The Project 17 Story 

The confluence of agriculture and technology . . .

The confluence of agriculture and technology blends perfectly in the Project 17 geographic area – the Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito tri-county region of the Monterey Bay Area on the north central California coast.  Silicon Valley, the former food-growing region that had been known as Santa Clara Valley, is a 30-minute to hour-and-a-half drive from much of the Monterey Bay Area’s sustained growing region.  Technologists living in Santa Cruz, Watsonville, Gilroy, Hollister, Carmel and Monterey commute to Silicon Valley to the high-paying technology jobs that sustain their lifestyles in the coastal surfing and sailing, and inland farming and ranching communities.  They bring back “over the hill” with them technological expertise which they turn into small businesses and start-ups that they hope will become large companies.  While they grow, they populate co-working spaces like Nextspace Coworking & Innnovation, Inc. and the Digital Media Factory in Santa Cruz and incubation programs like the Marina Technology Cluster in Monterey County.  According to Tony Livoti, director of the Monterey Bay International Trade Association, there are more than 200 technology companies as home businesses in Santa Cruz County, alone. 

The Project 17 region drips with technology research from institutions and universities that include the Naval Postgraduate school, Long Research Lab, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the University of California at Santa Cruz and California State University at Monterey Bay, and with close ties between the ag industry and the University of California at Davis’s renowned agricultural research programs. 

Over the last decade profit margins in the ag industry have been squeezed.  Growers and shippers need all the help they can get to cut costs, cut “shrinkage,” that is, rotted or stolen produce, and draw more of their financial resources to their bottom-line profits. 

“I would suggest that we haven't even scratched the surface as to what complex Ag issues we can try to tackle with a tech solution,” wrote Rudolph Darken of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey.  “Speaking for myself and most everyone I know in local tech, we don't even know what the Ag folks are grappling with.  Are local issues in line with national concerns?  I would think food security would be a good place to start.  The IT component of that would be particularly interesting because of the local expertise that could be applied.”

As we saw in Santa Clara Valley, once selling the best agricultural land in the world to developers is dramatically more profitable than keeping it in food production, the land is paved over for development.  How does the song go?  “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.  They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.”

As we lose the ability to grow our own food, our security as a nation is threatened.  Applying technology to solve the issues of growers and shippers provides food security and promotes national security. 

Copyright Barich Business Services 2012                Barich Business Services  831-462-1413  Project 17  is partially funded by a contract from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). SBA’s funding should not be construed as an endorsement of any products, opinions, or services. All SBA-funded projects are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis.