Author: Indoor Ag-Con

CEA Summit East

Academia, Business Sectors Forge New Connections at 2022 Debut Edition of CEA Summit East In Virginia

New connections and collaboration were clear themes that emerged from the October 25-26, 2022 debut edition of the Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Summit East held at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) in Danville, VA.  Co-hosted by Indoor Ag-Con and the Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center (a joint project between  the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech ,Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Virginia Tech and the IALR)   , the new event attracted 200 + attendees from 28 states, including growers, educators, scientists, extension specialists, suppliers, engineers, tech specialists, architect/developers and other industry members.

During the day and one-half event, attendees enjoyed quality time to meet, network and learn during keynotes, panels and breakout conference sessions; explore 17 tabletop exhibits presenting the latest innovations and services; and enjoy a host of networking opportunities.

“We are so pleased with the results of this first edition and our partnership with the CEA Innovation Center,” says Brian Sullivan, CEO, Indoor Ag-Con. “Both organizations saw a tremendous opportunity to create a different kind of event for this industry –bringing together a concentrated group  business  and academia audiences together at an incredible research facility setting that fostered an environment for sharing ideas and opportunities.  From the feedback we’ve heard from our attendees and exhibitors alike, we delivered.”

“This event really crystalized our vision of bringing our research and education program together to help move the CEA industry forward,” added Dr. Scott Lowman, Co-Director, Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center and Vice President, Applied Research, IALR. “

“An exciting thing about this conference is that it brought people from all over the United States together to share ideas and goals, which always feeds your own ideas,” said Dr. Michael Evans, Co-Director, Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center and Director, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.”

Among the many highlights of the new event included:

Morning Kick-Off Keynotes
AeroFarms CTO Roger Buelow kicked off opening morning with his keynote address sharing more about the newly opened AeroFarms Danville, the world’s largest aeroponic smart farm, capable of growing more than 3 million pounds of fresh leafy greens annually.  On day two, Matthew Lohr, Virginia’s Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, got the day started sharing the state’s focus and goals for growth of the CEA industry.   “It comes down to collaboration – with the whole Commonwealth working together.  We’ve made progress, and  I’m even more excited about what the future of farming looks like,” he said, echoing the core theme of the conference.”

 

Educational Tracks
The CEA Summit  featured 3 educational tracks – CEA Skills, Business Tips & Regulation, and Teaching, Extension, Workforce Development – that brought academics, growers and business experts together covering a  wide range of topics from finding funding and selection technologies for CEA operations to food safety, sustainability aquaponics  and ways to work with the Land Grant University extension system.     Other panel discussions and  15-minute CEA Industry & Research Showcase sessions gave attendees the chance to hear about some of the latest research findings and other industry success stories.

“We worked to create a conference program that offered something for everyone,” explains Dr. Kaylee South, Assistant Professor of Controlled Environment Agriculture, Virginia Tech. “It was rewarding to see how engaged our audience members in all of our sessions, which encouraged questions and conversations.”

Tabletop Exhibits & Networking
In addition to conference sessions, attendees had ample opportunities to visit with the Summit’s 17 tabletop exhibitors during coffee breaks, luncheon roundtables and an afternoon cocktail reception.

CEA Innovation Center Tour

The event wrapped up with group tours of the CEA Innovation Center.  60+ conference attendees took advantage of the unique opportunity to get an inside look at the CEA Innovation Center’s hydroponic and soilless systems/production systems and facilities, including indoor growth rooms, greenhouse, growth chambers and vertical growing racks.  They also got to hear more about some of the Center’s exciting research projects.

Look for more information coming soon on dates and details for the 2023 edition.  In the meantime, industry members can also make plans to attend Indoor Ag-Con, February 27-28, 2023 as it returns to Caesars Forum, Las Vegas to once again co-locate with the National Grocers Association (NGA) Show.

ABOUT INDOOR AG-CON

Founded in 2013, Indoor Ag-Con has emerged as the premier trade event for indoor | vertical farming | controlled environment agriculture, the practice of growing crops in indoor systems, using hydroponic, aquaponic and aeroponic techniques. Its events are crop-agnostic and touch all sectors of the business, covering produce, legal cannabis |hemp, alternate protein and non-food crops. More information – www.indoor.ag | 404.991.5186

 

ABOUT THE SCHOOL OF PLANT AND ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES AT VIRGINIA TECH

The School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech trains the next generation of professionals in the fields of plant breeding and genetics, agronomic and horticultural crop production, plant protection, soil and water systems management, agricultural technologies, environmental restoration and agro-environmental stewardship.  It conducts research to improve agricultural productivity, reduce negative impacts on the environment and improve soil and water health.  Through extension programs, it provides science-based information to stakeholders to help them feed the world while protecting the environment.  More information —www.spes.vt.edu

 

ABOUT THE VIRGINIA SEAFOOD AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH AND EXTENSION CENTER AT VIRGINIA TECH

The Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Virginia Tech works to support the future of the historic seafood industry — in Virginia and beyond. Its extension specialists work with industry and research partners to identify and respond to emerging needs and provide technical guidance to stakeholders in every level of the seafood supply chain. Through technical assistance, training, process validation, value-added product development, and more, it helps stakeholders ensure product quality, safety, and viability. More information — www.arec.vaes.vt.edu

