Skip to main content Skip to main navigation Skip to footer content

Institute for Food and Agriculture

2023 Banner



November 8, 2023


2257 W Shaw Ave.
Fresno CA 93711



Registrations will be open until the day of the event

If you want to access the commodity reports, please email Luz Mendoza (


Sponsorship opportunities available.



8:00 a.m. - Registration and Check in with continental breakfast

8:30 a.m. - 8:45 a.m. - Introductions / Welcome
Serhat Asci, Ph.D., Faculty, Department of Agricultural Business
Rolston St Hilaire, Ph.D., Dean, Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology
Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, Ph.D., President, California State University, Fresno

8:45 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. - Morning Keynote Speaker, Roger Bernard  

9:30 a.m.- 9:45 a.m. - Break

9:45 a.m. - 10:45 a.m. - Panel #1 - Agricultural technology and emerging industry adoption

10:45 a.m - 11:00 a.m. - Break

11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. - Panel #2 Water policy impacts in the Central Valley of California

12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. - Luncheon, Keynote Speaker, Dr. Michael Swanson

Roger Bernard Headshot

Roger Bernard- Policy Analyst 

Roger Bernard is deeply entrenched in agriculture, hailing from a Minnesota farm background and transitioning into farm broadcasting and agricultural journalism. He's dedicated to analyzing US agricultural policies, notably the Farm Bills from 1990 to 2018, leveraging a wealth of experience and extensive industry connections. Roger's expertise encompasses agriculture, trade, energy, transportation, taxes, and US economic policy. As a Senior Policy Analyst at S&P Global Commodity Insights, he delivers precise and timely analyses to clients. With over two decades at Farm Journal / Pro Farmer, he extensively covered US agriculture and Washington policy, notably spending a significant period in Washington DC. Roger's presentations on agricultural policy and politics are highly informative and engaging.


Brian Bassett HeadshotBrian Bassett - President, FarmitRx

Brian holds a B.S. in Crops and Soil Science, is the CEO and Lead Agronomist at FarmitRx. His dedication lies in integrating validated agricultural technologies through machine learning, pattern recognition, and AI. As a Certified Crop Adviser, Brian focuses on resource management, predictive analytics, and scaling sensor technologies in production agriculture, notably in nutrient and water management. He initiated designing variable rate irrigation systems by soil profile in 2005. Brian's leadership at FarmitRx involves pioneering an Ag Geo-Database using geophysical mapping, multispectral imaging, and real-time UAV data to provide growers with real-time plant and soil recommendations, enabling data-driven agricultural decisions. With 28 years of experience, including a stint as a research associate for the UC Cooperative Extension, he remains at the forefront of researching and developing integrated agricultural technologies, streamlining data utilization for growers and industry stakeholders through innovative IM Scheduler mobile and web APP.


Seana Day headshot Seana Day - Partner, Culterra Capital

Seana brings over 20 years of investment, M&A advisory and technology experience to Culterra Capital. She is a regular Ag ecosystem contributor and publishes annual AgTech and Food Supply Chain Tech Landscapes highlighting technology across the Food and Ag value chain. Seana currently serves as Chairwoman on the Board of Directors for Dave Wilson Nursery and SWAN Systems. Prior to her involvement in Food and Ag, Seana was a technology investment banker at AGC Partners in London, Ridgecrest Capital Partners and Headwaters MB (Capstone Partners). Her background also includes Head of Restructuring and Operations at Versata Enterprises. She is now based in her hometown of Turlock, in the heart of California’s Ag-land. 




Chris Thiesen HeadshotChris Thiesen - Head of California Sales & Service, Burro

Chris leads our sales and support efforts in California. He grew up on his family farm in the San Joaquin Valley, where he experienced from an early age the challenges and opportunities around using and implementing new technologies on a farm. He joined our team after working for Brandt Farms, a leading grower, packer, and shipper of table grapes, stone fruit, citrus, and persimmons in and around Reedley, CA. At Brandt, he managed ranch operations at various levels, and worked implementing various early ag technologies such as multi-spectral imaging, soil mapping, and variable rate fertility applications. From this, he has a real world understanding of technology that does what it is sold as doing and works reliably in the field. Chris and his wife Kasey have three kids (who love robots), and are heavily invested in their community.



