PROGRAM: 2016 Agriculture Tech Fair

Welcome to the 2016 CITRIS @ UC MERCED Agricultural Technology Fair!


Welcome to the 2016 Ag Tech Fair, hosted by the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS)! This is our 1st Annual showcase of emerging agricultural technologies in the San Joaquin Valley. The symposium will highlight cutting-edge research and entrepreneurial innovation shaping the future of the San Joaquin Valley. The open fair following lunch will provide students and community members to interact with leaders in the Ag Tech field.

Driving Instructions

UC Merced, 5200 N. Lake Road, is about eight miles northeast of the city of Merced’s downtown area. Driving instructions to campus are available here.


8:00 – 9:00 AM
Event Registration and Coffee/Tea Mixer

9:00 – 9:45 AM
Introductory Remarks

Dr. Joshua Viers, CITRIS Director

Dr. Peter Schuerman, AVC for Research & Economic Development

Rob Goff, VP, Wonderful Orchards

10:00 – 11:00 AM
Changing Ag Tech Landscape in the San Joaquin Valley and Beyond

Seana Hull, Ag Tech Insight LLC

Bob Curtis, Almond Board of California

Dr. Dong Wang, USDA Agricultural Research Service

Dr. YangQuan Chen, UC Merced

11:15 – 12:15 PM
Emerging Technologies for Next Generation Ag Tech

Dr. Stefano Carpin, UC Merced

Dr. Jenna Martin-Rodriguez, UC Davis

Dr. Alberto Cerpa, UC Merced

Curran Hughes, The Wonderful Company

12:30 – 1:30 PM
Lunchtime Keynote Address

Ted Batkin, CEO, Batkin Ag Services

2:00 – 5:00 PM
Technology Showcase – Open to Everyone!

Speakers and Talks

Joshua Viers, Associate Professor, Director of CITRIS at UC Merced


Joshua Viers joined the CITRIS leadership as the Director at UC Merced in August 2013. Prior to joining UC Merced, Dr. Viers served as the Executive Associate Director at the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis, which is California's premier think tank on California water issues. His expertise in the use of geospatial technologies and informatics is used to improve decision making in coupled human and natural systems. He now serves as an Associate Professor of Water Resource Management in the School of Engineering at UC Merced. When not developing databases and algorithms to address issues related to water, energy, and the environment, he can be found chasing water and wine across the globe in places like Chile and South Africa.

Peter Schuerman, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development at UC Merced


Dr. Schuerman is the founding member and architect of UC Berkeley’s Industry Alliances Office, an office which nearly tripled industry support in its first year. He reinvented the licensing and intellectual property management program in The Texas A&M University System’s Office of Technology Commercialization, leading again to unprecedented revenues from both licensing and industry alliances. He subsequently served as Director of Innovation Management for Texas A&M AgriLife Research, one of the members of The Texas A&M University System.

Dr. Schuerman’s work focuses on optimizing the way that universities partner with businesses. He got his start at the University of Florida’s Office of Technology Licensing, and subsequently joined the Office of Technology Transfer at Rice University. He has a bachelor’s degree in Botany from Colorado State University and a Ph.D. in Genetics from UC Davis, and is a USDA Postdoctoral Fellow. 

Rob Goff, Vice President, West Valley Farming and Paramount Farming Company


Rob manages farming operations on 23,000+ acres of almonds, pistachios and pomegranates, as well as the harvest of 30,000 acres of pistachios. His background is in forestry and natural resources, but he has enjoyed a career in the “forests” of agricultural tree crops for the past eight years.

Previously, Rob was employed by Davey Resource Group as a forestry and natural resources consultant. He developed tree management programs for utility companies, municipalities and private entities throughout the western U.S. Rob graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a Bachelor of Science in forestry and natural resources management and is a recent graduate of the CA Ag Leadership Program.  He is a certified arborist/utility specialist, pest control advisor, qualified applicator and certified crop advisor.

Rob and his wife, Joyel, enjoy spending time with their children, Katie, 13, and Tommy, 10. They like to visit Central Coast beaches, backpack the Sierra Nevadas, and visit family in upstate New York.

Seana Day Hull, Director Business Development & Strategy at AgTech Insight LLC

AgTech Revolution: Why Now


Seana will lay out the case for the macro factors driving interest in the emerging Ag Technology category, evidenced by $4.6B in venture investment in 2015, and why the food supply chain needs technology to help drive productivity. The discussion will highlight current challenges and opportunities, as well as the outlook for the future. 