 

ABOUT IALR

The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) serves as a regional catalyst for economic transformation. Core focus areas include research that provides a clear path to commercialization, advanced learning opportunities where education meets experience, training and rapid-launch space for advanced manufacturers, and economic development through conferencing and a partnership with the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance. It is located in scenic and historic Danville-Pittsylvania County on the VA/NC state line, within a short drive of Roanoke, Greensboro and Raleigh.  More information –  www.ialr.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intelligent Growth Solutions

UK-Based Intelligent Growth Solutions Chooses Loveland, Colorado For North American Headquarters

Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS), the Scottish-based agricultural infrastructure company (and Indoor Ag-Con 2023 exhibitor!) , has announced that it has selected Loveland, Colorado, for its expansion into North America.

“IGS’ technology, mission and people are a perfect fit for the ag-tech ecosystem that continues to flourish across our region and in Loveland,” said City of Loveland Economic Development Director, Kelly Jones. “Northern Colorado provides tremendous value to a diverse range of industries and we are proud of this truly collaborative, regional effort to bring this innovative company, as well as high paying jobs, to the area.”

IGS designs, produces and maintains vertical farming technology that enables indoor growing anywhere, eliminates the need for pesticides or fungicides and reduces water consumption by up to 95%. Because no arable land is required, these systems can also be used to reduce the carbon footprint of food production by locating farms closer to the point of consumption or production. Opening a base of operations in Loveland will allow the company to better support North American customers, the company’s fastest growing market.

“The forward-looking approach to economic development within the city of Loveland and the state of Colorado fits perfectly with Intelligent Growth Solutions’ purpose of working with growers to help deliver sustainable food security,” said David Farquhar, CEO of IGS. “The location is within easy reach of a huge market as well as supply chain partners and is a great place for our people – and their families – to live, with 300 days of sunshine and just 30 miles from Rocky Mountain National Park.

“The location of our North American headquarters is a pivotal decision in our evolution as market leader. We are confident that our new Loveland base will allow our rapidly growing business to continue to expand and thrive on a global platform, as we deliver vertical farming infrastructure to enable real farmers to grow an expanding range of crops reliably, profitably and sustainably because we give them total control of the weather for the first time: designed in Scotland manufactured in Colorado.”

The company also chose Loveland for the strong, skilled labour pool. Overall, IGS expects to create 114 net new jobs at an average annual wage of $98,991, which is 183% of the average annual wage in Larimer County. Positions will include engineers, supply chain managers, human resource and legal managers, as well as roles in marketing and sales.

“Innovative companies like IGS are building on Colorado’s strong agricultural heritage to create a future-thinking ag tech industry that will feed communities and support a thriving economy across our state. We are pleased to see Loveland become IGS’s North American headquarters and look forward to celebrating future accomplishments,” said Patrick Meyers, OEDIT Executive Director.

“We are delighted to welcome Intelligent Growth Solutions to Loveland as they establish their base of operations. Their innovative technology, environmentally-focused mission and talented people are a perfect fit for the community,” said Jacki Marsh, Mayor of Loveland.

The State of Colorado will provide up to $2,758,845 in performance-based Job Growth Incentive Tax Credits to IGS. The company currently has 220 employees, one of whom is already based in Colorado. In addition to Colorado, the company considered Washington and Massachusetts.

 

About Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS):

Founded in 2013, Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS) is a multi-award-winning global business based in Scotland, which designs, supplies, and supports vertical farms for growers worldwide. We blend our engineering, crop science and agronomy skills to build the best technology to allow our customers to grow high-quality, nutritious food 365 days a year.

IGS delivers Total Controlled Environment Agriculture (TCEA) solutions to allow growers to take precise control over every element of the growing environment, enabling predictable and consistent cultivation in any suitable location.

In August 2018, IGS launched its Crop Research Centre in Dundee, and the business has since established a customer base across four continents. To date, IGS has raised more than $66.8 million in investment across two institutional fundraises (Series A concluding in September 2019 at $8.6 million and Series B concluding in November 2021 at $58.2 million).*

 

For more information visit www.igs.farm or connect with on Twitter and LinkedIn. 

 

*Figures based on exchange rates as of September 2019 and October 2021 respectively.

 

Viraj Puri Gotham Greens

Sustainable Supply Chain Solutions Drive Gotham Greens Growth

Q&A With Gotham Greens CEO Viraj Puri

A substantial capital raise to continue its expansion, an acquisition, new plant-based dips … Gotham Greens has been making quite a few headlines in recent months. Indoor Ag-Con caught up with Co-Founder and CEO Viraj Puri to learn more about the company’s rapid growth and his drive to provide sustainable supply chain solutions to Gotham Greens’ diverse retail and foodservice customers.

