Call it the government’s version of “Shark Tank” for fruit and vegetable harvesting.
A California Congressman is introducing a bill that would authorize at least $10 million to spur agriculture technology and encourage public-private partnerships for mechanizing harvests.
Jimmy Panetta’s Specialty Crop Mechanization Prize Challenge Act authorizes $10 million in discretionary funds, and allows the U.S. Department of Agriculture to accept funds from other federal agencies, the private sector, universities and state/local governments.
The funds would be available to companies across the country and priority would be given to projects that could be “readily commercialized, those that benefit farmworkers, and those that reduce crop loss,” according to Panetta’s press secretary, Sarah Davey.
California specialty crops face problems that include declining water and labor availability, Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif said in the release.
“Solutions to these problems will require the rapid acceleration of technology geared toward agriculture,” Nassif said in the release. “We are pleased that Rep. Panetta understands the role government can play, alongside private sector investments, in speeding the development of innovations aimed at ensuring California farmers meet the needs of a growing population with fewer resources and a smaller footprint.”
Davey said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue would not be able to give special consideration to any companies or individuals who donate to him or the prize committee. She said the federal government has not funded any program for specialty crop mechanization before.
“Research, development, and evaluation of new specialty crop technologies can help farmers, farmworkers, processors, and shippers at all levels of the supply chain,” Panetta said in the release.
Panetta, the co-chairman of the Congressional Agriculture Research Caucus, is introducing the legislation Oct. 26.