Representatives from Hortau Corp., a San Luis Obispo-based firm specializing in precision irrigation management systems, visited the nation’s capital recently to discuss the need for investment in rural America.
Jocelyn Boudreau, CEO of Hortau, and Brian Milne, director of communications, attended the private conference at the invitation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the White House Rural Council, which held its second annual Rural Opportunity Investment Conference in late July at the White House complex in Washington, D.C.
Hortau was one of four companies invited to the event, which focused on promoting public-private partnerships designed to help drive rural economies. It connected senior officials from financial institutions, fixed-income funds and other investors with rural business leaders, government officials and experts in economic development.
“It’s about bringing more investment and dynamism to rural areas of America to make sure that they remain lively and healthy so they can feed the rest of the country,” Boudreau said.
Agriculture is a part of the U.S. economy that’s not often discussed, but as agricultural production grows, investing in rural America — building up its infrastructure, technology and creating good jobs — will become increasingly critical, he said.
Many young people, not only in the U.S. but abroad, have been leaving family farms for greater opportunities in urban areas, he added.
“It’s about being ready, being ahead of the curve and having food security,” Boudreau said. “We’re growing more food knowing there will be less people in rural areas. It’s been a huge trend for the past 100 years.”
Hortau provides mostly farmers with the technology to maximize resources and increase production. The company offers a wireless web-based platform to help farmers monitor crops in real time, with sensor stations installed in fields to keep track of crop conditions, such as whether there’s too much or too little moisture in the soil, or fertilizer that can affect plant growth.
Founded in 2002 by Boudreau and agronomist Jean Caron, Hortau has its U.S. operations in San Luis Obispo and employs about 30 people. In June, the company received $5 million in financing from Advantage Capital Agribusiness Partners, which will help expand its operations throughout the United States.
The privately held firm declined to disclose revenues or profits.