Tag: CEA

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 

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!

Indoor Ag-Con Event Partner Tech 4.0

CEA 4.0 | Accelerating the Development, Advancement & Efficiency of Indoor Farming

Indoor Ag-Con is proud to be an event partner for Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) 4.0, the virtual event focusing on accelerating the development, advancement and efficiency of indoor farming.  This year the event runs over 2 days —  Friday, May 6 and Friday, May 20, 2022.

“This edition of CEA 4.0 will focus on the current evolution of the indoor farming industry to explore how policy is developing with its integration into the sector, how we are helping to drive the circular economy forward, sustainability, integration into traditional food systems, and learning how this is being done from an international perspective. From a technological aspect we will be focusing on seeds and their development, TCEA, grow light solutions, resource efficiencies, automation, energy usage and requirements, innovations in research and technologies, and robotics & AI,” according to Jonathan Martin, director, Tech 4.0.

As part of our event partnership, our Indoor Ag-Con audience is invited  to take advantage of a special VIP upgrade.  You can register for the current lowest price of £4.99 and you’ll be  upgraded manually to a VIP attendee which includes:

  • Full conference & event access provided for the entire event
  • Instant messaging and 1-1 video networking with any attendee
  • Ability to arrange 1-1 video meetings with any attendee
  • Access to recordings of event presentations
  • Customizable company & attendee profiles with various multimedia content options
  • Associated event company branding

Learn more & register at   https://www.tickettailor.com/events/jonathanmartin/535203

Autogrow and Agritecture Consulting Release 2nd Annual CEA Census Report

Global CEA Census ReportAutogrow and Agritecture Consulting have released the 2nd Annual CEA Census Report highlighting positive signs of growth despite the global pandemic.

Data captured over an 8-week period show 95% of growers have an optimistic outlook for the next 12 months with all types of operations including greenhouses, shipping containers, tunnel and vertical farms showing profitability.

 “The optimism reflects what we have seen across many areas of the industry including increased technology adoption and increased consumer expenditure on fresh produce. And despite the challenges we’re seeing an overwhelming number of new entrants into the market,” says Autogrow CEO Darryn Keiller.

 “What has not changed is the high percentage of new growers, almost 50%, that have no experience in agriculture before starting their business. That lack of experience has an impact on new technology solutions created and the need for more education to be available to support them. It also shows a real desire to make a difference considering their willingness to start during a pandemic.”

 Respondents from 58 countries shared their views on their farming practices, financials, and the impact of COVID-19.  The report also gave insight on three key growth regions around the world – India, the UK and MENA (Middle East & North Africa).

 “The results of the 2020 Census confirmed our hypothesis that the UK, India, and MENA regions are the emerging hotspots for CEA, albeit for different reasons. In the UK, Brexit is driving investment towards CEA to combat supply chain risks, while in India rising population and increased premium consumer demand for clean food are driving CEA. In the MENA region, government responses to COVID-19 have accelerated policies and incentives for developing scalable CEA solutions,” explains Agritecture Consulting Founder Henry Gordon-Smith.

 “All of these regions present great opportunities for the CEA industry to grow and make a meaningful impact on their respective local conditions.”

 Other takeaways from the Census:

·       CEA businesses showing optimism and resilience despite the COVID hurdles

·       88% of growers surveyed are below age 50

·       29% of respondents receive funding from multiple sources

GET 2020 CEA GLOBAL CENSUS REPORT

About Autogrow

Autogrow leverages the power of technology, data science and plant biology to provide indoor growers affordable, accessible and easy-to-use innovation – 24/7, anywhere in the world.

Our solutions support growers and resellers in over 40 countries producing over 100 different crop types.

We are the experts in Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) and continue to stay ahead of a rapidly evolving landscape.

 About Agritecture Consulting

Agritecture Consulting provides a comprehensive approach to CEA project development.

In operation since 2014, Agritecture has helped more than eighty organizations determine the feasibility of their ideas, validate their business strategies, recruit talent for their projects, and manage operational challenges.

Our job is to jumpstart your knowledge of CEA, help you navigate barriers to entry, make industry connections, and mitigate risk. Our consulting services are backed by several years of operations data and a team of experienced growers, engineers, and sustainability managers.

Produce Trends & Business Opportunities In the Covid Crisis

Indoor Ag-Con kicked off its Indoor Ag-Conversations webinar series in June 2020 . Partnering with United Fresh , we hosted a webinar addressing produce trends & business opportunities in the Covid crisis.  Moderated by United Fresh President & CEO Tom Stenzel, the panel included Paul Lightfoot, CEO and founder of BrightFarms, Alex DiNovo, president and COO of DNO Produce, and Victor Verlage, senior director of Agriculture Strategy Development at Walmart.

Kate Spirgen, editor of Garden Center, Greenhouse Management & Produce Grower magazines penned a terrific recap.  In it, she outlined five key takeaways from the panel touching on produce trends and business opportunities in the Covid crisis:

1. Berries are big on the horizon.

Panelists agreed that berries will be among the next hot items in CEA since growers can provide tastier options with longer shelf lives than conventional farms. “How variable is a strawberry’s taste when it’s conventional?” DiNovo asked. “You can have one that tastes fantastic and you can have one that tastes like dirt. You can have the same flavorful berry without Mother Nature wreaking havoc on it.”

Highly perishable items with complex supply chains are ripe for disruption, panelists said.

“What we’re interested in is beyond the shelf life, we want home life for the customers,” Verlage said. “We don’t want them to waste produce because it goes bad quickly.”

2. Create value by standing out.

From a marketing standpoint, DiNovo said indoor agriculture operations shouldn’t fight a conventional battle. By creating new names for products and branding them to stand out, growers can change the game.

“Create its own value by calling it something else,” he said. “If you call it by a conventional name, you’re going to compete on a conventional price basis.”  The coronavirus has impacted everything from supply chains to shopping habits.

 3. COVID-19 has increased consumers’ desire to keep money local.

DiNovo said the economic impact of the coronavirus has led to a greater demand to keep money in the local economy.  this is true whether it’s spending inside the community or providing jobs.
“That’s what local means to me more than anything else — it’s local impact,” he said.

4. Labor and supply chain concerns could lead to opportunities.

Lightfoot said he sees an opportunity to promote safety due to a smaller supply chain.  He added   that the current salad industry has seen issues with safety in the recent past.

“One farm’s contamination could have a bigger impact since more products are coming into contact with each other,” he said, stating that a longer supply chain makes tracking more difficult. “Those structural challenges don’t exist in our model as they do in the incumbent supply chain model.”

Creating new names and brands for products can help your CEA operation stand out in the marketplace. The year-round nature of indoor agriculture could also give CEA operations a leg up on labor.

Farm labor shortages, which he said have worsened due to the current administration’s policies on labor and immigration, have only been made more difficult by COVID-19. Housing and transportation have left farm employees more vulnerable to the disease.

“When this is over, borders will probably be less open, not more, so this issue will probably become worse,” he said.

“That’s what local means to me more than anything else — it’s local impact,” said Alex DiNovo, president and COO of DNO Produce.   CEA operations are better equipped to control entry to facilities.  And, year-round labor provides more stability in the workforce.

5. Retailers are looking for the right size solution for their stores.

Verlage said Walmart is looking for ways to mix big and smaller growers since different growers will bring solutions better suited to different communities.

“We are trying to figure out what is the right size project for the demand we face in different stores,” he said. “It has to be affordable, good nutritious food so that we can help everyone enjoy healthy food.”

The full session covering produce trends & business opportunities  in the Covid crisis was recorded and you can watch it here!