How We Grow

2019 July/Aug How We Grow

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8 A L M O N D O R C H A R D 2 0 2 5 G O A L S HARVEST DUST New Technology Key to Industry's Dust Reduction Strategy Modesto-based almond grower and custom harvester Doug Flora is one of farming's original dust-busters. Seeing a need to significantly reduce dust at almond harvest, he and his farming colleagues at Golden Valley Harvesting Inc. started their own research and development program to find ways to reduce dust while maintaining necessary harvest efficiencies. Their initial goal to reduce visible harvest dust without sacrificing speed proved worthwhile, and today Flora is the vice president of Exact Harvesting Systems Inc., an equipment supplier that operates among a small group of similar companies in the Central Valley who strive to provide growers with harvesting technology that's best for their orchards and for the environment. In this interview with the Almond Board of California (ABC), Flora shares his perspective on ABC's Almond Orchard 2025 Goal to reduce visible harvest dust by 50%, identifying opportunities for the almond community to move toward that goal. ABC: Doug, you're a member of several Almond Board committees — the Strategic Ag Innovation Committee, Ag Regulatory Subcommittee and Harvest Workgroup. What value do you see in participating in these groups and the impact they have on the almond community? Doug Flora: I appreciate the opportunity to be involved in these committees. I think it's a great networking opportunity to work with people where we all take off our private industry hats and put on a hat for the good of the entire community — this gives us the ability to get ahead of the issues. I think we have some of the best minds working on these issues, in addition to ABC research dollars that very effectively get in front of problems before they really impact us. Being proactive is key. It's important not just from a health standpoint as we think of the people living around us, also for tree health and food safety purposes. There are many reasons to get out in front, and I'm glad to see the Almond Board making steps toward that. ABC: The Almond Board set a goal to reduce dust during harvest by 50% by 2025. As a committee member, tell us about the process and conversations that led to that goal. DF: We are planting more almonds and more people continue to move to California — that means the days of farming "out in the country" are gone. Now we're farming right beside housing developments and that means we're all breathing the same air. I'm quick to add that I think growers are proactive, and I've always said we are truly environmentalists in the most accurate sense of the word. We make a living from the environment and we often live in the same orchards where we farm. I think that the Almond Board has a great opportunity to come alongside growers to use research and outreach programs to help them implement the technology that's been developed to reduce harvest dust. I think that coming up with these goals and then putting some stakes in the ground has been a process of trying to be forward-thinking and proactive, and yet realistic. We have technology that we know can reduce visible dust, as well as overall particulate matter. We know we can someday reduce those numbers by 70% or 80%, so setting a goal of a 50% reduction seems pretty realistic and attainable, especially considering growers are already beginning to implement some of these new technologies. Doug Flora VP, Exact Harvesting Systems Inc. VP, Golden Valley Ag Inc.

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