Produce Marketing Association Welcomes Industry Professionals to Tech Knowledge Event
NEWARK, DE - Ever eager to remain at the forefront of advancements to aid our industry, the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) has undertaken efforts to help the industry harness technology and it encourages growers, distributers, and retailers to tap into PMA resources.
At the association’s upcoming Tech Knowledge event–hosted in Monterey, CA, on May 2nd and 3rd–individuals and corporations across the industry are invited to connect with tech solution providers and gain trusted information about tools that can manage labor, speed workflow, and eliminate redundancies. Some highlights of the event include the following:
- Futurist Patrick Schwerdtfeger
- Executive Director of Stanford’s Engineering Center for Disruptive Technology and Digital Cities Mike Steep
- A panel featuring industry leaders Steve Church, Alec Leach, and Vic Smith
- Blue Apron
- Lightning Learning Labs
- Think Tank
During a briefing on PMA’s year-round science and technology work, I spoke with Bob Whitaker, PhD., Chief Science and Technology Officer; Siobhan May, Education Manager; and Cassidy Taylor, PR Coordinator, to discuss why technology matters, how PMA is helping the industry to harness tech, the upcoming Tech Knowledge event, and next steps for both PMA and the industry at large.
Bob elucidated why technology is a priority for PMA.
“We spent a significant amount of time looking at our visions and our mission and, of course, the strategies that fall from that. What we do with technology is deeply rooted in bringing together the global floral and produce community to build a healthier world,” Bob said. “We bring the community together to share our experiences and challenges and develop solutions. It’s not necessarily about technology itself: it’s about the challenges we’re having as an industry and the opportunities we have.”
Bob continued, “In the end, we want to increase the demand for our products and the consumption of our products, and we know that in today’s world technology is certainly a lever for helping our industry to do that. When that occurs, we know that we have some of the healthiest products available in the food category, so that helps to create a healthier world. What PMA really does first and foremost is connect our members to those folks that have solutions.”
Bob explained that PMA delivers tech solutions to members via online content, webinars, in-person events, member advice, and the PMA Science and Technology Circle of Excellence Leadership Award. Bob also suggested that technology may solve two of the greatest problems keeping industry companies across the supply chain up at night: food safety and labor. Genetic and data-driven technologies now propel the new predictive front of food safety, and technology may enable growers to better use the labor force that they already have. Technology may even, Bob proposed, allow us to develop varieties more prepared to deal with environmental and sustainability issues facing the human population as a whole.
Siobhan further detailed the features of Tech Knowledge, explaining that the event includes a blockchain panel, a buyer panel, narrative breaks with Bob, and networking opportunities.
“Tech Knowledge is PMA’s flagship technology event,” Siobhan explained. “We want to go beyond just having great knowledge sessions, though that’s certainly a component. This year, we have the additional goal of taking our attendees on a journey so that by the end they will have a road map for how to go about integrating technology into their business.”
Siobhan explained that PMA is working to integrate technology both long-term and in ways immediate and specific to the current state.
Finally, Cassidy discussed Career Pathways, a university student attraction program during Tech Knowledge, which will permit 16 students from four universities a behind-the-curtain look at the career opportunities in our industry.
“The Center for Growing Talent’s mission is to provide industry specific solutions to attract, develop, and retain talent. The Center for Growing Talent works to attract top university students who otherwise wouldn’t think of our industry as a career option. At events like Fresh Summit, students get an industry orientation and an introduction to the industry and its people,” said Cassidy.
The program has had great success, with 67 percent of alumni joining the industry and 78 percent of those remaining. In 2017, seven out of ten students were hired during, or as a result of, CGT’s first ever immersion academy targeting college seniors studying in-demand majors specifically.
To stay in the know on technological innovations in the produce industry, keep reading AndNowUKnow.