The fresh produce and floral industries were well represented at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) brought a taste and feel of fresh produce and floral at its farmer’s market on the tradeshow floor. The industry’s voice was heard, too, as PMA’s Vice President of Technology Vonnie Estes participated in the 5G and Robotics panel.
While right in the middle of the high-tech glitz, insights were gathered from the PMA folks on hand. Here are the top horticulture industry insights from CES 2020, according to PMA.
AI Is a Gamechanger
Artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics were the central theme of many sessions. The more our industry can delegate repetitive everyday decisions to machines, or use algorithms to make those decisions, the more efficient operations will be, giving us a competitive advantage and significant ongoing cost savings.
For example, AI can be utilized to analyze data from sensors in the field or greenhouse and make decisions about how to efficiently apply water and fertilizer to specific plants, or to pick produce and flowers at the perfect time for packaging and distribution. This can have a significant impact on the quality of produce and flowers sold and increase profitability along the supply chain.
Technology can seem cold and unfeeling, creating a gap with the human desire for authenticity. Consumers want to strip things back to the way they used to be, with trends such as the #throwback or the caveman/paleo diet. Fresh produce and floral should be at the forefront of consumers’ minds when they think about natural, authentic products.
People are used to interacting with electronics or technology at CES, and our farmers’ market brought fresh flowers and produce to the show floor. Attendees walking by the booth stopped to take pictures of the fresh product before walking away with a healthy and delicious snack or a beautiful bouquet of flowers.
The technology industry views being a trusted brand as a top standard. Produce and floral are in a great position to be leaders in this area.
We’re about making the world a better and healthier place. Tech culture is a meeting place for innovations while the fresh produce and floral industries are extremely experiential and authentic.
Big Ag Representation
The large presence of “Big Ag” at CES, such as John Deere, is influential for our industry. Investors and innovators are building out incubator spaces for ag tech companies. Produce and floral growers can benefit from this increased interest in solving challenges in farming.
The nature of innovation has changed. Instead of solving for known industry-specific challenges, new technologies are being developed before the application is determined. We have to join — and lead — these conversations to inspire the tech world to make our problems smaller.
It is crucial for us to be represented in the tech industry, and at CES specifically. Technology is being developed and discussed across many verticals, and we must demonstrate the imperative to invest in fresh produce and floral for the future of global health.
We need to have talent that understands tech as well as the challenges that are unique to our industry.