Almond industry to promote innovation


almond blossomsSACRAMENTO — Increased rain and an expected boost in productivity have the almond industry’s biggest advocates feeling good about the next few years.


In fact, the Almond Board of California has begun promoting innovations to develop what it calls the “almond orchard of the future,” one that maximizes efficiencies and increases production.

In an interview with the Business Journal before his presentation at this year’s Almond Conference in Sacramento, Almond Board of California CEO Richard Waycott said board members are choosing an optimistic outlook.

“We expect about a 25 percent increase in production in the next three to four years,” Waycott said.

Over the past few years, many growers have been replacing older orchards with younger trees. Those orchards are maturing and will begin to bear nuts.

In addition, yields that were slacking during the drought are starting to recover as California is seeing more rain.

“With better moisture last winter, we saw the yields start to come back a little bit” he said. “Hopefully this winter we’ll get enough moisture that you’ll see that improve.

As part of the Accelerated Innovation Management plan the Almond Board announced last spring, the organization will focus on helping growers in nine areas, or capabilities, which include developing best practices for pesticide use, soil health, biomass management, minimizing dust and improving food safety.

“Essentially, it’s doing more with less,” Waycott said. “There isn’t sort of this golden rainbow at the end, but it’s more working across all those key areas and having continuous improvement accelerated.”

The Accelerated Innovation Management program will help boost California’s almond industry’s work in those key areas by focusing funding, resources and expertise on those issues.

The Almond Board is working to get an assessment increase approved by the USDA of one cent per pound for three years. If approved, that money would be specifically spent on supporting many of the Accelerated Innovation Management initiatives.

The Almond Board is also keeping an eye on trade developments, although it doesn’t try to influence policy. The almond industry exports 70 percent of the crop, much of it to China, Waycott said. President-elect Trump has signaled his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and said he wants to label China a currency manipulator, but it isn’t clear what the Trump administration will do.

“Trade policy needs to be fair, maybe fairer than it is, and if that’s the direction that his administration goes — to try and even the playing field a little bit where it’s uneven right now — that certainly a good initiative,” Waycott said. “But once again, it’s way too early to know exactly what he’s going to take on.”

The almond industry got a marketing boost in November when the FDA gave it the green light to call almonds “healthy.”



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