The reputation of Salinas and the WGCIT in agtech is drawing both domestic and international experts and entrepreneurs, leading to more innovations for agriculture in the “Salad Bowl of the World.” International companies establishing a presence in Salinas include Ireland-based agtech startup ApisProtect, which in fall 2018 announced plans to open its first U.S. office at the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology (WGCIT).
The company, which recently raised $1.8 million in seed funding, is developing Internet of Things (IoT) technology to monitor beehives. Its high-tech sensors allow beekeepers to monitor the hives in real-time, which helps increase productivity and quickly detect hive-threatening issues.
In an interview with Forbes, Dr. Fiona Edwards Murphy, ApisProtect CEO and co-founder said, “[California’s] both where this industry was created, and where it remains most valuable globally, due to the scale of the almond industry, which is almost totally reliant on honey bee pollination.”
ApisProtect’s goal is to develop a global hive health database to help commercial pollinators and growers optimize pollination. By expanding internationally, they plan to increase the number of hives being monitored by their technology to more than 200 units (9 million bees) by the end of 2018.
Maintaining the health of bee colonies is crucial to the future of food security. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, honey bees contribute $174 billion worth of pollination to the agricultural food industry annually, about 9.5 percent of the total value of global food production. Bees and other pollinators affect 45 percent of the world’s crop production.
Other notable international partnerships within WGCIT include Tensorfield Agriculture, a China-based startup working to build the next generation of autonomous agtech focusing on their applications for specialty row crops, as well as a newly formed partnership with Agritech New Zealand, which will give New Zealand specialty crop growers access to agtech resources in Salinas and create opportunities for the WGCIT to conduct new and unique research in New Zealand during the U.S. off season.