In an unprecedented move to address the growing climate impacts and marketplace challenges faced by farmers, the Sonoma County Winegrowers convened a group of industry experts for its first Farm of the Future Summit last week. Leaders from some of the nation’s most influential and innovative firms gathered in Sonoma County to brainstorm and plan for a sustainable future for agriculture.
Organizations including Wilbur-Ellis, John Deere, Alaska Airlines, Pellenc, Agrology, NASA, PG&E, Wells Fargo, American AgCredit, Jordan Energy and Zenith Insurance Company, amongst others, engaged in collaborative discussions with farmers and researchers to identify challenges and opportunities for sustainable farming practices in Sonoma County.
The summit, spearheaded by the Sonoma Winegrowers and moderated by a prominent professor from the Wharton School of Business, highlighted Sonoma County’s global leadership in sustainability and regenerative agriculture. Sonoma County’s certified sustainable vineyards are already serving as real-world laboratories for various pilot programs.
Karissa Kruse, president and CEO of the Sonoma County Winegrowers, stressed the importance of this new collaboration. She noted that it represents a significant development in Sonoma County’s agricultural history, highlighting the region’s commitment to farming for future generations and the recognition of this commitment by leading companies who can drive the region’s economy forward.
The initial collaboration began two years ago with Sonoma County Winegrowers partnering with Ford Pro. Since then, the collaboration has expanded considerably with new partners and projects. For instance, earlier this year, agricultural services company Wilbur-Ellis began working with seven pilot farmers to increase organic soil matter, monitor soil moisture, and optimize soil health, among other initiatives.
Willie Negroni, VP of Supplier Relations at Wilbur-Ellis, emphasized the uniqueness of the project, noting that it’s designed to establish pilot farm blocks throughout Sonoma County, which will allow them to comprehensively address various aspects of soil health and nutrition.
Another significant partnership announced during the summit was with Agrology, a leading ag tech startup. The company has installed real-time carbon monitoring systems in local vineyards, enabling growers to track soil carbon emissions, irrigation, extreme weather, and more.
According to Adam Koeppel, co-founder and CEO of Agrology, the Farm of the Future initiative is setting a remarkable example of using technology to lower carbon emissions and mitigate climate impacts. Sonoma County is now the first wine region to demonstrate this concept in a living lab.
The Farm of the Future initiative, an innovation accelerator for sharing and testing new technologies, is a forward-looking endeavor that leverages Sonoma County Winegrowers’ sustainability leadership. The ultimate aim is to create solutions to climate impacts and changes in the marketplace and share these insights with farmers across the globe.
George Day, professor emeritus at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, believes that given Sonoma County’s leadership in sustainability and regenerative agriculture, the region has the potential to become as significant an innovation hub for agriculture as Silicon Valley has been for technology.