Feeding the Future: Ag Tech Takes Root on Fringe of Silicon Valley

To find the next frontier of technological innovation, try looking in your salad bowl.


SALINAS, Calif.—On the ground floor of a gleam­ing new building in downtown Salinas, the Central Coast city’s famous agricultural bounty has been repackaged.

To one side of a lobby with sleek gray floors and a statue of a bald eagle mid-flight, a boutique that sells romaine-hued table linens implores shop­pers to “lettuce eat local.” A white enamel colan­der adorned with the region’s famous strawber­ries sells for $66.

“The game is certainly changing,” says Den­nis Donohue, former mayor of Salinas and head of the Western Growers Association’s 2-year­old downtown innovation center. He positions the co-working and meeting space as a “light­ning rod” to attract interesting agtech ventures, which the grower’s association can then offer up to member farmers.

It’s here, in a modern open office accented by dandelion-yellow desk dividers and light grain wood accents, that 52 startups from the Cen­tral Coast, San Jose, San Francisco and as far as Israel and New Zealand are also formulating an answer to a question that Donohue has long asked: “Wouldn’t it be interesting to connect the Silicon Valley to the Salinas Valley?”

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