During the upcoming May 22-24, 2019 Indoor Ag-Con, Penny McBride, co-founder and current board member of the FarmTech Society, will lead the session, “The Role of Non-Profits In Indoor Ag.” Newly formed this year, the FarmTech Society is an international non-profit association that unites and supports the Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) industry, seeking to strengthen the sector through the development and implementation of resilient and future proof methods and technologies for indoor growing.
We spoke with Penny recently to learn more about this important new association and its goals.
Tell us more about the FarmTech Society’s mission:
Our mission is to truly unite the CEA industry. Even though it has been around for a long time, the sector’s capacity to make changes in how food is produced is new. And, as the challenge of feeding the planet grows every day, it’s more important than ever. We want to galvanize the industry for growers and food producers – to serve them on a number of fronts and to speak as a collective voice on a range issues.
As a new association, what are your immediate focus areas:
There are three – Policy, Education and Standards.
Policy Advocacy —We want to drive the development of policies and legislation that support the interests and growth of our sector. Individually, policy impact can vary between Europe and the US and access to decision-makers isn’t always easy. That’s the power of an association – we can unite our individual voices to have a bigger impact on the topics that matter today and looking forward.
Standardization — We want to help get everyone on the same playing field and we can do that faster with meaningful industry standards that help the industry innovate and grow. We are talking to industry and academia members to help identify the most important areas of focus and will work to provide the relevant network and platforms for the indoor growing industry.
Education — Education is perhaps the most important focus area for us. In looking at people who will work on a farm, what educational opportunities are out there? We realize that much of the training that people get is through 4-year programs. But there are others seeking job opportunities who do not have access or time to complete this level of training. Whether it’s offering quality credentials for graduates or facilitating credentials that meet industry standards for other levels, we are working to develop training and educational resources to address these talent vacuums.
What Else Would You Like To Share With the Industry:
The FarmTech Society strives to be as inclusive as possible. We’ve created a membership fee structure that is attainable for everyone. Our board is comprised of US and European members to equally represent the sector. And, we want to create something that is truly transparent. We certainly understand that companies have propriety information and need to maintain a competitive edge. But there is enough space for everyone to join together and take advantage of the synergy that exists in information and idea sharing. We’ve seen this work in other industries, like software’s open source approach.
The indoor farming sector is moving forward in all areas – policy, technology, innovation etc – and our hope is that we can get there even faster by coming together.
For membership and other information, visit the organization’s website www.farmtechsociety.com