Researchers share future of ag tech in Consortium tour

Tour participants check out an automated weather station's equipment.
Participants in the University and Industry Consortium spring tour check out an AgWeatherNet station.

Scientists from Washington State University shared the latest technologies for specialty crops like apples, wine grapes, cherries and organic blueberries at the spring meeting of the University and Industry Consortium, April 23-26 in the Tri-Cities.

Co-hosted this year by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS), the consortium was founded in 1992 to connect university researchers with agricultural tech companies, showcasing innovations and leading-edge practices in agriculture.

This year, more than 74 participants from 24 universities, 21 companies, and several associations and government agencies, as well as representatives from Canada and Germany, saw the latest agricultural technology in action.

Groups toured Washington Fruit and Produce Company, Zirkle Fruit Company, the WSU Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center (IAREC), the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates/Washington State University Wine Science Center.

Tour members look at equipment and hear a tour guide speak at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Consortium participants get an inside tour at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash.

In “The Future of Robotics in Agriculture,” presenters showed how farming is being transformed to match the need of robotic automation. An afternoon panel on organic farming shared perspectives by researchers including John Reganold, Regents Professor of Soil Science & Agroecology, and Lindsey du Toit, WSU Vegetable Seed Pathologist, as well as industry, policymakers, and growers on organic agriculture.

Other presenters, including Professor of Bioinformatics Dorrie Main, shared the state of research on soil heath and genomic editing, and how businesses are managing this technology for better farm and economic productivity.

Also representing CAHNRS were former Associate Dean of Research Jim Moyer; WSU Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems faculty members Manoj Karkee and Lav Khot; IAREC Director Gary Grove; Biological Systems Engineering Assistant Research Professor Melba Salazar-Gutierrez; and many graduate students.