Month: June 2021

CEADs Standards 1.0 Presented At October 2021 Indoor Ag-Con

Indoor Ag-Con is pleased to announce that members of the leadership team for CEADS – Controlled Environment Agriculture Design Standards – will introduce Standards v1.0 to our attending audience during the October 4-5, 2021 edition at the Hilton Orlando.

The CEADS cultivate industry-vetted best practices into peer-reviewed standards.  These standards enable CEA enterprises to become industry leaders by optimizing their sustainability practices and performance.CEADS Standards At Indoor Ag-Con 2021

Defining Goals for the CEA Industry

Established in September 2019, CEADS evolved following the USDA/NIFA Az-CEA Conference at The University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2. Here,  participants from industry, government, and academia collaborated to define goals for the advancement of the controlled environment agriculture industry.

During Indoor Ag-Con, CEADS leadership team members, including Matt Liotta , Founder Emeritis of Agrify; Charles Parrish, Agricultural Engineer , UbiQD, Inc. and Dr. Gary Stutte, president, SyNRGE,LLC, will present the new standards.

Achieving More Sustainable Operations

CEADS  aim is to provide a centralized repository of best design practices. CEADS also strives to set  benchmarks for sustainable CEA operations from greenhouses to vertical farms.

In addition, CEADS main objective is to establish a practice to more sustainable operation. The CEADS encompass the management of water, energy, materials, byproducts, pests and safety. Based on their operation type, farmers and growers can obtain relevant standards, certifications and regulations in the following domains:CEADS Standards at Indoor Ag-Con 2021

• Utilities
• Materials & Waste
• Crop Quality
• Integrated Pest Management
• Automation & Labor
• Equity & Localness
• Profitability

In addition to Matt Liotta, Charles Parrish and Gary Stutte, other members of the CEADS Leadership Team include:

– Bekah Waller, Secretary (The University of Arizona)
– Weslynne Ashton (Illinois Institute of Technology)
– Jess Bunchek (NASA’s Kennedy Space Center)

CEADS also has a strong Avisory Board including academics, growers, industry suppliers
– Mark Lefsrud (McGill University)
– Simone Valle de Souza (Michigan State University)
– Penny McBride (Second Chances Farm, LLC)
– Tharindu Weeraratne (WayBeyond)
– Charles Wu (Nexem)
– Corinne Wilder (Fluence by OSRAM)
– Brady Nemeth (Fluence by OSRAM)
– Gene Giacomelli (The University of Arizona)
– David Kessler (Agrify)

Make plans now to join us at Indoor Ag-Con to learn more. And, you can also read more about CEADS here and by visiting the website, too.

Better Climate Control With Water Cooled Multi-Layer LED Lighting

From Indoor Ag-Con Exhibitor Oreon:  The multi-layer lighting market is evolving rapidly as more and more growers recognize the added value of this sustainable and efficient cultivation method.

The heat between the layers, as well as the rising relative humidity (RH), form a major challenge to growers aiming for a stable climate.Embrace by Oreon At Indoor Ag-Con 2021

The water cooled Embrace from Oreon provides a welcome solution.  Less radiant heat means fewer temperature fluctuations, resulting in stable RH and CO2 levels.

The active water-cooling of the multi-layer fixture keeps the fixture at a low operating temperature. This benefits both the light output. It also benefits the lifespan of the electronics and LEDs.

Read more about water cooled multi-layer LED lighting and how this technology contributes to a stable growing climate at: https://www.oreon-led.com/en/keep-close

Talking Funding & Form Factors With Sensei Ag CEO Sonia Lo

Sensei_ag_Sonia-Lo CEO Indoor Ag-Con KeynoteSensei Ag CEO Sonia Lo will lead the Indoor Ag-Con keynote presentation, “Improving Human Wellness One Farm At A Time,” on Monday, October 4, 2021 from 11:30 am – 12:20 pm. A headliner event at the October 4-5, 2021 edition  at the Hilton Orlando,  Lo’s  discussion will focus on Sensei Ag’s form factor agnostic approach to building and expanding indoor farms.

