2023 Year in Review

Monterey Bay DART Year in Review: Soaring High in 2023!

2023 Year in Review

As we bid farewell to another remarkable year, we want to express our sincere gratitude for being part of the Monterey Bay Drone, Automation, and Robotics Technology (DART) community. It has been a year filled with innovation, growth, and exciting developments, and we’re thrilled to share our Year in Review with you.

A Year of Achievements:

  • In October, Monterey Bay DART and CSUMB secured a $1.95 million grant from the James Irvine Foundation. This funding will build on our momentum, expanding the DART-Joby Advanced Manufacturing Apprenticeship Program (AMAP), launching the DART-FarmNG AMAP, strengthening partnerships with CBOs, and enhancing DART’s organizational capacity. 

Highlighting Key Projects:

  • Monterey Bay DART, in partnership with the Hatamiya Group, is finalizing a Feasibility Study which assessed the demand for a Regional Workforce Training Center focused on preparing the local workforce for the jobs of the future in advanced manufacturing, drones, automation, and robotics technology. Expected completion in Q1 2024.
  • The CITRIS Center for Drone Education and Research (CIDER) at UC Santa Cruz and the Monterey Bay DART are continuing to make significant progress on our collaborative DART Workforce Skills Demand Study. This study is actively assessing the current and future workforce skills demand for the use of drones in agriculture, infrastructure inspection, construction monitoring, and related fields within the tri-county region. Expected completion in Q2 2024.
  • In June, Monterey Bay DART supported the planning, marketing and implementation of the UCANR Drone Camp at CSUMB, including 8 Drone Camp scholarships in partnership with Building Healthy Communities in Seaside. The UCANR Drone Camp celebrated its 6th year in Monterey acknowledging DART’s instrumental role in facilitating the UCANR and CSUMB collaboration.

Community Collaboration:

Our thriving community is at the heart of everything we do. This year, we’ve fostered even stronger partnerships and collaborations. Together, we’ve shared insights, exchanged ideas, and collectively worked towards shaping the future of community and economic development in our region.

  • In November, the Monterey Bay Joby Aviation Working Group celebrated Joby Aviation’s $9.8M Cal Competes Grant to expand their facility at Marina Airport. This award will leverage a $41.3 million investment by Joby, creating 690 full-time jobs statewide by 2027. Locally, this will open hundreds of job opportunities, building on the DART-Joby Advanced Manufacturing Apprenticeship pilot program.
  • In March, Monterey Bay DART hosted a delegation from the Kern Career Technical Education Campus (CTEC). Participants from Monterey Bay included Cabrillo College, UCSC, CSUMB, Monterey County, Learning For Life Charter School, MBEP, and Joby Aviation.
  • Additionally, DART was represented at the following community outreach events during the past year:
    • Black August 2023
    • Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce – Economic Vitality Committee
    • California Special Districts Association Annual Meeting
    • EDGE Collaborative iHub Convening, Manteca
    • ChicoStart – North State Familiarity Tour
    • SIEDI Annual Convening 2023 
    • MBEP State of the Region 2023 
    • CALED Annual Conference, Los Angeles 2023
    • DOT Inter-Agency Working Group on Advanced Air Mobility, October 2023

Industry Events and Engagements:

Looking Ahead to 2024:

As we embark on a new year, Monterey Bay DART is committed to exploring new frontiers and continuing to lead the way in the ever-evolving landscape of drone, automation, and robotics technology.

Thank You for Your Support:

None of our achievements would be possible without the unwavering support of our community, partners, and stakeholders. As we reflect on the past year, we’re excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. Stay tuned for more exciting developments, projects, and collaborations in 2024!

Wishing you a joyful holiday season and a prosperous New Year!

SIEDI Delegation Explores FIRA-USA 2023

Author: Barbara Meister, SIEDI Mentor

A SIEDI (Salinas Inclusive Economic Development Initiative) delegation explored the emerging world of robotics in agriculture by attending the FIRA-USA conference in September at the Salinas Rodeo Grounds. Participants included representatives from Mujeres en Acción, ALBA and Loaves, Fishes and Computers along with the Ag Tech class from Rancho Cielo

Drone Pavilion

The conference drew entrepreneurs, academics, government scientists, graduate students, venture capitalists, journalists and growers from all parts of the globe. Thanks to our partners at DART, 12 of us had the chance to see field-level robotic demonstrations, meet company representatives, and hear panel discussions about the emergence of robotics and mechanization of agriculture, its promises and possibilities, and the threats and opportunities that come with technological innovation.   

SIEDI leaders had several key takeaways and lots of questions.   Robotics is driven, at least in part, by the shortage of farm labor. Robotics and the mechanization of production agriculture will certainly change work.  

Some new jobs will be created as robotics will require engineering and programming skills for their creation and problem-solving applications. Could these be job opportunities for graduates of Hartnell and CSUMB’s new Mechatronics program? Could the sons and daughters of farm workers be prepared for these jobs? 

Drone Pavilion

Some jobs will be replaced, not immediately, but over time. There is not a robotic solution to harvest strawberries in the field (yet?) because it is difficult for a robotic eye to see the fruit under the leafy canopy of a strawberry plant. A more likely robotic application will be a machine to cut the pre-harvest berry runners and replace those jobs. For a grower, the higher return on labor is during harvest, not during pre-harvest maintenance of the plant.  

Some jobs are at present being replaced. The mechanized PlantTape,  only needs 2 workers to operate it when typically there are 8 or more workers riding a machine and feeding transplants into the soil.  

Some jobs will become safer. We saw an autonomous sprayer that could run at night, by itself and thus eliminate or reduce pesticide exposure for workers. On the other hand, the job of a sprayer often pays a $2-3 per hour premium, and is an attractive job for some because of the higher pay. What happens to these workers when they are replaced by machines?  

Ag Demonstration

Some jobs will be made more efficient. We saw smaller robots, called Burro and Amiga, that could carry small loads behind or alongside a worker, reducing physical burdens and increasing time-labor efficiency. For piece-rate crops, like strawberries, the time a harvester spends carrying a carton of berries to the end of the row is money lost. Will the cost-savings of a robot flow to the worker because they are more productive now? 

SIEDI leaders concluded that at present, robots have both the potential to be a complement to making work safer, less physically demanding, and more efficient for workers AND robots can displace workers. We are  eager to explore the questions of opportunities and threats to our Salinas Valley workforce. How do we create a pathway for the  jobs being created by innovation in ag tech for our youth? How do we re-skill and up-skill those currently work to plant and harvest our food? What impact will robots have on wages for farm workers?  

Drone Pavilion

As SIEDI prepares for its plan of work for the next two years, we are eager to have more conversations, starting with farm workers themselves – what do they want from ag tech? And with small farmers, can robots improve efficiencies at small scale? What capacity do our educational institutions, adult schools and community colleges have for upskilling and re-skilling our current workers? What kind of partnerships can we create alongside these institutions, including CSUMB and UCSC, to prepare our Salinas Valley students for the design, engineering, programming and manufacturing of ag tech? We are eager to talk with farmers who are using and experimenting with ag tech to find out what they are learning and the impact on their labor force. And we want to talk to the ag tech companies in our region  to understand what problems they are trying to solve and their workforce needs.   

Robotics and automation are happening. SIEDI is ready to be proactive in mitigating the downsides and shape how this innovation can enable more Salinas Valley families to be included in the economic opportunities this technology will create.