Tag: controlled environment agriculture

AgHires Post The Great Regret

How to Navigate Hiring During the Great Regret

Over the last couple of years, the labor market has fluctuated drastically, and every industry is feeling that rollercoaster ride, including the indoor agriculture industry. It’s tough trying to find quality candidates that are willing to make the jump to a new organization. While not too long ago it seemed as if everyone was jumping ship from their current employer, however, many contributing factors are now causing job seekers to be more cautious.

The Great Regret

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a new quit rate record was made in November and December 2021, rising to 3%, in what has been called the Great Resignation. Just like any trend, the great resignation has ended. However, now it has taken a turn. New studies show that those who have acted impulsively to quit their jobs are now regretting their decision, about 1 and 4 people who have quit their job in the last year have regrets. While over 40% of those who left for a new opportunity say their new job is not living up to their expectations.

These candidates may have learned to take their time when considering quitting their job, and now are being extra cautious. Since many candidates have just left a job, they’re not likely ready to leave another, which is going to make the talent pool smaller. They are also going to take their time finding a new job that checks all their boxes. While, hopefully, they’ve learned to consider all the possibilities when it comes to finding a new job, it does slow down the hiring process.

Bystanders of the Great Resignation

Those employees that did not participate in the Great Resignation, watched their coworkers, friends, and family quit their jobs. Many of them may have been envious but didn’t want to take the plunge. However, now they are watching them regret their decisions. This is causing these candidates to approach a new opportunity with caution. They don’t want to take a leap and regret their choice. They feel safer staying put.

Recession Concerns

The looming recession is also causing candidates to hesitate. While we may have hoped the economy would have leveled out after 2 years of disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic, other factors have dashed those hopes. While experts are divided on the probability, many people have concerns that a recession is in our immediate future.

With the possibility looming, candidates are not going to act impulsively. Instead, they are going to carefully weigh the risks and rewards of changing jobs. They will consider if the agribusiness or indoor farm will be a stable opportunity. Is there a possibility of layoffs, could the company close, or will they still have an income if the recession comes? Is the company culture a better fit than where they are currently employed? Is there a pay increase and is it worth the risk?

How to Hire During the Great Regret

With so much hesitation from candidates, it’s making it difficult to find quality candidates in the controlled environment agriculture industry. In today’s job market, finding candidates for your open positions feels like an uphill battle. We’re finding that job seekers are applying to roles but are taking extra caution with which role they will move forward with. So, how can you fill your current openings when everyone is afraid to move?

Train the Right Person

If it’s a struggle to find candidates willing to take the leap for a new job consider hiring outside of the industry or hiring more junior employees, and spend some extra time training. Ensuring that your training is efficient and effective will allow you to bring new hires up to speed quickly and keep your agribusiness or indoor farm competitive in the market.

Also, look within your current team and promote from within. You might already have the right person for the job with some extra training. Training is sharing knowledge and teaching employees to perform their best. It may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Look for Inherent Traits

Remember, it’s not always what is on the resume that is important. Yes, you want your employees to have the skills and know-how to do a job, but you also want a candidate that fits your company’s culture. Their resume doesn’t show you what their work ethic is like or if their personality will mesh well with your team.

Finding the right people with the right attitude can make all the difference in your hiring strategy. In ag, we want candidates that have a strong work ethic, are passionate about their work and have the energy and enthusiasm required to do the job. Other industries also attract those candidates, such as the military and construction industry. They also have skills that can easily translate into the agriculture industry.

It’s All About Your Culture

Your organization’s culture is ultimately what will attract quality candidates to your indoor farm or agribusiness. Today’s candidates want to know what it’s like to work with your team on a daily basis and if will they fit in with the environment. Filling your team with employees that have similar values, behaviors, and communication styles will help your team and indoor ag business be successful.

Showcase your culture in your job descriptions and during interviews. Don’t just tell them what it’s like to work at the organization but give them examples, so they can gauge for themselves. Use the language in your job descriptions to attract the type of candidates you want. Avoid buzzwords that have lost their meaning, like “we’re a family” or “fast-paced environment”. Instead, use real examples from your indoor farm or agribusiness to showcase your culture.  Adding something like, “Sundays off to encourage a healthy work-life balance” or “company events to encourage comradery.”  Mentioning certain benefits such as “paid paternity time off for expectant mothers and/or fathers” is a great idea to show what you’re all about.