Q: Gotham Greens recently raised an impressive $310 million in new capital.  Can you share how you will/are using these funds to drive your company growth and mission?Gotham Greens Growth

Yes, Gotham Greens recently raised over $310 million in new capital to accelerate our national greenhouse expansion. This new funding is key to advancing our greenhouse production capacity that will help us bring more fresh, local and sustainably grown greens to consumers across the country. We have new greenhouse projects actively underway in Texas, Georgia, and Colorado, as well as expansions at our existing facilities in Chicago and Providence. We also recently completed the acquisition of FresH2O Growers, Inc., a hydroponic greenhouse grower in Stevensburg, Va. (50 miles southwest of Washington, D.C.). By 2023, Gotham Greens will operate more than 40 acres (1.8 million square feet) of greenhouses across nine U.S. states: New York, Illinois, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia, Colorado, California, Texas, and Georgia.

Gotham GreensQ: Indoor Ag-Con recently co-hosted the new CEA Summit East in Danville, Virginia. We were excited to see all the exciting CEA activity happening in/around the state, including your recently announced acquisition of Stevensburg, Virginia-based FresH2O Growers.  What led to the decision to purchase this operation and what are your plans? 

We are thrilled to welcome FresH2O to the Gotham Greens team.  This acquisition provides additional production capacity for the East Coast. Gotham Greens and FresH2O share a desire to advance greenhouse agriculture and to bring more fresh, local and sustainably grown produce to consumers across the country, and we are confident we will continue to service FresH2O’s Mid-Atlantic customers with our high-quality, longer lasting leafy greens and other exciting innovations in the years to come.

Q: Tell us a little about Gotham’s new Plant-Based Dips. Why you decided to expand into this category and how it’s going?Gotham Greens Dips

Gotham Greens is committed to bringing consumers the best-tasting, most flavorful fresh foods in the category. Our recent expansion into plant-based dips serves consumers in a brand-new way and speaks to cooking and dining trends we’ve seen over the past several years.  Dips are one of the most well-loved snacks due to their versatility and craveable flavors, yet as consumers evolve their dietary habits to reflect a more plant-based and flexitarian lifestyle, the category has not kept up with bringing delicious plant-based options to market.  We’re pleased with the response to date and are thrilled that they’re now available nationwide.

Q: Earlier this year you were one of 12 leaders appointed to the USDA’s new Federal Advisory Committee For Urban Agriculture. It’s probably early yet but can you share any insights on what the committee is working on to help promote/support urban ag across the country? Gotham Greens

I’m honored to be part of this committee that aims to support urban agriculture, including issues of equity and food/nutrition access. As business leaders, we can make our products more accessible to more consumers across the country. In the case of Gotham Greens, we are aiming to do this by building enough scale and efficiency in our greenhouse operations that we can provide our products at a price parity to organic produce products.

The committee has been set up for various urban agriculture practitioners to develop recommendations and advise the USDA on policies, initiatives, and outreach that its new Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovation Production can hopefully put into practice. While these recommendations are still under development, I can say that they range from easing regulatory hurdles to helping to create sales channels for urban and innovative farmers.

One of the biggest factors influencing the ever-widening wealth gap is the cost of healthcare in this country. By providing more access to fresh, sustainably grown produce, we hope that consumers can follow a more balanced diet comprised of fresh vegetables and fruits for a healthier lifestyle. Now more than ever, we are committed to delivering high-quality, longer lasting, and nutrient-rich produce to people when it’s needed most. I believe it is essential to decentralize agricultural production and bring more greenhouse-grown produce and fresh, plant-based foods to people across the United States, and I look forward to continuing to work with the USDA to help further this cause.

Q: What’s next for Gotham Greens?  Gotham Greens

With increasing climate and supply chain related issues facing our food system, it’s more important than ever to bring innovative farming solutions that grow high-quality produce while using fewer precious natural resources. Gotham Greens is purposefully expanding its operations to provide sustainable supply chain solutions to its diverse retail and foodservice customers. The Colorado River is rapidly drying, creating a water crisis in seven states, including California and Arizona, which collectively provide 98% of leafy greens grown in the United States.

By using hydroponic growing systems in renewable electricity-powered greenhouses, Gotham Greens’ farms use up to 95% less water and 97% less land compared to conventional farming. The proximity of Gotham Greens’ greenhouses to key metropolitan markets also eliminates the need for long-distance refrigerated transportation while improving product quality and shelf life, and ultimately reducing food waste.

Gotham Greens Gotham Greens is growing fast, and we look forward to bringing our brand to new markets in the coming months.

Learn more about Gotham Greens.

 

Jennifer Waxman Seed2Source

Where Agriculture Meets Wellness: Q&A With Seed2Source Founder Jennifer Waxman

Jennifer Waxman The Villages GrownAfter successfully guiding The Villages Grown™ to its current position as a vertically integrated, 84-acre total footprint, controlled environment agriculture (CEA), year-round, produce growing operation in Central Florida,  Jennifer Waxman is heading back to her roots.  That is, she’s turning her focus back to Seed2Source, the firm she launched in 2005 driven by her “agriculture meets wellness” passion and vision.

