems have been implemented as safety measures. Growers can track when and where such products were cultivated which makes it much more effective to isolate problems. These are just some of the strict measures in safety in play in the Salinas Valley and they promote safety. It is what the Salinas Valley prides itself against other competitors.
New technology is coming into the valley via Silicon Valley to preserve agriculture; ‘anywhere in the world, agriculture is the backbone of any country’ said John Hartnett, CEO of SVG Partners and co-founder of the Steinbeck Innovation Group. And certainly the Salinas Valley is not moving away from agriculture, but instead its looking to sustain it with technology.
As a result, the urban sprawl doesn’t seem a practical plan in Salinas and for the Salinas Valley. Instead it’s critical to look at Old Town Salinas to take a look at the future. Salinas is building up as oppose to building out and infringing on the ag fields. In close proximity to Old Town Salinas, condominiums have also been built up. Salinas is changing: building up instead of out; machines will replace human labor; pesticides is unknown; soil and water are to be conserved in order for this billions of investment in the Salinas Valley to thrive. “Partnerships with leading ag-focused research colleges like UC Davis, Georgia Tech, and Hartnell College along with corporate partnerships with local and global business like Dole, Taylor Farms, Ocean Mist and Chiquita have gone a long way in highlighting the interest in bringing technology and agriculture together.” These leaders will shape the future of ag, water use, energy, and tech not just for the region, but perhaps the world.
Quick Fact: 55% of the strawberry crop in California is produce here locally
Orman, Sasha. “Salinas Valley Meets Silicon Valley: The Future of Agriculture.” Food Drink and Franchise, August 2014, 9-17. http://issuu.com/fdfworld/docs/food_drink___franchise_-_august_201/8?e=12613397/8800583.