Drought Adds Urgency to California's ‘Apps for Ag’ Event

In this ag tech arena, area farmers will pose challenges for developer teams, which will showcase their ingenuity for a judging panel composed of experienced developers, farmers and investors.

by Bob Gore / April 9, 2015

California Gov. Jerry Brown’s new drought emergency order adds urgency to the Apps for Ag software development competition April 17-19 at West Hills College Coalinga (WHCC).

We’re also adding a significant prize, to be awarded by a widely respected and diverse judging panel.

First, Brown called for an immediate investment in a new Water Energy Technology (WET) Program for “innovative technologies” in agriculture. WET projects for “on-farm precision technology” must “achieve water and energy savings, and greenhouse gas reductions by accelerating use of cutting-edge technologies.” Read the full text of the executive order here.

“Apps for Ag, with our unique collaboration of local farmers and software developers, will answer the governor’s call for action,” said Clint Cowden, WHCC Farm of the Future director and event co-organizer.

Second, the competition judging panel now includes Harris Farms senior executive William Bourdeau, California Public Utilities Commission member Catherine J.K. Sandoval, Better Foods Ventures managing investor Rob Trice and Agrian engineering lead Peter Brandt.

Third, the grand prize: two hours to pick the brain of one of California’s leading, most innovative and unusual agriculturalists: Joe MacIlvaine is CEO of Paramount Farms – and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Ph.D. His operation routinely conducts independent applied research and is one of the largest growing operations in the state. Paramount also provides education and scholarships for farmworkers.

There is still time for Apps for Ag registration at http://www.apps-for-ag.com); tickets are available online for $20 until April 15, and then at the door, $50.

In this unique collaborative ag tech arena, area farmers will pose challenges for developer teams, which will showcase their ingenuity for a judging panel composed of experienced developers, farmers and investors.

Apps for Ag is a pro-bono endeavor founded by the AgTech Roundtable and supported by several ag tech hubs around California. Roundtable members include USDA, California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Department of Technology, California Public Utilities Commission, California Farm Bureau Federation, California Association of Pest Control Advisers, San Joaquin Valley Partnership, Valley Vision and many other organizations.

Sponsors include California Community Colleges, USDA, Agrian, gThrive, California Coast Crop Consulting, California Ag Solutions, and TerraVerde Renewable Partners.

And, if, after all this, you’re still searching for ag tech validation, consider this lead from a Wall Street Journal story on April 6:

New technologies that promise to change how food is grown, transported and sold are attracting increased interest from the kinds of investors that have fueled Silicon Valley powerhouses.

Get busy … and lend a hand – join us in sunny Coalinga. Build an app. Build jobs in the nation’s largest disadvantaged region.

Here’s a throw-down for you: My son, Ben, a Future Farmers of America officer and senior at Davis High School, is participating. Gonna let a 17-year-old beat you?

This column was originally published by TechWire.