Indoor Ag-Con is thrilled to have Jennifer on our Advisory Board, as a speaker at the upcoming CEA Summit East in Virginia next week , and Indoor Ag-Con in Las Vegas in February 2023.  We had the chance to catch up with this busy CEA industry leader to learn more about her vision and plans in this month’s Q&A

For the last 6 years, you’ve overseen the impressive growth and development of The Villages Grown.  Why was the timing right to leave that post to focus on Seed2Source?

We were given the honor and trust to carry out our vision and model for The Villages Grown. This included the strategic direction, design, construction, and operation of a first-of-kind CEA in the South. We backed this with educational programming from both B2C and B2B. We built a community-based brand yet grew enough product for expansion throughout Florida. We worked with beautiful people in a beautiful community.

However, it is no secret that CEA is only scratching the surface in the US. We knew we wanted to be at the head of the ride with its growth. Several players in the CEA sector were showing intrigue and interest in our model. I believe this was rooted in our ability to build a strong brand, educate, all the while supporting other local farmers along the way.

I’ve learned a lot since entering the hydroponics sector in 2000. This is when I started to conceive this model of holistic wellness and was based on my global travels, thus observing the ‘Future of Food’. There is a lot to share from a rather long career in this sector. I have experienced successes, failures, and have observed overall industry needs and voids. This is the exciting part and I wanted back in!

Share more about Seed2Source, your Sustainable Ag Business Consulting Firm focusing on controlled environment agriculture

Seed2Source launched in 2016 but was really an evolution of my first ‘Agriculture Meets Wellness’ firm which was launched in 2005. Seed2Source is a first-of-kind, Sustainable Agriculture & Wellness, consulting firm headquartered in Florida but serving the US (and beyond). The firm focuses on strategic CEA projects rooted in sustainable agricultural, food-as-medicine, and local food system models.

Our CEA experience includes Vertical Farming, Controlled Greenhouse, Aeroponic and Hydroponic Methodologies, Strategy, Branding, Distribution, Education, Innovation, and Science. We are a one-stop-shop and are surrounded by the best and the brightest in all operational units required for true success. We bring in different consultants as the projects deem fit. This allows us to take on both small and large projects as the market dictates.

At the upcoming CEA Summit, you’ll be speaking on 2 panels, including one titled “Building The Future of CEA”.  If there is one message you hope to get across on that panel discussion what is it?

The CEA industry is still at its infancy and shall evolve with continuous iterations and innovations. Typically, when most people think of CEA, they only think of High-Tech, AI, Automation, etc. and forget about the State of Agriculture in general. I hope people start to realize that CEA is ‘part’ of a solution and not the ‘only’ solution. Also, I hope that people don’t forget about the actual agriculturists and horticulturists that are the true heroes in creating a sustainable, profitable, CEA operation. This seems to be lost with many of the current players in CEA.

You’ll also be speaking at the 2023 edition of Indoor Ag-Con on a great session idea you brought to us, “Building A CEA Alliance:  The Power of Grower Partnerships.” Can you share a little more about this idea?

As it stands, there is little-to-no diversity in US CEA. Everyone is clamoring for funding, market share, and innovations in technology. I believe they are missing a huge opportunity for collaborations, strategic partnerships, and supply chain solutions. We must work together not only for larger supply chain opportunities in both retail and wholesale, but to truly exchange best business practices and the like. We should also be collaborating to keep domestic supply in our own backyard and with prominence. There is enough business to be had for all!

What’s next for you and the team at Seed2Source?  

Our vertically integrated CEA Model, of which we pride ourselves on, was clearly not an overnight success. We are still on this journey. This will continue to be the core of our mission and vision. The Vision – ‘Intersecting Agriculture with Wellness as a Food-As-Medicine Approach’ — will continue to drive our passion and expansion.

We feel strongly that this is the model for success and ultimate operational sustainability. We are being courted by some amazing operations – both new and old players in the CEA space – which has been rewarding. We will continue to build our CEA and overall Domestic Farm Partnerships and Educational Programming.

Learn more about Jennifer and her team at www.seed2source.com 

Virginia Secretary of Agriculture

Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr to Lead Keynote at CEA Summit East

DANVILLE, VA (SEPTEMBER 26, 2022) Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr will lead the CEA Summit East Day Two Keynote, “Reorienting Our Fresh Produce Supply Chain: Behind Virginia’s Push to Become A National Indoor Farming Industry Leader,” on Wednesday, October 26, 2022 at 9 am.  Indoor Ag-Con and the Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Innovation Center — a joint project of the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech, Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Virginia Tech, and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) – have partnered to co-host the new event from October 25-26, 2022 at the IALR Institute Conference Center in Danville, VA.

Secretary Lohr joins the CEA Summit East headliner keynote line-up, which also includes the opening morning kick-off session with AeroFarms CTO Roger Buelow on Tuesday, October 25.

During his keynote, Secretary Lohr will share insights into Virginia’s vision for the future of fresh produce and how he and his team are working with industry partners to achieve it.

