The May 22-24, 2019 edition of Indoor Ag-Con will feature 40+ sessions. In addition to keynote headliners from the CEOs of Bowery, Freight Farms and Gotham Greens and a range of breakout sessions covering top trending topics and important industry developments, you’ll also be able to choose from a series of panel discussions on everything from seed breeding and technology to women in ag and more.
Among the panel programs,“Diversity and Inclusion in Indoor Ag,” will be held on Friday, May 24, 2019 from 10:20 – 11:20 am. Moderated by Andrew Blume, co-founder of inHouse Produce, the panel will include Nate Looney, CEO and Owner, Westside Urban Gardens, A’laric Overbey, CEO, Food Access and Reclamation Model (The F.A.R.M.) and others.
“This topic is very important to me, to the organizers of Indoor Ag-Con, and to the industry as a whole,” explains Blume. We checked in with Blume ahead of the panel to learn a bit more about the program, the points he and his panelists will cover and more.
Q: What is your current role and how did you get involved in indoor agriculture?
A: I’m a co-founder of inHouse Produce, a company focused on redefining the farm-to-table experience by growing produce right in the dining area of hospitality establishments.
I’ve been involved in indoor ag-tech since 2015. Back then I started out in a volunteering role where I would relentlessly network and soak up information. After volunteering for nearly a year, I got a break and was offered a position with Agritecture, an urban ag consultancy where we would help folks pursue their agtech dreams.
After a healthy period of helping others pursue their entrepreneurial passions, I eventually was ready to jump two feet into entrepreneurship myself. After a few twists and turns on that journey, I found a new focus on building bonds between agtech and hospitality.
Q: Share 2-3 key points you plan to cover during the Diversity and Inclusion panel discussion at Indoor Ag-Con
A: As a straight, white, male, I’ve come to realize that I can never truly understand the complexities and nuances that many of my colleagues face. Whether the dynamics have to do with race, gender, sexual orientation, or other factors – I will never experience the situations others have had to navigate.
My goal in this panel will be to acknowledge that fact, and build from there. While I can’t walk in their shoes, I can listen, reflect, and empathize. With an open heart and mind, I hope we can take a hard look at the power dynamics at play, strategize how to be better, and ultimately work towards solutions for making our agtech community more inclusive.
Q: What do you think is the most pressing challenge in the indoor agriculture sector today and how are you and inHouse Produce addressing it?
A: I feel the most pressing challenge facing indoor agriculture is what I call, the black box. For the last one hundred years or so, agriculture has been moving out of sight and out of mind for much of the population. This caused our food system to become extremely vulnerable to special interests and short-sighted practices.
While indoor agriculture is a step in the right direction to fixing these problems, I still feel agriculture isn’t inclusive enough for our urban populations. inHouse Produce seeks to solve this challenge by growing food where people eat it. We want dining patrons to know and experience where their food comes from in a multi-sensory way – and we hope that will lead to engagement in agriculture from the general population.
Q: What do you hope to get out of your participation in this year’s Indoor Ag-Con event in Las Vegas
A: Indoor Ag-Con played a huge role in launching my career. I first attended in 2016 where I made several incredible connections. This network helped me transform from an agtech enthusiast to an agtech professional.
While I now have around 20,000 agtech hours under my belt, this is still a drop in the bucket. There is an enormous amount I can learn and Indoor Ag-Con is a great place to find answers. The technical experience of the Ag-Con community is wide-ranging and hard to beat.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share with our Indoor Ag-Con readers?
A: Don’t forget to have fun! Geeking out about plants is great, achieving your business goals is even better, but we should always be looking to strengthen our community.
Ask a personal question here or there, take a moment to chat or philosophize. You might just surprise yourself!