Go beyond just the compensation and insurance benefits. Do you offer opportunities for continuous learning? Do you have a rewards program or offer bonuses? Do you go beyond the industry standard with any of your benefits? Do you offer any flexibility in the off-season? Any range of benefits showcases how an organization treats its employees.

Conclusion

It’s a challenging time to hire agricultural candidates with so many factors for them to consider. While it can be challenging, there are ways to work through the obstacles and find quality employees to fill your team. It will take more work to publicize your job openings and reach out to candidates to attract them to your indoor farm or agribusiness.

Hiring can be tough, but AgHires is here to help you attract and find THE hire for your vertical farming and controlled environment agriculture organization. We are an industry-leading ag recruitment agency and job advertising company. We have an extensive network to help with everything from job advertising to full-service recruiting for your ag professional level and executive level positions. Contact us today to get started showcasing your indoor ag business.

Lori Culler AgHiresSpecial thanks to Lori Culler for this post.

Indoor Ag-Con 2023 speaker Lori (Lennard) Culler is the founder of AgHires, an online job board and recruiting firm dedicated to the Agriculture, Horticulture, and Food Production industry. AgHires offers job advertising, candidate sourcing, and full-service recruitment solutions for farms and agribusinesses across the U.S. and Canada.   Lori grew up on her family’s 3rd generation potato, tomato, and grain farm operating today across four states. After graduating from the University of Toledo with a bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management, she began working in human resources in both recruiting and management consulting. While hiring for her family’s operation, she quickly realized the lack of resources in the industry to find and attract talent which inspired her to launch AgHires.

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!

CEA Summit East

Indoor Ag-Con, CEA Innovation Center Partner To Launch CEA Summit East

NEW CEA TRADE EVENT TO BRING INDUSTRY, ACADEMIA TOGETHER
OCTOBER 25-26, 2022 IN DANVILLE, VA

DANVILLE, VA (July 28,2022)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 and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) — have partnered to launch the CEA Summit East, October 25-26, 2022. Designed to bring the CEA industry and academia together to share research, business strategies and build partnerships to drive future growth for the sector and its stakeholders, the event will debut at the IALR Conference Center in Danville, VA.

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.

THE TEAM
The event hosts are especially qualified to bring the CEA industry and academia together for an event focused on business, educational and networking growth opportunities.

 

Virginia Tech and IALR

 

The Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center is a joint project between the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR). Housed primarily within a modern indoor agricultural complex on the campus of IALR in Danville, the center features various hydroponic and soilless systems/production systems and facilities, including indoor growth rooms, greenhouses, growth chambers and vertical growing racks.  The center’s scientists and technology teams are currently working closely with the industry’s top growers and suppliers on a number of key projects. Learn more at www.ialr.org/cea.

Indoor Ag-Con

The Indoor Ag-Con team of seasoned event professionals produces the premier trade show & conference for indoor |vertical farming | controlled environment agriculture.  Experiencing record year-on-year growth, its events touch all sectors of the business — covering produce, legal cannabis |hemp, alternate protein and non-food crops – and attract decision-making growers, investors, real estate developers, agtech leaders, produce buyers, academics, policymakers, industry suppliers and advocates from across the US and 20+ other countries.

THE AUDIENCE
The 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.

The event will include tabletop displays from manufacturers and suppliers of AI and automation, control systems, sensors, equipment/accessories, greenhouse structures/supplies, lighting, irrigation, HVAC and more.

THE VENUE
Part of the IALR campus, the Institute Conference Center is a full service, state-of-the-art meeting facility – just steps away from Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center’s modern indoor agricultural complex.   What’s more, the Danville, VA venue is easily accessible — located in south-central Virginia along the North Carolina border, within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the nation’s population.

“From the incredible work researchers are doing at its Innovation Center to its state-of-the-art meeting venue, IALR is such a rich resource for the CEA industry,” says Brian Sullivan, CEO, Indoor Ag-Con. “We’re excited to bring our event experience and industry resources together with the expertise of IALR and Virginia Tech to create a showplace of innovation and educational opportunities for growers and other CEA industry members throughout the Eastern US.”

“This partnership between IALR and Virginia Tech has brought together diverse professionals from industry and academia including many people not traditionally working directly in controlled environment agriculture,” states Dr. Michael Evans, Director of the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech.

