Generating STEAM & Big Ideas for Jobs in the Valley

State and San Joaquin Valley leaders gathered for the “Shifting Ground” Conference, the 4th annual economic development convening, produced West Hills Community College District (WHCCD) and The Gualco Group, Inc. recently and appropriately in Coalinga at Harris Ranch. WHCCD is a California leader in career technical education (CTE) curriculum and its student population is two-thirds disadvantaged. Our conference of 150 engaged private and public sector senior executives has the goal of finding quick CTE revisions, which then create jobs.

Applied technology innovations for agriculture and healthcare was the Big Idea in 2015, from diverse participants including Robert Casamento, Deloitte’s sustainability management lead; Joe Del Bosque, farmer and member of the California Water Commission; Lance Donny, CEO of ag tech developer OnFarm Services; Frank Gornick, chancellor of WHCCD and our host; Jim Houston, undersecretary of the Department of Food & Agriculture; Glenda Humiston, VP of UC’s Ag & Natural Resources; Michael Marks, Your Produce Man from CBS-TV on channel 13; Jim Mayer, CEO of CA FWD; Lynda Resnick, vice chair of the Wonderful Co.; Art Sponseller, CEO of the Hospital Council of Northern & Central California; Russell Teall, president and cofounder of the ag energy developer BIODICO and Robert Tse, California economic development officer for the US Dept. of Agriculture.

I was honored to serve as co-host. We generated a lot of STEAM. Or, in Resnick’s words: “Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture and Math.” Of course, this is a wholly applicable expansion of the popular STEM curriculum.

Two examples of applied technology and immediate job creation in the San Joaquin Valley:

1. Create a global ag tech center — “Agriculture 3.0” is what Donny called it – from historical agriculture of many centuries to modern agriculture in the 1940s to tech-driven ag currently. “Ag tech,” he added, “is evolutionary, not revolutionary.” Noting Donny’s comments, Casamento explained local capital is patient capital. “Stop doing the Sand Hill Shuffle!” he told agtech developers, and move your business to the San Joaquin Valley “to create a worldwide hub for ag tech – expand the knowledge, organize the assets, build skills and knowledge, and find local capital.”

Data deluges farmers daily, Donny said, and Moore’s Law now applies. The typical farmer today receives 6,000 data points, which grows to 27,000 by 2020 and 120,000 five years later. Given the data deluge, Donny said, agtech analytical tools must parse increasing volume AND velocity. This calculus must now be not only predictive, he said, but proscriptive – providing detailed recommendations and actions. VC is ramping up, he said, from $816 million in 2013 to an estimated $4 billion this calendar year. The farmer on the dais agreed. Del Bosque said he is managing “more inputs with more production.” He is now using drone scans to find trees under stress needing water, fight pest infestations and track fertilizer application.

And ag tech can enable climate change dynamic adaptation. Tse explained “the drought and weather are driving innovation and the future. There are more invasives (bugs and weeds, both voracious) and it is becoming too hot for many crops.”

Humiston arose to extend the UC hand to a partnership with WHCCD.

2. Design healthcare delivery on a personal scale — Distributed technology is the future of healthcare, Sponseller said, and there is need, right now, for mobile apps and connectivity devices across the board. The San Joaquin Valley, with facilities spread over a vast region and with many service delivery issues, is the ideal lab. There are 6,000 mobile apps, he noted, include 1,100 for diabetes (a Valley healthcare need), producing the second-highest revenue in appland.

This is volatile, emerging job creation terrain, he said. Nearly 40 of the Fortune 50 companies are in healthcare, and 24 are new entrants. Hospitals are consolidating and moving into insurance and clinics. Consumers want access to care on their schedules. “Social pathologies surface in hospital emergency rooms,” he said, offering to work with WHCCD in crafting jobs to address both healthcare delivery and upstream social program development.

It’s like that every year in sunny Coalinga! This is just part of the picture — there was much more. Feel free to contact me if you wish to join us in fall 2016. Speaking of pix — a few photos:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/whccd/albums/72157659708106425/page1