Because the participation of food and commodity producers in the development of the AgTech industry is critical to its success, we will also learn about ways that stakeholders can participate in the market. Building bridges between the Ag community and the technology community has often proven difficult but increasingly, opportunities for collaboration are changing the dynamics (and competitive landscape for production agriculture).    

This discussion will center on how we can build a thriving ecosystem where technology can help support the incremental productivity gains needed to feed 9 billion people by 2040.


Seana has over 10 years of investment banking experience focusing on emerging growth businesses across the technology landscape. Her expertise includes M&A, capital formation, strategy and operational restructuring. Seana's most recent role as Director of Business Development and Strategy at AgTech Insight, LLC affords her the opportunity to advise startups and investors in the rapidly expanding Ag technology sector.  She is also a Managing Director with Centerra Capital, where she is responsible for financial advisory services in the Central Valley market. 
Prior to returning to the Central Valley, Seana led AGC Partners’ European expansion as Managing Director of the London office. She has also held operating positions with Versata Enterprises (Director of Operations and Restructuring) and Threshold Wine Company (Director of Finance and Operations).  She received her MBA from Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver and holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Dong Wang, Ph. D., USDA-ARS, Water Management Research Unit, San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center, Parlier, California

Infrared Thermometry for Managing Postharvest Deficit Irrigation of Peaches


For early-maturing peach varieties, it has been demonstrated that established orchards are not sensitive to moderate water stress in the non-fruit bearing postharvest growth. However, the margin of error in managing deficit irrigation gets more critical. In a multi-year field study, real-time peach tree water stress was monitored using thermal infrared temperature sensors and the information was used to control irrigation scheduling. The field study demonstrated the potential feasibility of managing postharvest deficit irrigation of early season peaches using canopy temperature measurement. The postharvest deficit irrigation control was reasonably successful with potential water savings of up to 50% without causing losses in yield and fruit quality. The study demonstrated that infrared canopy temperature measured from above the tree top can potentially be used for managing deficit irrigation in peach and possibly other perennial crops. Additional research is needed to further validate this approach.


Dr. Wang received his Ph.D. in Soil and Environmental Physics from University of Wisconsin Madison, M.Eng. in Agricultural Engineering from University of Idaho, and B.Eng. in Hydraulic Engineering from Beijing Agricultural Engineering University.  Dr. Wang is Supervisory Soil Scientist and Research Leader of the USDA ARS Water Management Research Unit in Parlier, CA.  He and his research unit are internationally recognized for research on developing effective and sustainable strategies for crop water management and alternatives to methyl bromide soil fumigation.  Prior to joining ARS, Dr. Wang was professor in Department of Soil, Water, and Climate at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN.  He has published one book, 14 invited book chapters, and over 200 peer-reviewed journal articles and technical reports.  Dr. Wang is Fellow of American Society of Agronomy and Soil Science Society of America.

YangQuan Chen, Associate Professor, UC Merced School of Engineering

Scientific Data Drones for Precision Agriculture Research at UC Merced


Precision agriculture is a big data business. We are in Wright Brothers 2.0 age and the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) or scientific data-drones have been among top 5 technologies for precision agriculture. While many view UASs as tools for spying and warfare, they have a significant appeal as a remote sensing and actuation platform for all sorts of civilian applications. This brief seminar will introduce the major research thrusts in the MESA Lab of UC Merced related to scientific data drones for precision agriculture applications, towards a vision on “WaterStar” for water-efficient agriculture.


YangQuan Chen joined University of California, Merced in summer 2012 with a vision to promote the wide-spread use of low cost data-drones in precision agriculture and environmental monitoring. His unmanned aerial systems (UAS) team at UC Merced has been pursuing research excellence in innovative use of data-drones for crop, water, soil, dust, air, and fire etc. Dr. Chen received Ph.D. from Nanyang Technological University Singapore in 1998. His current areas of research interest include: applied fractional calculus in controls, signal processing and energy informatics; distributed measurement and distributed control of distributed parameter systems using mobile actuator and sensor networks; mechatronics; multi-UAV based cooperative multi-spectral “personal remote sensing” for precision agriculture and environmental monitoring. He is an Associate Editor for several flagship journals such as Fractional Calculus and Applied Analysis, IEEE Transactions of Control Systems Technology. He serves as the Topic-Editor-in-Chief in “Field Robotics” for International Journal of Advanced Robotic Systems.            