“Rising transportation costs and droughts in the western United States will mean East Coast states like Virginia must reorient our supply chain for fresh produce to more local suppliers,” said Lohr during the recent  Grand Opening  of AeroFarms Danville,  the world’s largest aeroponic smart farm.

“While painful, this situation also creates an important opportunity for the Commonwealth to become a national leader in the fast-growing indoor farming industry. Continued success in recruiting and supporting the growth of these companies can bring economic opportunity to all corners of the Commonwealth, while also supplying fresh, safe, and sustainable food to our citizens and neighbors,” he added.

Matthew Lohr was raised on a Virginia century family farm in the Shenandoah Valley. As a fifth-generation farmer, he has spent his entire life working for the betterment of the agricultural industry and rural America.

He developed his passion for public service and agricultural policy while serving as both a state and national FFA officer before graduating from Virginia Tech with a B.S. degree in Agricultural Education. He has more than 30 years of experience as a professional leader and communicator.

Over the past two years, he has served as the Chief of the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, an agency with more than 10,000 employees across 3,000 field offices and an operating budget of over $4.5 billion.

“We are honored to have Secretary Lohr join us for the inaugural edition of the CEA Summit East,” says Dr. Michael Evans, Director of the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech and Associate Director of the CEA Innovation Center.  “Virginia is deeply committed to  promoting and advancing the CEA sector and the work we’re doing offers ideas, examples and  exciting growth opportunities that extend far beyond our state borders. This promises to be an inspiring session for all our attendees.”

The new CEA Summit East is custom-tailored for new and well-seasoned CEA industry members from throughout the Eastern US, including indoor and greenhouse growers, facility owners and operators, educators, government officials, real estate developers, architects, construction specialists, sales and marketing teams and others.

During the one and one-half day event, industry members will have the opportunity to attend the conference featuring CEA thought leaders, researchers and experts leading keynotes, panels, and breakout sessions; explore tabletop exhibits presenting the latest CEA innovations and services; and enjoy a host of networking opportunities ranging from meals and coffee breaks to an evening social event.

Registration is now open for the event and attendees can save with discounted Early Bird rates when they register before October 7, 2022.  Learn more at www.ceasummit.com

Roger Buelow CTO

AeroFarms CTO Roger Buelow To Kick Off CEA Summit East With Opening Morning Keynote Address

DANVILLE, VA (SEPTEMBER 19, 2022) AeroFarms Chief Technology Officer Roger Buelow will lead the opening morning keynote address for the inaugural edition of the CEA Summit East, October 25-26, 2022.  Indoor Ag-Con and the Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Innovation Center– a joint project of the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech, Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Virginia Tech, and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) – have partnered to co-host the new event at the IALR Institute Conference Center in Danville, VA.

This announcement follows on the heels of the grand opening of AeroFarms Danville, the world’s largest aeroponic smart farm, capable of growing more than 3 million pounds of fresh leafy greens annually to meet increased consumer demand.

During his address on Tuesday morning, October 25, 2022 at 8:45 am, Buelow will share more about the new Danville farm and how it utilizes AeroFarms proprietary indoor vertical farming technology to grow more plants at the highest productivity per square foot with the least amount of natural resources – continuing AeroFarms legacy of continuous improvement and innovation.  In addition to the environmental benefits, Buelow will discuss benefits the farm brings to the Southern Virginia region ranging from job creation and year-round access to safe, fresh greens to hands-free farming with end-to-end automation from seeding to growing to harvest to packing.

In addition, he will also share updates on some of the exciting plant research and workforce development projects he and his team are working on with Virginia Tech, the IALR and the CEA Innovation Center.

As CTO, Roger Buelow leads the innovation and capabilities team for AeroFarms and works closely with R&D and Business Development. He is an LED innovator and engineering technologist with over 20 years of experience in government and the private sector. Roger previously served as CTO of Energy Focus (a publicly traded company) for ten years leading their R&D, Engineering, and Operations to refit the U.S. Navy with LEDs, develop lights that leverage blue light to help regulate sleep cycles, and to set the world’s record for most efficient solar cell.

Roger worked with AeroFarms in 2009 to help with lamp and fixture design, and he brings his extensive network and industry expertise with LEDs. He has been the principal investigator on over a dozen federally funded research contracts spanning military and civilian technologies and holds over 20 patents covering a wide array of technologies. Roger has brought over 50 products from concept, through R&D, into engineering, and then onto the open market. Roger has a B.S. in Mathematics and an M.S. in Systems and Control Engineering from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.

Learn more about this exciting keynote session and the full conference program here.

“Roger Buelow’s extensive experience and keen industry insights, coupled with the AeroFarms Danville-Pittsylvania story, come together to create the perfect program to kick off the new CEA Summit,” says Dr. Michael Evans, Director of the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech and Associate Director of the CEA Innovation Center. “We are thrilled to have Roger join the keynote stage and know our audience will be eager to hear from him.”

