Events and Programmes

07 - 21 September 2023

Harvesting Tomorrow: Hort Automation Market Immersion

Washington state, Oregon and California, U.S.A

Join the New Zealand delegation as we travel down the West Coast of the United States visiting hort automation users and producers, before the FIRA-USA 2023 event in Salinas, California.

Designed for New Zealand agritech companies, this market immersion focusses on hort automation technologies, and starts in Seattle, Washington on 10 September 2023.

We will spend time in Washington state, Oregon and California to: 

  • See world-class agri automation for (fruit and veg) in action

  • Meet growers & discover innovation used in their operations

  • Discover the research and commitment to scientific excellence. 

Our trip will culminate at the FIRA USA 2023 event - the greatest and only 3-day event for autonomous farming and agricultural robotics solutions event in Salinas for three days (19-21 September). This will allow participants to witness the marvels of autonomous and robotic farming solutions from across the globe in action, and meet the people who build and use them!

Register your attendance now, you don't want to miss out on this opportunity to understand the agricultural revolution underway.

See World Class Agri Automation in Action

Explore Automation and Innovation at Valicoff Fruit Company as we witness firsthand the cutting-edge automated packing facility at Valicoff Fruit Company, a leading supplier of apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, apricots, and cherries in Washington State.

Experience Advanced.Farm's Robotic Apple Harvester and gain insights into the future of farming automation as we observe Advanced Farm's revolutionary robotic apple harvester in action, paving the way for the next era of agricultural technology.

Hectre's Global Impact - Experience a live demonstration by Hectre, a pioneering kiwi technology company that is revolutionising fruit growing and packing on a global scale, including operations in Washington State.

Meet those leading the Future of Agriculture at CPAAS and delve into the forefront of mechatronics, automation, machine vision, agricultural robotics, and precision/smart agriculture at the Centre for Precision & Automated Agricultural Systems (CPAAS) at Washington State University.

Meet Growers & Discover The Innovation In Their Operations

Tech-Infused Orchard Visits: Embark on visits to local fruit growers' orchards, where automation and technology take centre stage. Observe automated sprayers, platforms, irrigation systems, fertigation processes, mapping techniques, and labour tracking software enhancing orchard operations.

Unveiling the Washington Hop Industry: Immerse yourself in the world of hop harvesting in the Yakima Valley area, where our host Mark Hanrahan provides a comprehensive overview of the Washington hop industry, from farm to fork.

See Innovative Packing at Underwood Fruit in Oregon: Witness the state-of-the-art packhouse facility at Underwood Fruit, a major player in packing pears, apples, and cherries in the Hood River region of Oregon, showcasing how automation and technology drive their operations.

Sustainable Viticulture at Canoe Ridge Estate Winery: Learn about Canoe Ridge Estate winery's unwavering commitment to sustainable viticulture as they develop, practice, and share innovative approaches across their 11 wineries.

Discover the Research and Scientific Excellence Underway

Innovative Pest and Disease Management with USDA Research Unit: Discover innovative solutions for integrated pest and disease management as the USDA Research Unit unveils groundbreaking approaches, including sterile insect release via drone technology, empowering growers with effective and sustainable tools.

Scientific Excellence at Mid-Columbia Research and Extension Center: Gain insights into the scientific support behind cherry and pear production in the Hood River region as the dedicated team at Mid-Columbia Research and Extension Center shares their groundbreaking contributions to the tree fruit industry.


Generously support by:


Planned visits...

  • At Valicoff Fruit Company we will see their modern packing facility and explore the role of automation in the packhouse. This is one of Washington State’s premier suppliers of apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, apricots and cherries. 

  • We will see a robotic apple harvester in action from technology company Advanced Farm, who are building robots for the next frontier in farming. 

  • We will visit local fruit growers to observe automation and technology in orchards including sprayers, platforms, irrigation, fertigation, mapping and labour tracking software

  • The USDA Research Unit will share how they’re providing growers with effective and sustainable tools for integrated pest and disease management, with approaches like sterile insect release via drones.

  • We will see a demonstration from Hectre, a kiwi technology company now serving some of the largest fruit growers and packers around the world, including in Washington state.

  • Being in the Yakima Valley area during hop harvest, we will be given an overview of the Washington hop industry from farm to fork by our host Mark Hanrahan.

  • At the Centre for Precision & Automated Agricultural Systems (CPAAS) in Washington State University we will hear about a number of their key projects. in mechatronics and automation, machine vision and agricultural robotics and precision/smart agriculture.  

  • At the Canoe Ridge Estate winery of Ste. Michelle we will hear about their commitment to developing, practising and sharing sustainable viticulture across the company’s 11 wineries.

