Some of the best and brightest from the worlds of agriculture and technology gathered Wednesday in Monterey to discuss the ways in which their worlds intersect, but the piece of news causing the most buzz out of the event was an announcement by Forbes Media representatives that they plan to convene one of their “Reinventing America” events next year in Monterey County — possibly even Salinas.
“We’re looking to bring in top leaders from business, government and academia on reinventing the farm,” said Mike Federle, chief operating officer of Forbes. “We have ideas to produce it in Salinas.”
He said Salinas leaders appeared to be surprised to learn Forbes would consider staging the event in their town: “I think they thought we would do it in Pebble Beach,” Federle said.
When a reporter mentioned Salinas is generally considered less picturesque than the Monterey Peninsula, he said, “We’d love to have that authenticity about it.” Federle said he hopes the Forbes event will “take participants to farms and processors as well as have plenary sessions.”
Once Forbes made its announcement about bringing the Reinventing America series to the Salinas Valley in July 2015 (a specific date has not yet been set), Twitter lit up locally with the news.
“I’m thrilled to welcome the ‘Forbes Reinventing America: The AgTech Summit’ and its attendees, who come from some of the world’s largest agriculture and tech companies,” Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter said. “This is a great win for the Steinbeck Innovation Cluster, for the ag industry and for the Salinas Valley, the emerging ag tech capital of the nation.”
Wednesday’s Ag Tech Summit 2014: Driving Innovation in Agriculture featured such local speakers as John Hartnett, head of the Steinbeck Innovation Cluster (the event’s organizer); Bruce Taylor, head of Taylor Farms; Lorri Koster of Mann Packing; Luis Alvarez of Alvarez Technology; Willard Lewallen, president of Hartnell College; Kamath Shyam, dean of the College of Business at California State University, Monterey Bay; Gunter; and various business, academic and agricultural researchers, including Federle.
“It’s awesome to see all of the heavy hitters in the ag industry here in one room, committed to advancing technology in farming,” said Salinas City Councilwoman Kimbley Craig, who attended the event. “For Salinas, we must remain committed to the diversification of our job market — both for the short term, and long term. It’s exciting to see the progress.”