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The Organic Center Digs into AgTech for Organic

The Organic Center is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service; California State University, Fresno; and Purdue University on a free virtual conference series and hackathon examining technology to address complex issues for organic agriculture.

Because organic farmers are prohibited from using common conventional materials such as most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, the tools available for them to tackle common agricultural challenges are limited.  Agricultural technology (AgTech), however, could provide new opportunities to develop sustainable, organic-compliant methods for addressing these barriers. But before that can happen, the lack of communication and scarcity of organic AgTech collaborations must be overcome to remove what is often a disconnect between technology and the needs of organic producers.

Organic farming is made up of a diversity of operations. This raises such issues as accessibility of technology for small- and low-income farms, equity around tech use and adoption, and inclusion of marginalized farming communities in the development of AgTech.

”There are a number of innovative technologies being developed that are or could be leveraged by the organic sector,” said Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs for The Organic Center. “However, the uniqueness of organic has created certain challenges to more organic farmers using ag technology. This series will address these issues.”

The first conference of the series, titled “Organic Confluences Conference: Connecting Organic and AgTech” takes place on Thursday, December 2, and will highlight the potential for technology to support the organic sector, including a panel of organic farmers talking about their experiences and needs for technology and a panel of AgTech community members discussing the intersection of their work with organic.
 
The second conference, titled “Organic Confluences Conference: Equity and Access in AgTech” taking place Thursday Feb 10, 2022, will examine potential pitfalls concerning equity in AgTech, opportunities for small-farm AgTech access, historical and current examples of AgTech exacerbating the pre-existing structures of racism in the food system, and methods for analyzing AgTech’s fit within organic ideals.

To apply the information shared at these conferences, The Organic Center will host a hackathon in collaboration with the Gathering for Open Ag Technology (GOAT) on Feb 24-26, 2022. This event will engage the community in collaborative computer programming focused on open-source solutions to the challenges faced by organic farmers.

To register or find out more information about these events, visit https://www.organic-center.org/AgTech

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