“This conference offers an exciting opportunity to bring people together for exchanging new and diverse ideas to help move the industry forward and into exciting directions,” says Dr. Kaylee South, Assistant Professor in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech.

“By developing strategic partnerships with both industry and academia, the goal of the Innovation Center is to conduct research and educational programming to develop, promote and advance the controlled environment agriculture sector,” adds Dr. Scott Lowman, Director, Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center.  “The new partnership with Indoor Ag-Con perfectly aligns with our goal and promises to deliver a top-notch event experience for CEA industry stakeholders.”

For more information on the CEA Summit East, including conference programming, exhibit/sponsorship opportunities and to register, 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 — https://spes.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 | 413.766.6700

 

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UA-CEAC NCERA Meeting

2022 NCERA-101 Annual | International Meeting

Indoor Ag-Con Marketing Partner, the  University of Arizona Controlled Environment Agriculture Center , is pleased to invite you to attend the 2022 International Meeting of the NCERA-101 Committee on Controlled Environment Technology & Use. The conference is being held at the Marriott University Park Hotel located on The University of Arizona main campus, Tucson, Arizona. Tucson is home to The University of Arizona and is a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, making it the first city in the United States of America to be honored with this designation.

Conference Registration 

Click HERE to register for the event. If you are coming with a spouse/partner (non-delegate) you may choose to include them in our Gala Dinner & Technical Tour day activities. Simply purchase Guest Gala Dinner and Technical Tour tickets for them to join these activities. Conference registration is separate from the hotel booking. Registration ends by 5 PM (MT) on August 22nd, 2022. 

Accommodations 

Meeting attendees are welcome to stay at Marriott University Park Hotel. If you choose to do so, please book your room by August 22nd, 2022 to take advantage of a discounted conference rate of $139 per night. The rooms are available on a first-come first-served basis, so we encourage attendees to make their reservations as soon as possible. Register for hotel rooms HERE 

Please see the full meeting program HERE 

Katie Seawell Bowery Farming

Resiliency, Sustainability, Smart Farms: Q & A With Bowery Farming CCO Katie Seawell

Bowery FarmingFrom the recent opening of its largest, most technologically advanced sustainable commercial smart farm in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to its expansion into fruiting and vine crops with the launch of new strawberry varieties , Bowery Farming has been making a lot of headlines lately.

Indoor Ag-Con had the opportunity to catch up with Katie Seawell, Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) of the largest vertical farming company in the U.S, to get her thoughts on CEA industry trends and learn more about Bowery’s innovations, programs and mission to grow food smarter, sustainably, for more people, in more places.

What trend(s) are you seeing as it relates to how/why retailers are investing in CEA?

Investment in CEA comes down to two words: resiliency and sustainability. The past two years have made it painfully clear that climate change, global events, and supply chain disruption all have an enormous impact on our food systems. We need resiliency now more than ever before. By growing indoors, 365 days a year, with zero impact from drought, wildfires, or extreme temperatures, Bowery is growing a resilient supply of pesticide-free produce. And not only resilient, but predictable and reliable—we know, and therefore retailers know, exactly how much produce to expect, which cuts down on food waste.

Retailers and consumers are knowledgeable about where food comes from, and are investing in CEA for its sustainability practices. Bowery farms are powered 100% by renewable energy and cut down food miles drastically.

A product that is both good for the planet and more reliable is a powerful investment for retailers.

Can you share details around Bowery’s new partnership with the Nature Conservancy and what you hope to achieve through that relationship?

Bowery and Nature Conservancy Partnership

Bowery partnered with The Nature Conservancy to spread the word about #Rewilding—a movement committed to restoring degraded farmland and forests. A pack takeover during Earth Month and beyond included a QR code, available in over 1,000 grocery stores, to connect customers to information on actionable sustainability and restoration efforts, such as supporting The Nature Conservancy’s ‘Plant a Billion Trees’ campaign.

In addition to pledging to restore 50 acres in the U.S., in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, Bowery sought to raise awareness about Rewilding, and spotlight what is possible when we give Mother Earth a break – allowing land to ‘Rewild’. Our packs featured cutouts of six animals, such as the Louisiana Black Bear, which was recently delisted as an endangered species thanks to conservation efforts.

The missions of Bowery and TNC meet in this partnership, as Rewilding and indoor vertical farming are both part of the solution to address global challenges from climate change to ecosystem biodiversity to feeding growing populations. When we grow inside, we can restore outside.