The new CEA Summit East is custom-tailored for new and well-seasoned CEA industry members from throughout the Eastern US, including indoor and greenhouse growers, facility owners and operators, educators, government officials, real estate developers, architects, construction specialists, sales and marketing teams and others.

During the one and one-half day event, industry members will have the opportunity to attend the conference featuring CEA thought leaders, researchers and experts leading keynotes, panels, and breakout sessions; explore tabletop exhibits presenting the latest CEA innovations and services; and enjoy a host of networking opportunities ranging from meals and coffee breaks to an evening social event.

Registration is now open for the event and attendees can save with discounted Early Bird rates when they register before October 7, 2022.  Learn more at www.ceasummit.com

QUICK FACTS:
WHEN:                 Tuesday, October 25 – Wednesday, October 26, 2022
WHERE:              
IALR Institute Conference Center, 150 Slayton Ave, Danville, VA 24540
INFO:                    For information on exhibiting or attending visit www.ceasummit.com 

ABOUT INDOOR AG-CON
Founded in 2013, Indoor Ag-Con has emerged as the premier trade event for indoor | vertical farming | controlled environment agriculture, the practice of growing crops in indoor systems, using hydroponic, aquaponic and aeroponic techniques. Its events are crop-agnostic and touch all sectors of the business, covering produce, legal cannabis |hemp, alternate protein and non-food crops. More information – www.indoor.ag | 404.991.5186

ABOUT THE SCHOOL OF PLANT AND ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES AT VIRGINIA TECH
The School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech trains the next generation of professionals in the fields of plant breeding and genetics, agronomic and horticultural crop production, plant protection, soil and water systems management, agricultural technologies, environmental restoration and agro-environmental stewardship.  It conducts research to improve agricultural productivity, reduce negative impacts on the environment and improve soil and water health.  Through extension programs, it provides science-based information to stakeholders to help them feed the world while protecting the environment.  More information —www.spes.vt.edu  

ABOUT THE VIRGINIA SEAFOOD AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH AND EXTENSION CENTER AT VIRGINIA TECH
The Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Virginia Tech works to support the future of the historic seafood industry — in Virginia and beyond. Its extension specialists work with industry and research partners to identify and respond to emerging needs and provide technical guidance to stakeholders in every level of the seafood supply chain. Through technical assistance, training, process validation, value-added product development, and more, it helps stakeholders ensure product quality, safety, and viability. More information — www.arec.vaes.vt.edu

ABOUT IALR
The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) serves as a regional catalyst for economic transformation. Core focus areas include research that provides a clear path to commercialization, advanced learning opportunities where education meets experience, training and rapid-launch space for advanced manufacturers, and economic development through conferencing and a partnership with the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance. It is located in scenic and historic Danville-Pittsylvania County on the VA/NC state line, within a short drive of Roanoke, Greensboro and Raleigh.  More information –  www.ialr.org 

ABOUT AEROFARMS
Since 2004, AeroFarms has been leading the way for indoor vertical farming and championing transformational innovation for agriculture. On a mission to grow the best plants possible for the betterment of humanity, AeroFarms is a Certified B Corporation with global headquarters in Newark, New Jersey. Named one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company two years in a row and one of TIME’s Best Inventions in Food, AeroFarms patented, award-winning indoor vertical farming technology provides the perfect conditions for healthy plants to thrive, taking agriculture to a new level of precision, food safety, and productivity while using up to 95% less water and no pesticides ever versus traditional field farming. AeroFarms enables local production to safely grow all year round, using vertical farming for elevated flavor.™ Its products can be found at major selling partners like Ahold Delhaize, Amazon Fresh, Baldor Specialty Food, Compass Group, Harris Teeter, Marcus BP, Momofuku Noodle Bars, ShopRite, The Fresh Market, Walmart, and Whole Foods Market. In addition, through its proprietary growing technology platform, AeroFarms has grown over 550 varieties of plants and has developed multi-year strategic partnerships ranging from government to major Fortune 500 companies to help uniquely solve agriculture supply chain needs. More information – www.aerofarms.com

 

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The Center of Excellence for Indoor Agriculture Announces New Service to Assess Farm Operations Efficiency and Sustainability

The Center of Excellence for Indoor Agriculture, a U.S. based company that supports the growth of the vertical and indoor farming industry, announced a new assessment service for farmers and investors to bench-mark the efficiency and sustainability of their indoor farm operations.

The new service helps indoor growers including plant factories and greenhouses measure how much land, energy, water, labor and materials are needed to produce yields. The assessment also calculates by-products such as solid waste and waste water, as well as capital use efficiency and job creation by the venture. At the end of the assessment, the respondent receives a report detailing the status of key parameters. Most importantly, key metrics are bench-marked against similar farms so growers can target areas for improvement. To get started, identify key records and contact the Center to set up an appointment to start. More info is available at https://indooragcenter.org/sustainable-farm-assess/. 

 

 

Eric W. Stein, Ph.D., founder and Executive Director of the Center of Excellence notes, “Indoor farming is a high-risk capital intensive endeavor. Operating efficiently and sustainably can make the difference between profitability and loss. We are excited to work with growers and investors to improve their operations thereby de-risking the venture. Because of its importance, we are offering this service at or below cost for a limited time.”