Tapped to head Sensei Ag in 2020, Sonia brings more than 32 years of combined agriculture, technology and business experience to her leadership role.  Ahead of her October keynote, we had the chance to talk to Sonia about her company’s mission, funding insights, thoughts on how we value our industry and more.

Sonia, please share with our audience some of your insights into funding in the controlled environment agriculture industry. You’ve stated in the past that venture capital funding alone is not enough to win the day as it relates to indoor vertical farming. Rather, you’ve posited that when/if large, commercial farms are in some way “tied” to the energy grid, municipal bonds would come into play as a viable funding vehicle for these new operations. Can you elaborate on that further?

Venture capital is indeed an important source of funding for the economy, and I am by no means downplaying the role of the VC investor. I myself have run my own investment fund which has invested over $150 million in growth stage companies. Nevertheless, we often see venture capital looking to invest in companies that:Sensei Ag Lanai Farm

1) Are already well on their way to becoming profitable

2) Have very sophisticated fundraising teams or

3) Have deep relationships already in place with the venture or private equity communities.

Smaller, developing indoor farming companies as well as large commercial farms are less likely to have these connections than say a traditional tech company. It would be more likely that they would be candidates for municipal bonds or green bonds that would be accompanied by much lower interest rates and not tied to earn outs and profitability but instead to the greater good of society.

This brings me to the concept then of how do we value our industry? If we can’t properly value indoor agriculture, then neither banks nor venture capital will be able to provide adequate funding to spur our growth. You may have heard me say this in prior publications, but my true hope is that by developing a collective body of knowledge on indoor growing, financial institutions, public and private, will be able to risk asses our businesses, value them long term and provide the necessary funding to spur growth, technology and innovation for our industry. At Sensei Ag, we are positioning ourselves to be one of the key aggregators and generators of such data, moving our industry forward for all who are looking to make a difference in the ability to feed our growing global population healthy, nutritious food.

Sensei Ag has stated being a “form factor agnostic” grower is the goal. When you look to the mix of greenhouse, indoor farm, open field and any other growing environment, tell us how varied grow form factors and crop mixes (leafy greens and fruiting crops) will provide variety and diversity among Sensei Ag’s offerings to your customers?

Sensei Ag FarmBeing form factor agnostic is core to Sensei Ag’s business model and growth plan. We are indoor growers – not just greenhouse growers, not just vertical farm growers. With that said, it’s not just about the types of leafy greens and other produce we will be able to grow using different form factors, but also the ability to venture into new regions of the globe, areas that were traditionally considered food deserts but through one form factor or another can now become food oases.

At our greenhouses on Lana’i, we currently grow hydroponically and produce a variety of exceptional leafy greens, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs and other delicious produce. We are regularly trying out new varieties of cultivars and look forward to introducing even more delicious produce to Hawaii.

This is now the second indoor agriculture company for which you are serving in the important role of CEO. What attracted you to join Sensei Ag and to the company’s overall mission?

When I began by career over thirty years ago with a Stanford degree in political science and math, agriculture was definitely not where I imaginedSensei Ag Farm Hawaii myself down the line. That said, after spending the majority of my career in finance and tech, I can truly say that I am the happiest growing local, nutritious food for others. I joined Sensei Ag last April for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spearhead a company developing science focused on human wellness from food and agriculture systems. As CEO, I am very honored to lead an exceptionally talented team of professionals who together share one vision and that is to increase adoption of indoor agricultural production globally.

Of course complicating this all was no doubt joining a company right in the heart of a global pandemic. Much of our team, with the exception of our farming team on Lana’i, spent the past year working over Zoom. We are only now finally getting a chance to collaborate and spend time in person – and of course seeing more than the top halves of our bodies!

Sensei Ag Lanai FarmNevertheless, the journey thus far has been incredible. I’ve never been known to take the straight and narrow path. Ask anyone about the twisted, curvy roads on Lana’i. Yet, in my mind, there’s never been a more crucial time in our world’s history to address global food insecurity, to encourage and develop new means of promoting health and wellness and to heal and nourish our planet. I look forward to the adventure that lies ahead.

Learn more about Sensei Ag and make plans to hear Sonia Lo live at Indoor Ag-Con, October 4-5, 2021!