In the diverse and varied world of agricultural robotics, drones and drone services are sometimes overlooked. Monterey Bay Drones, Automation and Robotics Technology (DART) is seeking to change this perception. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit has committed to providing a drone pavilion at the 2023 FIRA USA event in September, with the intent of bringing together manufacturers, service providers and potential customers.
Monterey Bay DART was founded with a similar goal in mind. The brainchild of Josh Metz and Chris Bley, the organization was built as a strategic economic development initiative. It works to raise awareness about advanced technologies and bring growth opportunities to the Monterey Bay area. Monterey Bay DART also helps to align a wide range of industries around this focus, including academia, government, manufacturing and, of course, agriculture.
The organization’s annual DART Symposium is one way Monterey Bay DART brings the right people together. This year’s event will center on topics related to mobility security and the environment with a strong focus on workforce development. It was this focus that led Monterey Bay DART to FIRA.
“At Monterey Bay DART, we're developing the local workforce to be able to support companies in manufacturing maintenance operations of different advanced technology applications,” Josh Metz says. “That's how we got introduced to FIRA, and this is something that's energized our partners—people who are looking for future growth opportunities. The goal is for people to have good paying jobs and to continuously support the transformation of agriculture towards an increasingly technologically infused, autonomous and information-driven industry.”
At FIRA USA, Monterey Bay DART’s drone pavilion is designed to be a place where ag-focused drone companies can coalesce in one centralized, high-profile location and engage with one another, potential customers and the local community.
The tent will have amenities like power outlets, tables for companies to showcase their products and ample space for them to demonstrate their services. Monterey Bay DART is subsidizing the cost of the pavilion, and it will be offered in partnership with Monterey County and a couple other entities including educational institutions and the Central Coast marketing team. Metz says that his organization is thrilled not only to be invited to the event but to be able to help facilitate these important conversations as well.
“Our pavilion will be a central meeting area where companies can interact with one another, find some customers and expand their business,” he says. “We really want to let ag technology companies, and drone companies in particular, know that Monterey County and the larger region is open for their business.”
“We have a skilled workforce that's oriented to the manufacturing operations and maintenance of these tools, and we have facilities that their companies could utilize for either a headquarters or an outpost,” Metz continues. “We also have really direct access to a pretty significant market share in agriculture, including fresh produce, wine grapes, berries and more.”
Those who are interested in participating in the pavilion still have time to join, although there are limited spots available and fewer every day. Metz encourages companies to get involved where there’s still time. Monterey Bay DART is covering the cost of the pavilion, so there’s a lower cost of entry, and companies with well-developed drone applications will be a good fit. Josh expects to see drones with spray, surveying and mapping applications, among others, on display. Other than exposure, the biggest benefit to the pavilion is the community.
“Companies will have access to local knowledge, facilities information and the California market,” Metz says. “They'll be able to talk to people representing communities in the Monterey Bay area that have agricultural businesses and would be good sources of information. If you're coming from out of the area, you might want to get to know a few locals. That’s the value of joining us in the pavilion.”
FIRA USA will be held from September 19-21, 2023, in Salinas, California. To learn more about the event, visit www.fira-agtech.com/event/fira-usa. Those interested in participating in the drone pavilion, can reach out to Josh Metz at [contact information or website].