OPN staff members, Kelli Runge and Cate Aldrete, attended the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit last week in Anaheim for the first time. Below the pair share their thoughts on their first ever PMA---- and five takeaways that stood out and left them excited for PMA in 2020.
1. The show was electric from the start, and as loyal “Shark Tank” fans, we were excited to see Robert Herjavec live during the Thrive Fresh Summit Challenge. We were impressed with the panel of prestigious judges as we listened to pitches from four companies, chosen from an international group of over 200 applicants. All four contenders presented innovative, tech-forward ideas, and walking away with the top prize of serious bragging rights and $100,000 was ProteoSense, founded by serial start-up guru Mark Byrne. We came away with a better understanding of the potential for food and waterborne pathogen detection during Mark’s pitch – and we were also fascinated to learn more about the capabilities of drone technology, future greenhouse material usage, and data collection methodologies.
2. Entering the tradeshow floor was exhilarating. The conversations were contagious, and we attempted to see every one of the 1200+ exhibitors, a task we soon learned was nearly impossible. As first timers, engaging with veterans of the produce industry was eye-opening and presented great takeaways; including a continuous focus on organics, investments in the latest technology to improve efficiencies, and discussions about food waste through sustainable practices.
3. The Zespri Kiwifruit booth had tasty food samples and we played a few rounds of “Skiwi Ball.” (It is safe to say that although we had a great time playing, neither of us will be pursuing professional skee-ball careers). With monitors displaying products and information, interactive games, and an engaging staff, it’s not surprising the Zespri booth had non-stop traffic throughout the show. They offered samplings of their organic SunGold Kiwifruit in many delicious options, our favorite being the blended smoothie. Zespri’s booth caught our attention from an attendee perspective – way to go Zespri!
4. Zespri wasn’t the only booth with creative pull: others included a two-story Naturipe mega-booth, complete with an upstairs meeting area and a café to sample their product; a pop-up beach from Pacific Trellis/Dulcinea Farms; and a prime photo opportunity for all the Instagram fanatics- the Sunkist swing chair. Throughout the tradeshow, we were blown away by the promotion of ag-tech solutions and demonstrations. Fresh Solutions Network engaged their booth audience with virtual reality tours of their farms and facilities, the perfect blend of networking and utilizing technology to engage with new customers.
5. As new moms and avid flower lovers, we loved strolling the floral section of the show. The aromas, colors and storefront-feeling of the booths made us feel like we were shopping and preparing for the holidays. While we knew floral was a large part of PMA, walking the aisles gave us a greater appreciation for our floral sections of our local grocery stores from a consumer perspective.
By the time we headed for the airport, we left PMA just as we had arrived – excited and energized. We felt inspired and proud of the work that our industry is doing to deliver delicious products to the consumer, advance agricultural technology, and innovate for the future. PMA Fresh Summit has set the bar high for us and we look forward to Dallas in 2020.