Congrats on the recent opening of your newest farm in Bethlehem, PA. It’s described as Bowery’s largest, most technologically advanced & sustainable commercial smart farm. Can you share why you chose the Bethlehem site and how this newest farm fits into Bowery’s growth strategy?

Bowery Bethlehem PABethlehem represents the next chapter in climate-smart agriculture at Bowery. The Bethlehem Farm, once a non-arable industrial site, is now modern farmland. This transformation from brownfield to vertical farm means that fresh, healthy food is now being grown, year-round, where it was previously thought no food would ever grow again.

This commercial farm is also a blueprint for Bowery. It features a replicable system that will allow us to grow food wherever and whenever it is needed. The farm is powered with 100% renewable energy and features 15% more efficient LED lighting. Bowery’s Bethlehem Farm will bring fresh produce to a population of 50-million people within a 200-mile radius.

We chose Bethlehem for several reasons: to meet regional demand for pesticide-free, local produce grown sustainably; to further our mission of democratizing access to reliable, healthy produce; and to help fight the climate crisis by building resilient regional food systems on previously non-arable land. What was once the flagship site of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation is now, in part, a modern farm that will help feed the community.

Tell us a little more about aGirlculture, the women’s development network you co-founded at Bowery and serve as the group’s executive sponsor.

AGIRLCulture at Bowery FarmingOver the course of my career, so many talented women leaders helped shape and inspire my path. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their encouragement and support. This background, where women fiercely support one another, led me to co-found aGirlculture at Bowery. The group brings together women of all levels to connect with peers and senior leaders. We’re creating a space for mentorship and other opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Our programming has included guest speakers, roundtable discussions, International Women’s Day celebrations, and more. During the height of the pandemic, we moved forward with our programming over Zoom.

It’s been very rewarding to build a space where rich discussions can happen, where we can dig into culturally relevant topics for women and lay the foundation for women to advocate for each other. And we’re just getting started.

Before joining Bowery, you were with Starbucks where you held a number of senior leadership roles in branding, marketing and product development. Can you share any lessons learned or challenges from your time at Starbucks that have helped you in your role at Bowery?

Two main lessons learned come to mind. First, Starbucks instilled in me a deep belief that we are all stewards of our planet, and that it is our responsibility to care for the environment to the best of our ability. This value led me to Bowery and guides the urgency I feel when it comes to our sustainability goals.

Second, my time at Starbucks taught me that the private sector cannot be a bystander when it comes to the challenges of climate change. Businesses need to put full weight and resources behind sustainability to be part of the solution to the climate crisis. By making responsible decisions to build sustainable models, we can solve really hard problems.

What’s next for Bowery?

Bethlehem Farm Bowery FarmingThe Bethlehem Farm, our Smart Farm of the Future, is a model for what’s next at Bowery. We have two additional farms under construction in Locust Grove, Georgia and Arlington, Texas and we’re on track to double our number of farms by 2023, with the goal of helping to alleviate the strains insecurity puts on the U.S. food supply and economy.

We’re also committed to innovation: our R&D team is continuing the diversification of our pesticide-free produce portfolio, unlocking new possibilities and flavors in food. This includes more SKUs in addition to leafy greens and herbs, such as strawberries and other fruiting and vine crops.

We envision a Bowery smart farm in every city in the U.S. and ultimately the entire world, and we’re on the growth trajectory to achieve just that.

For more information, visit the Bowery website — https://boweryfarming.com/

Controlled Environment Agriculture Is The Future of Food

Imagine Farms Cheryl & Lisa
Imagine Farms Sisters and Co-Founders Lisa Merkle & Cheryl Arnold

Indoor AgCon 2022 was full of inspiring and informative sessions and speakers. The main takeaway: Controlled Environment Agriculture is the future of food. Growing food in a controlled environment provides a stable and dependable framework that is currently missing in our food supply chain. The ability to grow food 365 days a year regardless of season or location without pesticides or harsh chemicals is revolutionary. 

I was invited to speak on a panel discussion about shipping container farms and represent Imagine Farms, which is funny because we don’t identify as a shipping container farm although we use shipping containers as the building blocks of our system. 

We differentiate ourselves from Shipping Container Farm businesses (Freight Farms, Crop Box, etc.)  as we are not in the business of building and selling turnkey systems.