Hovannes Kulhandjian HeadshotModerator: Dr. Hovannes Kulhandjian - Associate Professor, Fresno State Lyles College of Engineering

Hovannes Kulhandjian is a Senior IEEE Member and holds M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from The State University of New York at Buffalo. He was an Associate Research Engineer at Northeastern University before becoming an Associate Professor at California State University, Fresno. His research focuses on wireless communications, precision agriculture, underwater acoustic communications, visible light communications, and applied machine learning. He actively contributes to IEEE and ACM conferences, serves as a Guest Editor for journals, and participated in the 2023 Farm Robotics Challenge. Recently, he presented at the FIRA USA 2023 conference on the SARDOG Smart Agricultural Robot development.




Dr. Caitlin Peterson HeadshotDr. Caitlin Peterson - Associate Director of PPIC Water Policy Center

Dr. Caitlin Peterson is associate director and research fellow at the PPIC Water Policy Center. She is an agroecologist whose research spans climate-smart agriculture, soil health, diversified cropping systems, agroecosystem resilience, and multi-benefit agricultural landscapes. In her previous work, she explored irrigation and soil ecosystem functions in California almond and tomato systems, crop-livestock integration in Brazilian soybean-beef systems, and small farmer adaptation to climate change in Colombia, Tanzania, and Ghana. As a consulting agroecologist, she led programs linking farmers across the US to emerging soil carbon marketplaces. She holds a PhD in ecology and an MS in international agricultural development from the University of California, Davis


Dr. Thomas Holyoke HeadshotDr. Thomas Holyoke, Associate Professor at California State University, Fresno 

Dr. Thomas Holyoke is professor of political science at California State University, Fresno, and is also affiliated with the California Water Institute. He specializes in studying American interest groups, political advocacy, and western water policy. In addition to being the author or co-author of over forty professional academic articles, he has written several books, the most recent being Water Politics: The Fragmentation of Western Water Policy (which will be published by Routledge in November).





Jasbir Sidhu, President, Fertilizer Depot Inc. and Punjabi American Growers Group


Charles Hillyer HeadshotModerator: Dr. Charles Hillyer,  Interim Associate Vice President of the California Water Institute and Acting Director of the Center for Irrigation Technology (CIT)

Charles Hillyer, PhD, is the Interim Associate Vice President of the California Water Institute and Acting Director of the Center for Irrigation Technology (CIT) at California State University, Fresno. With over 20 years of experience in agricultural software development, 13 of which focused on irrigation management, Hillyer is actively involved in organizations like ASABE, IA, and AgGateway. He also leads international standards development efforts. CIT prioritizes innovation and technology transfer through applied research, testing, and entrepreneurship to advance resource management tools. Hillyer's current work at CIT involves integrating the latest technologies into a comprehensive system, incorporating decision support to streamline irrigation scheduling and enhance water management.


Michael Swanson Headshot"Michael Swanson is an agricultural economist and consultant for Wells Fargo, the largest commercial agricultural lender in the United States. Based in Minneapolis, his responsibilities include analyzing the impact of energy on agriculture, forecasting for key agricultural commodities, such as wheat, soybeans, corn, and cotton, and livestock sectors, such as cattle, dairy, and hogs. Additionally, he helps develop credit and risk strategies for Wells Fargo’s customers, and performs macroeconomic and international analysis on agricultural production and agribusiness.

Prior to working at Wells Fargo, he worked for four years at Land O’ Lakes, a large national dairy cooperative based in Minnesota. There, he supervised a portion of the supply chain for dairy products including scheduling the production, warehousing, and distribution of more than 400 million pounds of cheese annually and also supervised the sales forecasting process.

Before working in the dairy processing business, Michael lived in South America for four years working for Cargill Cafetera de Manizales S.A., the Colombian subsidiary of the agribusiness giant Cargill. His areas of responsibilities included grain imports and value-added sales to feed producers and flour millers.

Michael started his career as a transportation analyst with Burlington Northern Railway from 1986 until 1989. His primary responsibilities included system analysis and capacity studies in the northern region stretching from Chicago to Seattle.

Michael received undergraduate degrees in economics and business administration from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., and both his master’s and doctorate degrees in agricultural and applied economics from the University of Minnesota. His doctoral thesis, which the National Research Institute and the Norwegian government sponsored, showed how to use value-added tax data to better estimate key components of economic activity."


All registered participants will receive access to the resource folder. Email if you have not received access.

Thank you to all of the sponsors who made this event possible.

Platinum Sponsors


Wells Fargo Logo


Brandt Logo



Gold Sponsors

Farm Credit Logo

Fowler Packing Logo




Silver Sponsors


The Zenith Logo




Supporting Organizations

American Pistachio Growers Logo Fortune Associates Logo

Steve Moore Farms

Alliant Logo

Conference Organization Committee



Bank of America Logo



Ofi Logo

California Fresh Fruit Association Logo

The Zenith Logo


Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology Logo