Governor McAuliffe Hosts First Ever Governor’s Smart Farm Summit
HARRISONBURG – Governor McAuliffe today hosted the inaugural Governor’s Smart Farm Summit in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The goal of the summit is to keep agriculture at the forefront of Virginia’s industries. The event drew participants that included farmers, agricultural lenders, students, academics and technology representatives. Speakers and discussion leaders addressed both the opportunities and the challenges facing Virginia agriculture today. The summit covered all aspects of agriculture: production to processing, product marketing to trade, and research to development, including discussion of what lies ahead for one of Virginia’s largest private industries.
“I have made growing the new Virginia economy a top priority for my administration and innovation in our agricultural sector is key to this growth,” said Governor McAuliffe. “The agriculture industry has seen tremendous success over the past four years, with an annual economic impact of over $70 billion, but in order to remain relevant, we must take advantage of the technologies which will take the Commonwealth to the next level. The future of agriculture is in technology and I look forward to seeing how this partnership furthers this important industry.”
The group heard from nationally-recognized speakers including agriculture blogger Lauren Arbogast, known for her agriculture advocacy, and historian Terry Sharrer, whose work focuses on the future of the industry, who challenged the group to let people know that technology, when applied to agriculture, is not only safe but also necessary.
Virginia Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson moderated a panel with participants from PrecisionHawk, an advanced commercial drone technology company; Tellus Agronomics, a company that specializes in precision technologies, fertilizer management and crop scouting; and Smithfield Foods research and development.
“It was an experience to hear the interplay between a venerable researcher from Smithfield, a company founded in 1936, and tech companies that have been in business less than 10 years,” Secretary Jackson said. “While each panelist shared their unique perspective on the intersection of technology and agriculture, the overarching message was clear - the lines between cutting-edge technology and traditional on-the-farm production are blurring and will continue to do so even more in the future.”
Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Basil I. Gooden, led a panel consisting of participants from Virginia Tech, Blue Ridge Community College, and John Deere Precision Technology on the skills needed by tomorrow’s farmers and ranchers, and ways our schools can help prepare this workforce. “This dialogue between farmers and educators is indicative of the crucial need for those in the teaching professions and those working in the fields to get together,” said Secretary Gooden. “Technology is only as good as the people who use it and input from both areas is essential. Agriculture should be an attractive career choice for our workforce of tomorrow.”
Dr. Bob Kolvoord, Dean, College of Integrated Science and Engineering, at the host school James Madison University, challenged the group in his closing remarks to think creatively, embrace technology and continue to produce the worlds’ safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply.