Santa Cruz Tech Beat


What is the Grower Trial Network and why is it important?

(Source: WGCIT blog)

January 31, 2019 — Salinas, CA

Q&A with Dennis Donohue: Grower Trial Network

The Grower Trial Network was created to benefit the agricultural industry as a whole, including farmers, agtech start-up companies, venture capitalists, and ag stakeholders.

[Editor’s note: Dennis Donahue, above, was mayor of Salinas from 2006 to 2012 and is currently the consulting director at the Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology (WGCIT) in Salinas. He answered these questions for a recent WGCIT blog post.]

1. What is the Grower Trial Network? Why is it important?

The Grower Trial Network is an organized group of Western Growers (WG) members who will be trialing and evaluating technology coming out of the WG Center for Innovation & Technology (the Center). The group will be led by our Future Volunteer Leaders and supported by WG board members and the Center’s sponsors.

It is important because it satisfies the clear need for a grower access and engagement process by providing a meaningful clearinghouse to share information about new technologies.

Much of the activity in agtech is “front-end heavy.” Especially in speciality crop agriculture, where trial and adoption is a slower cycle than traditional technology.

The Center’s primary function is to facilitate new solutions as rapidly as possible. By building a network that is based on growers’ interests and knowledge, we will help agtech startups bring their product from development to market at a faster pace.

2.  Who is the GTN for? Who are the growers currently confirmed to participate?

The Grower Trial Network was created to benefit the agricultural industry as a whole; this includes farmers, agtech start-up companies, venture capitalists and ag stakeholders.

The Grower Trial Network is offered to the Center’s residents and, in certain instances, the Center’s sponsors.  We had a conception meeting on January 8, 2019, and we will soon be finalizing which WG members will be involved. We anticipate that the group will meet twice a year.

3.  Where should the startups anticipate trialing?

The purpose of the network is to create continuous access to the WG network of growers and the diverse speciality crop industry within California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and beyond, where appropriate.

4.  When are the GTN events for each growing region?

The Grower Trial Network is scheduled to start inthe beginning of February. We anticipate six sessions throughout California and Arizona. The first two sessions are scheduled for February 5, in the Reedley area beginning, at 4:30 pm. The location for this will be announced shortly. The Salinas-based session will be February 19, at 4:00 pm. The first desert session will be on February 20 or 21, but details are still being worked through with growers in the Imperial Valley and Yuma. We will look to schedule the remaining three sessions by mid-March.

5.  Why are the growers participating? Why should the startups get involved early?

Growers who participate will have a first look at cutting-edge technology and innovations.  It will be an opportunity to look at new opportunities and provide direct feedback.

For Center residents, it will be an opportunity to move more quickly and strategically through the WG network and increase opportunities for customers, investors and trial possibilities.

The Grower Trial Network will build in other elements of expertise as we get it up and running.  What has become clear is that progress comes from working more directly with industry. We believe this is a unique opportunity designed for Center residents and helps fill the need to have a process that more realistically reflects the adaption scale and maximizes opportunities for companies to have more direct contact with actual decision makers.

Originally published here:



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