  • In Oregon we will see why Underwood Fruit, with their state of the art packhouse facility, remain a major packer of pears, apples and cherries in the Hood River region

  • The team at Mid-Columbia Research and Extension Center in Hood River, Oregon will share how they’re providing scientific support for cherries and pears, serving the tree fruit industry in the Hood River region.

  • Plenty® are rewriting the rules of agriculture with their indoor vertical farms that grow fresh, flavorful, pesticide free greens – all while using just a fraction of the water and land compared to conventional farms. While in LA we will visit their newest farm in the City of Compton.

  • At the NZ Trade and Enterprise LA office we will hear from their market team on what’s required for those companies looking to do business in the U.S.A.

  • At Robert Hall Winery we will hear about their commitment to a sustainable operation including the use of drone and biocontrol technology for pest control. Also their living study converting the vineyard from conventional to regenerative organic farming.

  • We will see how J. Lohr are focused on achieving the best possible results for their wines through careful stewardship of the land, with a dedication to sustainability and the environment.

  • FIRA U.S.A event

  • We will see why Driscoll's, with their cutting edge research programme, remains the global leader for fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.


What farm visits and growers will you meet with?

We are currently developing a programme that will include select visits to a range of large-scale fruit, vegetable and nut-growing operations in the Washington state.  These are being confirmed. Importantly though, if there is an operation in particular you want us to visit, or have connections we should use, please contact [email protected] - we will make every attempt to include it in the programme.

Why aren't you arranging farm visits over the weekend of the 16 & 17 September?

Well, based on our past events, we learned that taking a break is pretty necessary. Between jet lag, early mornings, long days, and socialising, it can really wear you out. You're welcome to do some work if you want to, but it's totally up to you to set up your own visits, customer interactions and logistics.

If you'd rather kick back and relax, explore Rodeo Drive, head to Disneyland, or pump iron at Venice Beach, that's cool. Just keep in mind that week 2 will be just as exhausting, so make sure you take some time to rest up!

Can we join the group midway through, or leave before the FIRA USA event?

Absolutely! Our plan is for you to be with us for the whole trip, and we've set it up that way. However, if you have to come in late or leave early and you can manage the logistics on your own, we're more than happy to have you join us for as much or as little of the trip as you can.

Just keep in mind that if you're coming on the trip with co-funding, there are certain attendance requirements you'll need to meet in order to be eligible for funding payment.

What about COVID-19?

Please do your own research. The Callaghan Innovation team will comply with these two pieces of advice, but your own research.

Advice 1

"...all air passengers, regardless of citizenship or vaccination status, are no longer required to show a negative viral COVID-19 test result, or documentation of recovery from COVID-19, before boarding a flight to the United States" (source)

Advice 2

"...noncitizen nonimmigrant air passengers no longer need to show proof of being fully vaccinated with an accepted COVID-19 vaccine to board a flight to the United States." (source)


We have our flights booked and encourage you to do the same. Our bookings are:

  • 8 September @ 1945: Auckland - San Francisco | connection to Seattle @ 1715

  • 14 September @ 1855 : Portland - Los Angeles aboard Alaska Airlines (AS1208)

  • 23 September @ 2100: San Francisco - Auckland

When it comes to arrival, please make sure you're in Seattle by early afternoon on September 10th.

Please try and book on the same flight as us from Portland to Los Angeles.

As for departure, we're anticipating a late arrival back in San Francisco on September 22nd and suggest not scheduling your flight out of California for that day since we can't guarantee what time we'll be back.


We are booking accommodation for the group as a single block. All hotel costs below are in $USD, most include breakfast, but excludes taxes (usually an additional 15%).

The best way to be a part of this is to contact the trip organisers and ask to be included. This way we can make the bookings for you (and you will pay via credit card when there).

Our selected hotels are:


We think you should be able to enjoy this trip for $12,000 NZD.

To give you a ballpark figure for the expenses you are likely to incur as part of this trip, please see our estimated budget for the trip - right click, open in new tab.

Budget Estimate Breakdown here


Callaghan Innovation will be funding a number of agritech companies to attend this market immersion. More details will be shared in the coming weeks.

Travel Insurance

If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Please ensure you have adequate coverage.

Traveller’s checklist:

A helpful list of things we think you should do to be ready for this trip:

  • Book flights

  • Book accommodation (final details still being sorted)

  • Purchase tickets to:

  • Get travel insurance

  • Get your U.S. visa waiver sorted (here - USD$21)

  • Think about accessing money (Kev uses for international currencies)

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