Rather, we worked with a designer to build our system, using the insulated shipping containers as a shell.  Currently, we use the shipping containers as grow rooms and adjacent functional spaces (walk in cooler, pack room, nursery). At this time, we have 8 rooms dedicated to Leafy Greens and Petite Root vegetable production and 2 rooms dedicated to Mushrooms.

Imagine FarmsThis process has inspired our vision to build a large scale production farm with groups of grow rooms that work together to grow a variety of crops under one roof – this might mean a warehouse farm with grow rooms built out and/or continuing to utilize shipping containers for this purpose (indoor or outdoors – or a combo of both). We are in the early stages of raising a Series A to build 15-20 grow rooms under one room with the addition of automation to begin to fulfill the demand in South Florida.  

Cheryl and I started in one shipping container farm that we built ourselves (with the designer) – and did it all ourselves for the first 2 years – we acquired hands-on experience growing as well as all the different aspects involved with growing and distributing food; integrated technology, tested different crops, sales, marketing, distribution, accounting, packaging, food safety, etc. Most importantly, we were able to test the market which is the framework for building the business.  

When we started Imagine Farms we appreciated the positive attributes that come with growing in a controlled environment; significant decrease in water usage when compared to field farming, growing without pesticides, and the positive aspects of ‘farm to table’ as a service. Now, it is evident that natural resources are scarce – specifically water, arable farmland and access to minerals for fertilizer.

We are facing a grain shortage that will drive up the cost of basic food and other commodities because of the war in Ukraine, while our physical resilience and mental health depend on access to fresh, healthy food. The more intelligent, motivated and passionate individuals exposed to the industry, the better. Shipping container farms placed in schools, universities, public programs and start-ups might be the greatest vehicle to accelerate this industry. 

Learn more about Imagine Farms by visiting their website or calling 844.204.0002.

Indoor Ag-Con Q&A With Eric Levesque Cultivatd

For Farmers. By Farmers. Q & A With Cultivatd Managing Partner Eric Levesque

Cultivatd LogoFor farmers. By farmers. That’s how Cultivatd, the Cornwall Ontario-based indoor farm brokerage, describes its dedicated team of experts and the services they provide. Founded in 2020 by agtech industry veterans Eric Levesque and Eric Bergeron, this startup helps clients get into the vertical farming space by guiding them through the process of selecting the best technology for their needs, and recommending the best solution depending on budget, type of growing, location and knowledge.

With more 40 partnerships with some of the controlled environment agriculture (CEA) industry’s biggest technology providers, Cultivatd has over $250 million in active projects in its portfolio and expects that number to increase substantially this year. Indoor Ag-Con had a chance to check in with Eric Levesque to learn more about his company’s service offerings, growth plans and ag tech trends in this month’s  Q&A.

As an Indoor Farm Broker, Cultivatd says it can help farmers by providing agtech solutions and farm planning at no cost. How does that work and what are the advantages?

Our service offering is quite simple; we help people understand which technology is best suited for what they are trying to do. Our team will work with clients and based on the type of plants to grow, the budget, the location etc, we will recommend different technologies as a solution. We have experience as growers, technology developers and have operated farms, so our team really gives clients a deep understanding of what is involved in growing food indoors. There is no cost because we earn a commission when a farm project comes together.

How does Cultivatd choose its partners?

Cultivatd Partners
Cultivatd partners with leading agtech companies. Click image above to learn more.

We don’t have an exact process here, although we tend to work with companies that we know have a solid reputation, good people, have detailed financials models and typically we like to go and see the technology working somewhere so we can vet it for ourselves. We also spend a great deal of time and effort building relationships with the people at our technology partners. It is important for us to have real, in depth knowledge of the teams behind the products we represent.

Is there new tech on the horizon that has you particularly excited about the future of agtech?

There are several – but mainly – we are excited to see new technology that allows different products to be grown indoors such as mushrooms, potatoes, animal feed, and even insects etc. The amount of food we are going to need to grow in controlled environments is massive and it has to extend far beyond leafy greens and herbs.

At the end of 2021 Cultivatd announced it had raised more than $3 million in a series A round. Can you share more about how you’re using/will be using these funds?

CultivatdThis was mainly to help us grow a team, open two new offices (Hello Austin!) and to market ourselves in the industry. We are also aware that large farming projects can take months to get going, so we also have some operating capital to ensure we are able to grow for years to come.

We have to ask, what is the story behind the name/spelling of your company?