Stefano Carpin, Associate Professor, UC Merced School of Engineering

Autonomous robotics for mobile sensing under the canopy


Recent developments in artificial intelligence, planning, and control makes now possible to deploy mobile robots autonomously operating in unstructured outdoor environments for extended periods of time. These platforms can be equipped with sophisticated sensor payloads allowing to collect and georeference a variety of data relevant to assess crop conditions, like soil moisture, light penetration, weed presence, and more. Most importantly, robots can operate under the tree canopy and collect data inaccessible to remote systems. In this talk I will review the technological state of the art in this area, promising directions, and outline the results obtained in our recent field experiments in almond orchards and vineyards.


Stefano Carpin received his MSc and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of Padova, Italy in 1999 and 2003, respectively.  Since 2007 he has been with the School of Engineering at UC Merced, where he established and leads the UC Merced robotics laboratory.

His research interests include mobile and cooperative robotics for service tasks, and robot algorithms. From 2006 to 2009 he served as elected executive member of the RoboCup federation. Under his supervision, teams participating in the RoboCupRescue Virtual Robots competition won second place in 2006 and 2008, and first place in 2009. Since he moved to UC Merced his research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, DARPA, the Office of Naval Research, the Army Research Lab, the Department of Commerce (NIST), the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), Microsoft Research, and General Motors.

Jenna Rodriguez, UC Davis Hydrologic Sciences Graduate Group

Food, Water, and Fault Lines: Remote Sensing Opportunities for Earthquake-Response Management of Agricultural Water


Earthquakes can cause destructive and unpredictable changes affecting local hydrology that disrupt land uses and human activities.  Prolific agricultural regions overlie seismically active areas, emphasizing the importance to improve our understanding and monitoring of hydrologic and agricultural systems following a seismic event.  A thorough data collection is necessary for adequate post-earthquake crop management response; however, the large spatial extent of earthquake's impact makes challenging the collection of robust data sets for identifying locations and magnitude of these impacts.  Observing hydrologic responses to earthquakes is not a novel concept, yet there is a lack of methods and tools for assessing earthquake's impacts upon the regional hydrology and agricultural systems.  Many remote sensing datasets are long archived with extensive coverage and with well-documented methods to assess plant-water relations.  We describe how remote sensing imagery, methods and tools allow detecting crop responses and damage incurred after earthquakes because a change in the regional hydrology.  We thus connect remote sensing of plant water relations to its utility in agriculture; specifically in agro-hydrologic relationships associated with recent earthquake events that can improve water management.


Jenna is from an agricultural community in San Joaquin County, California. Jenna’s passion to pursue hydrology evolved during her undergraduate career, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment.  Jenna earned a Master of Science in 2010 at UC Davis, where she evaluated calibration techniques of evapotranspiration models using hyperspectral airborne imagery to better understand water use in almond orchards. Currently, Ms. Rodriguez is a Ph.D. candidate and tentative June 2016 graduate at UC Davis’ Hydrologic Sciences Graduate Group advised under Dr. Susan Ustin, studying agricultural recovery from water supply disruptions following extreme disaster events.  Jenna is currently an adjunct professor at Modesto Junior College and Product Manager at Ceres Imaging in San Francisco.  Research presented today was funded by the National Science Foundation (#DGE-1148897).

Curran Hughes, The Wonderful Company

Precision agriculture at Wonderful Orchards


Precision agriculture has evolved rapidly in recent decades with advances in sensor technology and data processing. However, many precision agriculture vendors focus on a single technology or a small portfolio of related technologies. Only a few commercial entities utilize both ground-based sensors and remote sensing in concert as a crop management decision-making tool. Nevertheless, novel remote sensing methods that provide actionable crop management information have yet to be widely adopted by the agriculture remote sensing community and growers alike. The Wonderful Orchards precision agriculture team provides an industry perspective on why current limitations of ground-based sensors have increased industry interest in remote sensing, and how data from new remote sensing and crop model techniques should be delivered to growers so as to foster data-driven crop management.


Curran joined the strategy team at the Wonderful Company in 2013 where he has worked on a variety of projects ranging from grapefruit packing operations to FIJI Water pricing strategy. For the past 18 months, Curran has worked to develop a comprehensive precision agriculture strategy for Wonderful Orchards through a combination of existing technologies and internal development. Prior to working at the Wonderful Company, Curran pursued a career in international agricultural and educational development where he worked in Afghanistan, East Timor, India, and Tajikistan. He attended UC Davis for an MS in International Agricultural Development and received his BA in Geography and Russian at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Our Sponsors

Our current sponsors include The Wonderful Company, the Almond Board of California, Royse Law Firm, and Observant.