2024 FIRA Preview

Jul 1, 2024
FIRA preview: Tree fruit tech options abound at ag robotics conference

The third iteration of the International Forum of Agricultural Robotics, known as FIRA-USA, plans to offer growers of tree fruit, grapes, berries, vegetables and nuts a view of the state of specialty crop robotics and automation.

Scheduled for Oct. 22-24 in Woodland, California, 11 miles from the Sacramento International Airport, FIRA USA is set to provide growers and other industry personnel the opportunity to view new agricultural technology in action in the global ag robotics sector.

The third year of the FIRA-USA ag robotic show will offer ag tech insights to growers of tree fruit, grapes, berries, vegetables and nuts.
The third year of the FIRA-USA ag robotic show will offer ag tech insights to growers of tree fruit, grapes, berries, vegetables and nuts. Photo courtesy of FIRA.

The core focus of the conference is to afford growers the opportunity to network, exchange feedback and to learn more about existing solutions through grower roundtables on specific crops sponsored by commodity boards, said Gwendoline Legrand, co-director for show sponsor FIRA and GOFAR (Global Organization for Agricultural Robotics).

“The end-users are the key. You can not develop disruptive solutions without having them in the loop,” Legrand said. “They need to share their vision, they need to touch, to test, to say ‘No, I want this that way’ and finally, get the exact systems that work for them. The growers’ needs is where everything started for FIRA. We are not showcasing and presenting robots and autonomous solutions as an end by themselves. Those machines need to represent a proper solution to specific needs, as diverse as the farmers are. The manufacturers understand that, and are very often building the solutions together with the growers, directly operating in the fields.”

Free grower admission

This year growers will receive free admission, a longtime World FIRA Europe policy that allows even more industry stakeholders and small to large-scale growers to leave the event with more autonomous and robotics technology information and vision, Legrand said.

To address the tree fruit industry’s automation needs, the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission and the California Almond Board are signed up as new sponsors.

This year’s FIRA-USA ag robotic show will display the latest in specialty crop robotics and automation.
This year’s FIRA-USA ag robotic show will display the latest in specialty crop robotics and automation. Photo by Doug Ohlemeier.

Both organizations have long been part of FIRA USA support, promoting the event to their communities and visiting the show. This year, however, will be the first year the grower organizations decided to sponsor the event, to highlight the problems faced by tree fruit and nut growers, and to help them discover stand-alone solutions already on the market, Legrand said.

The sponsorships also prompt interest from other commodity boards and research institutes and motivate them to organize specific programs for their growers, she said.

As previous FIRAs explored many topics relating to ag robotics, organizers want this year’s education component to be as relevant as possible for growers, and include sessions designed to discuss issues growers are facing and existing autonomous solutions for individual crops.

Commodity group and research involvement are critical. Panelists are set to share stories on how the industry is “automation-ready” and provide examples of vendors working in the space with commodity groups and universities.

Tech solutions

The educational portion includes crop-specific themed roundtables covering topics including tree fruit automation and reducing spray drift and improving spray coverage in the almond and tree nuts industry. To address the tree fruit industry’s tech needs, sessions will include strategies, failures, plans and expectations and be focused on priority areas and timelines to affect crop load management and harvest labor, Legrand said.

FIRA USA will showcase dozens of robots and autonomous solutions.
FIRA USA will showcase dozens of robots and autonomous solutions. Photo by Doug Ohlemeier.

Real-life demos will occur in the fields, displaying existing autonomous solutions from a variety of agtech firms. FIRA plans to include suppliers of autonomous irrigation solutions, a big leap forward for this year’s edition, she said.

To allow growers to lace their boots and trek through fields to see automation in action, a new event is being offered — a pre-show bus tour, Oct. 17- 21. The Cal Ag Robotics Discovery Tour is scheduled to show growers and other industry participants the latest in agricultural technology by visiting a wide range of farms and crops using tech across the Sacramento, Central and Salinas valleys.

Through viewing the operations’ daily challenges and the solutions they use, the California Ag Robotics Discovery tour will allow participants to immerse themselves in and deepen their market understanding of tech in California’s leading and most powerful growers, Legrand said. The five-day tour will bring a broad vision into fruit and nut trees, vineyards and berries, vegetables, including tomatoes and leafy greens, and supply a network of growers and participants at the stops, she said.

FIRA USA 2024“This is what is impressive with many ag robots: They are versatile, they can adapt,” Legrand said. “This is also what we do with FIRA, through traveling across California to meet different growers, and present what could be their next-gen machines.”

The show will also tackle commodity commission funding, industry collaboration and automation readiness, with sessions showing participants the need for funding and investment to move products across the finish line, Legrand said.

France-based GOFAR is a nonprofit organization that promotes and develops the agricultural robotics sector at international level.

For more information, visit fira-usa.com.

—  By Doug Ohlemeier, Assistant Editor




Current Issue

Cover image of Fruit Growers News (FGN) July 2024 issue.

Talking tech: New app innovations aid growers

Smart tech wipes out pests: The latest trends in spraying automation

New Geneva rootstocks to help apple growers with size, yield, disease

Georgia peach success: Pearson Farm’s six generations find orchard happiness

FIRA preview: Tree fruit tech options abound at ag robotics conference

Fresh Views: Grapevine disease management tackled

Farm Market & Agritourism: Insights from the 2023 farm markets survey

National Plant Diagnostic Network

 

see all current issue »

Be sure to check out our other specialty agriculture brands

produceprocessingsm Organic Grower