Western Growers plans to work with the California Department of Food and Agriculture on a statewide initiative to equip “a future workforce with the skills and knowledge to navigate emerging on-farm technology,” the organization recently announced in a release

The initiative comes as California agriculture is experiencing increasing challenges such as severe drought, high labor costs, and new proposed state regulations. Dave Puglia, WG's president and CEO, said the effort underscores the organization's desire to address those obstacles while still maintaining sound food production in the state. 

“As we face chronic and worsening labor shortages, escalating labor costs and legislative mandates, and dwindling access to water, crop protection tools and other inputs, the rapid development and deployment of technology is our best hope to preserve California’s farmland and regional agricultural economies,” he said in a statement.

The initiative will unite universities and colleges, farming and agricultural businesses, and tech companies to equip the agricultural workforce with the skills necessary to work with rapidly evolving agricultural technology. WG and CDFA plan to work on a handful of events that will feature keynote addresses from CDFA Secretary Karen Ross and include opportunities to learn more about the new technology. 

Karen Ross World Ag Expo

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross

Four AgtechX Ed events will be held across California, specifically in key agricultural areas like the San Joaquin Valley, the Imperial Valley, Monterey County, and the greater Sacramento Area.

The events will allow ag workers and other attendees to listen to conversations between leading farming and technology companies about the specific skills needed in their workforces while highlighting the training opportunities their organizations offer to acquire these technical skills. Further, California Community Colleges and California State Universities will be present at the events to showcase new educational pathways meant to offer individuals the skills needed to work in the industry.

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Ross, meanwhile, will speak to the necessary partnerships that must exist between the ag industry, government, and academia to ensure education is meeting the needs of the ever-evolving agricultural industry.

 Beyond these four events, the AgtechX Ed Initiative will assist ag workers with internship or apprenticeship opportunities, job shadowing, and also will host regional career mixers.

“To rise to the occasion of feeding a global population of 10 billion people in the next 30 years with fewer resources and labor, we need to start investing in preparing tomorrow’s agricultural workforce today," Ross said in a statement. “Education starts in the classroom, and that’s where agriculture prominently needs to be. As the development of technology rapidly accelerates, initiatives such as AgTechX Ed lays the foundation for new tech-based education training platforms that will build an adequately trained workforce.” 

The AgTechX Ed initiative will kick off Aug. 25-26 at the San Joaquin Valley's Reedley College.

Beyond aiding agricultural workers, Puglia said the initiative is also meant to grow existing WG workforce development programs like Careers in Ag and Junior AgSharks that foster youth’s interest in ag careers.

“AgTechX Ed is an exciting and critical initiative that can help advance the tech-expert workforce we must have to continue producing healthy California-grown foods,” he said.

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