About The Center

The Center of Excellence for Indoor Agriculture provides insights about the economics of indoor farming based on a careful analysis of industry data and thought leaders in industry and academia. As the first U.S.-based Center of Excellence dedicated to indoor farming, it promotes best practices, bench-marking, new knowledge and research. Its Best in Class Indoor Farming AwardsTM recognize top indoor growers and manufacturers. The Center is located in the Philadelphia metro region and it is free to join the mailing list.

Media Contact Information

Web: https://indooragcenter.org/ Email: team@indooragcenter.org

Blue Ridge Aquaculture

Widening The Net: World’s Largest Sustainable Indoor Fishery Eyes Aquaponics

Blue Ridge AquacultureAs we gear up for the new CEA Summit East next month, we’re excited to spotlight exhibitor and sponsor Martinsville, Virgina-based Blue Ridge Aquaculture, the world’s largest sustainable indoor fishery. We had the chance to catch up with company President Martin Gardner in this month’s Q & A to learn more about Blue Ridge Aquaculture’s sustainable business model, practices, and plans to incorporate aquaponics into its operations in the future.

Blue Ridge Aquaculture is described as the “world’s largest sustainable indoor fisheries.” Can you share more about your recirculating aquaculture systems and your sustainable features and practices

Blue Ridge Aquaculture (BRA) was founded by Bill Martin on the idea that controlling the entire farming environment was the logical evolution of aquaculture.  He formed the company in 1993, and has grown it to its current production of 5mm pounds per year. As far as we know, that is the largest production volume from these types of systems.  The company raises tilapia from hatch to harvest, all contained in indoor farming systems, or Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS).

The US lags far behind many other countries in the aquaculture production, currently ranking 17th in total output.  The US is not competitive for several reasons, including but not limited to stringent environmental regulations, NIMBY attitudes, and high labor costs, all of which are solved by RAS.  Bringing the entire process into a controlled environment, we manage all inputs and outflows from our operations.  With much better bio-security, we have not had an outbreak or disease event in twenty years.  In fact, we have been certified disease free by independent fish veterinarians every year since 2013.

We are able to accomplish this without the use of antibiotics, vaccines or hormones, and still maintain survival rates above 95%.  Our filtration systems recycle approximately 75% of our water daily, and we are working on a secondary filtration system that will drive those rates to +95%.  We don’t discharge our effluent to our local environment, all of it goes to the municipal system for further treatment.  From a land-use perspective, it would require at least 300 acres of open aquaculture ponds to produce what we raise on a 15 acre campus.  Because most of the seafood consumed in the US is imported (+90%), our US operations greatly reduce food-miles.  These are just some of the sustainable benefits of our system.

We understand you’re exploring expansion into aquaponics – can you share more about your plans

Aquaponics - Blue Ridge AquacultureAquaponics is an obvious extension of our current operations, and we have been working towards adding this component to our operations for some time. We have performed several small-scale R&D projects over the years, with favorable results.

But, with limited resources, we had to prioritize other capital projects, including a new feed mill commissioned in 2018, and a new RAS Nursery in 2021.  With those projects complete, we can now focus on aquaponics.

The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR)  and Indoor Ag-Con are excited to have Blue Ridge Aquaculture join us as a silver sponsor for the upcoming CEA Summit.  Can you share a little more about what you hope to achieve at the event?

Blue Ridge AquacultureBlue Ridge Aquaculture has a long history in the US Aquaculture and the global RAS community.  It is important for us to build that same presence in this industry.  We will continue to support Virginia as a leader in CEA and AgTech.  Virginia Tech has been a tremendous resource for our company assisting our growth and development over the years.  We anticipate Virginia Tech and the IALR will be an important asset as we grow into  this space as well.  Because of that collaboration, it was important for us to support their outreach efforts and this conference.

Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

It’s important to point out the importance of vertical integration in our company.  BRA has positioned itself as the most integrated RAS company in the world.  Originally this was out of necessity.  In the early years, RAS was more of an academic practice with few commercial operations.  Suppliers of inputs to the farm were focused on open system aquaculture, and did not provide the quality necessary for RAS.

The company originally sourced fingerlings from external suppliers, which were of average quality and more importantly, a vector for disease.  In 1997, the company started its own hatchery/nursery.  The positive impacts were immediate, and production volumes grew quickly.  That was also the beginning of the company’s genetic program, which is currently in its 20th generation, and a key factor in the company’s success.  Distribution was also a problem and risk for the company.

So in 2003, the company created a wholly owned subsidiary for the dedicated delivery of all of its product-  problems solved.  In 2017, the company built its own feed mill to control the quality and supply of feed for all operations.  That gave us control over our biggest operating input.

We understand that “sustainable” refers to environmental and social aspects of the operations.  But financial sustainability must be a part of the business plan.  BRA is one of the few RAS companies that has sustained profitability for many years.  Vertical integration has been key to this success, but, more importantly, de-risks our operations to ensure it remains financially sustainable into the future.