We were looking for a modern name that fit the industry and this option really stood out to us when we went through our branding exercise. We really wanted a .com domain name so had to be a bit creative on spelling.

To learn more about Cultivatd and its service offerings, visit the website or call 1.877.258.8283.

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

Record Attendance Growth, New Business Connections Headline 2022 Edition of Indoor Ag-Con Las Vegas

82% Increase Over 2021 Representing Attendees From 48 States/Territories, 20+ Countries, Growing Number of C-Suite Execs

(March 4, 2022) –  Just four months after its covid-delayed October 2021 edition in Orlando, the Indoor Ag-Con trade show & conference welcomed the indoor|vertical farming and controlled environment agriculture (CEA) industry back for its February 28-March 1, 2022 run at Caesar Forum Las Vegas.  And what a welcome it was.  Marking an 82 percent increase over the Orlando attendance figure, 800 + growers, suppliers, start-ups and other industry members attended from 48 states/territories and more than 20 countries, including a high number of c-suite executives. Bolstering the figure further, nearly 300 attendees from The National Grocers Association (NGA) Show, co-located at Caesars Forum, also visited the show, taking the total attendance figure over 1100.

The Indoor Ag-Con Expo Floor also grew by 60 percent – from 50 booths in 2021 to 80 in 2022 – filled with the latest innovations in irrigation, control systems, lighting, substrates and more. Rounding out the show statistics, the 2022 edition’s educational conference brought together 77 speakers participating in 21 panel discussions and 3 CEO keynote sessions.

“From our sold-out show floor and record-breaking attendance to reports of game-changing connections and new relationships forged, we’ve been humbled by the positive feedback we’re received for our 2022 show from exhibitors and attendees alike,” says Brian Sullivan, CEO, Indoor Ag-Con.  “Our show theme, ‘growing your business,’ truly came to life here in Las Vegas this week. The CEA industry is growing quickly and we are proud to provide the platform for the education, networking and innovations showplace needed to take it to the next level.”

“We are also excited about the untapped networking potential that exists between Indoor Ag-Con and The NGA Show,” adds Nancy Hallberg, owner | partner, Indoor Ag-Con.  “This first co-location was exploratory and gave both show teams the opportunity to start identifying ways we can really bring grocers and growers together. We think the 2 shows offer untapped business growth opportunities for our respective audiences and look forward to delivering on that when we come together again in 2023.”

Among the many highlights of the show included:

Indoor Ag-Con Signify 2022 PartyIndoor Ag-Con | Signify VIP Welcome Party
Signify teamed up with Indoor Ag-Con to tee-up the 2022 edition with a VIP Welcome Party on Sunday evening, February 27 at Topgolf Las Vegas.  Indoor Ag-Con speakers and other industry VIPs came together for an incredible evening of golf, networking, cocktails, food, music and fun with industry friends – compliments of Signify.

CEO Keynote SessionsIndoor Ag-Con BrightFarms 2022
Attendees had the chance to hear from executives from the industry’s top operators.  Steve Platt, CEO, BrightFarms and Steven Bradley, Vice President of Cox CleanTech, Cox Enterprises, kicked off the conference on Monday morning, February 28.  Later that day Jonathan Webb, CEO, AppHarvest took the stage.  On day two, Matt Ryan, CEO, Soli Organic (formerly Shenandoah Growers) started the day with the morning keynote address.

Indoor Ag-Con Workforce Development 2022Educational Tracks & Expo Floor Theater Panel Discussions
The 2022 edition featured 3 educational tracks – Grower, Business & Technology – that brought industry experts together covering a  wide range of topics from lighting specs and substrates to energy optimization, water technology, fertilizer, workforce development, robotics, automation investing/finance and sensor technology.  In addition, the Expo Floor Theater offered up additional content with sessions on everything from seeds and produce branding to grocer/grower relationship development, why vertical farms succeed and more.

Sold Out Expo Floor
Expanding to 80 booths, this year’s Expo Floor was home to some of the biggest names in CEA as well as up-and-coming suppliers.  From lighting and grow systems to substrates and irrigation, growers were able to see the newest innovations all under one roof.

Networking Opportunities
Daily lunches and an afternoon cocktail reception on the expo floor expanded the show’s networking opportunities.

Looking ahead, Indoor Ag-Con will return to Caesars Forum February 27-28, 2023 and will once again co-locate with The National Grocers Association 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 is at https://indoor.ag.