Next Steps Orchard of the Future Collaboration between the Netherlands and Washington State
In February 2021 partners in WA State and the Netherlands signed a collaboration agreement focused on the Orchard of the Future. With this agreement the partners, 25 in total, expressed the desire to work towards the goal of developing technology solutions for tree fruit orchards. In December 2021, a small Dutch delegation traveled to Washington State to meet with partners and a range of different stakeholders. The visit was designed to gain input for the 2022 action plan, identify opportunities for bilateral innovation projects, and promote the partnership among relevant parties.
Technology developments in orchards in WA
During the four-day visit, the group toured several (smart) orchards, visited the Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems (CPAAS) facility of Washington State University (WSU), met with several growers and technology companies, discussed the partnership with the Washington State Department of Commerce and joined the WTFRC's board retreat of the Washington State Tree Fruit Research Commission (WTFRC).
Some of the key take-aways from these activities were:
- There is a growing interest in adoption of technology;
- Interest in machine learning & AI to forecast growth of tree/ branch for efficient pruning;
- Connectivity is still an issue in tech adoption in many areas;
- Merging data from different resources still difficult;
- There are a lot of apple varieties in WA (more than in NL), with specific challenges and opportunities;
- Due to rising input costs there is an increased interest in sustainable solutions that can improve production efficiency;
- Agtech competes with better paid tech jobs;
- A new US$20 mln. National Science Foundation/US Department of Agriculture research institute, centered in the Pacific Northwest, focused on advancing Artificial Intelligence in agriculture, was recently established.
Action plan 2022
To accelerate the adoption of innovative solutions for fruit orchards this private-public partnership will focus on the following activities for 2022:
- Developing bilateral innovation projects for technology development and application;
- Set up student exchanges and internships;
- Attract additional funding and support for our efforts;
- Organize a webinar on doing (agtech) business in Washington State;
- Plan visits between Washington State and the Netherlands for network development and match-making;
- Communicate about technology developments and innovation opportunities.
Identification Innovation Projects
During the trip, several opportunities for Washington State and Dutch parties to jointly work on innovative solutions related to the objectives of the partnership were identified, including the development of smart machinery and multifunctional robots and the application of AI / validated decision models.
For more information about this collaboration, please contact the Program Leadership Team:
In the Netherlands:
Maureen de Haan (FME), Geert Klein Wolterink (NL Works), Peter Frans de Jong (Wageningen UR), Caroline Feitel (Netherlands Embassy in Washington), Karin Louzada (Netherlands Consulate General in San Francisco)
In the US:
Ines Hanrahan (WTFRC), Joe Davidson (Oregon State University), Rianne Perry (Washington State Department of Agriculture)