To learn more about Blue Ridge Aquaculture, visit the company website here.   And, make plans now to just us at the inaugural CEA Summit East, October 24-25, 2022.  The event is produced by Indoor Ag-Con and the Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center, a partnership between the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech , the Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Virginia Tech and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR). 

 

Dr. Scott Lowman CEA Innovation Center

Q&A With CEA Innovation Center Director Dr. Scott Lowman

‘A Catalyst and Hub for CEA Companies and Technology’

 

CEA Innovation Center.IALRWe recently announced the new partnership between Indoor Ag-Con and the Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Innovation Center – a joint project of the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech and the Institute for Advanced Learning And Research (IALR) –to launch the CEA Summit East from October25-26, 2022.

The CEA Innovation Center is an incredible resource for our industry. We had the chance to catch up with Dr. Scott Lowman, the Center’s Director, to learn more about the exciting research projects he and his team are working on; the benefits of hosting the new Summit at this research facility; and other ways the Center is serving CEA industry members.

Tell us a little about the Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center and its primary goals

The Virginia Tech-IALR Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Innovation Center was created to leverage the resources of the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech along with the biotechnology, technology, and analytical chemistry capabilities of IALR to move the CEA field forward. The Center offers a one-stop shop for many cutting-edge research projects and is a wonderful vehicle to support and attract industry partners. Part of the initiative is to also serve as a catalyst and hub for CEA companies and technology, and we are already helping to create an ecosystem around CEA innovation with some leading-edge projects in waste recycling, nutrient management, imaging and data analysis, and biotechnology. All of this will be facilitated by the CEA Summit East on October 25-26.

 

Can you share any highlights of some of the research projects you and your team are currently working on

CEA Innovation Center.IALR2We have lots of exciting research projects happening at the moment, both internally to fuel innovation, as well as contract research to support and help solve industry challenges. There are a couple I can mention.

One project focuses on biostimulant use to increase yield in hydroponic systems. This project, supported by a Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Specialty Crop Grant, focuses on using bacterial endophytes, or beneficial bacteria that live inside of plants, that have proven to promote plant growth naturally in the lab and in vertical systems. Our initial data indicate exciting potential!

Another project is focused on using imaging and robotics to monitor plant growth and health. Using our in-house developed SMART tables, we are able to pinpoint tiny changes in plant growth and health during cultivation. One experiment can generate 80,000 images!

 

The partnership with Indoor Ag-Con to host the newly announced CEA Summit East is one example of how you’re serving the region’s growers and CEA industry members. What differentiates this new event from other CEA conferences?

IALR Campus bird's eye viewWhen we launched the Center, one of the many opportunities we were excited about was our ability to leverage our state-of-the-art conferencing center here at IALR to bring industry and academia together through hosting conferences and workshops focusing on CEA. With the CEA industry growing in Virginia, the location of the Summit is near the stakeholders that the Center is striving to serve.

Additionally, it is very unique in that the conference will be held in a research facility. This is certainly a break from typical conferences based from hotel conference centers. Attendees can see firsthand our cutting-edge research projects happening now, as well as explore ideas for collaborations with our VT and IALR researchers on-site.

What’s next for the CEA Innovation Center

CEA Innovation CenterThe CEA Innovation Center is growing rapidly, and we are always on the lookout for mutually beneficial partnerships in research and education, including contract research opportunities.

The biggest endeavor on the horizon, however, is most certainly the CEA Summit East! While lots of research is going on behind the scenes, we are thrilled about partnering with Indoor Ag-Con to bring together both academia and industry for a first-class event here in Danville, Virginia.

Learn more about the CEA Summit here and make plans now to join us!

FarmBabyz

New farm babyZ Program Cultivates Growers As Young as 2 Years Old

“farm babyZ is causing a groundswell by developing our next generation of sustainable urban growers,” says farm babyZ Founder Recie Robertson.  “We want to make hydroponic indoor growing available for all.”

Farm Babyz 2farm babyZ LLC, a STEM.org Reviewed ™ organization, has created and packaged an educational hydroponic growers curriculum and American-made merchandise/grow kit for early childhood development agencies and other educators working with children between the ages of two to five years old.

As outlined in its mission statement, “The farm babyZ LLC pre-STEM program is committed to developing an academic understanding of science and agricultural development.  To achieve this goal, we support student learning by offering a concise and elementary program designed to help all preschoolers meet the Stem academic standards.”

Farm Babyz3

 

 

“We created farm babyZ with food deserts in mind,” explains Robertson.  “In these areas, we’re trying to help change unhealthy eating habits brought on by land restrictions for growing everything from fruits to vegetables.  By building a community through educating  our youths and connecting people around life-giving plants  –from 2-5 years old – on up to the 92+age shut-in population – we hope to reap countless therapeutic benefits from family bonding, to mentor relationships and facilitate cross generational interaction.”

For more information on farm babyZ, contact Recie Robertson at 313.737.8115 or recie@ONE5Consulting.com