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Tag: Covid-19

Conviron and Argus: key players in Medicago’s COVID-19 plant derived vaccine development

Winnipeg-based Conviron, a leading supplier of controlled environments for plant production, is pleased to announce the award of a major project involving the expansion of Medicago’s vaccine manufacturing facilities in Durham NC. Medicago, a biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Quebec City, is moving forward in their participation to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic by building additional infrastructure for the development and manufacturing of plant-derived vaccines – a process that produces a high volume of vaccine in shorter production timelines.

Located in the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, the facility expansion features several customized controlled environmental rooms from Conviron, which are used in the manufacturing process for plant germination and plant expression of virus-like particles. Conviron’s sister company amd Indoor Ag-Con 2021 Exhibitor, Argus Controls, is providing the controls and automation of all the plant-growing spaces in the expanded facility. The decision to use Conviron stemmed from the relationship that started back in 2012, when Conviron first provided plant growth rooms to Medicago’s facility in Quebec.

In an interview with Martin Cash (for the Winnipeg Free Press)¹ a spokeswoman for the company said Medicago hopes to have enough data showing the efficacy and safety of the vaccine by the end of June and then would be able to start production shortly after that.

Cash also had to opportunity to review this topic with John Proven, president of Conviron, who said it’s one of the most important projects for Conviron this year. Proven said Conviron is glad to be part of a Canadian effort to battle the pandemic.

You can read the original “Local company key player in homegrown vaccine” article published by visiting the Winnipeg Free Press website.

Percival Scientific Plans Expansion

Indoor Ag-Con Exhibitor Percival-Scientific Announces ExpansionIndoor Ag-Con exhibitor Percival Scientific, an innovative global manufacturing company that relocated its headquarters to Perry, Iowa, in 2000, is planning a $3.2 million expansion that will begin in 2021. State and local development leaders commended Percival for its bold economic investment, which will add sustainable job opportunities, help attract new business to the area and continue supporting Perry as a thriving community.

Percival temporarily suspended the expansion due to the economic recession caused by COVID-19 but is now moving forward thanks to the award of two $1 million loans through the USDA and loan partners Minburn Communications and Central Iowa Power Cooperative (CIPCO). The loans are part of $16.8 million that the USDA is investing in 25 projects to create jobs and increase economic opportunities across rural Iowa through the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program.

Working Closely

Percival worked closely with Minburn Communications, CIPCO, the Iowa Area Development Group, the City of Perry and Perry Economic Development to apply for the loans, design the building plans and secure additional financial assistance. Perry Economic Development provided a $75,000 grant to help offset land purchase, and the City of Perry is providing tax increment financing.

“This type of expansion and economic development doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” says Tom Burkgren, President of Perry Economic Development. “It’s a tremendous amount of heavy lifting by lots of folks, lots of entities and the company itself.”
Percival Scientific President, Gary Wheelock says the expansion will increase the company’s production space by over 60 percent and add 12 or more employees to the 80 in its current workforce.

“We were extremely excited to learn about the [REDLG] program and that the USDA recognized the value of making this type of financial assistance available to organizations served by rural utilities,” says Wheelock. “Their wisdom in seeing a need to provide a valuable financial resource to companies looking to build or expand is something that every business should appreciate and take full advantage of.”

Perry Mayor, John Andorf celebrates the announcement that Percival can soon begin the building project and credits the collaboration between multiple organizations for making it possible.

“I’m really excited about this expansion and what it means for Perry,” he says. “This is going to result in some good jobs shortly down the road.”

Wheelock thanks The USDA and all the organizations that were instrumental in helping bring the expansion project to fruition.

“We couldn’t be happier with our decision to relocate to Perry in 2000. A lot of the reasons why we moved here are still valid today. [This expansion] speaks to the ongoing commitment by Percival Scientific and our owners to the Perry community, Dallas County and the state of Iowa.”

About Percival Scientific

Percival Scientific was established in 1886 in Des Moines, Iowa, as Percival Manufacturing and grew successful in the sale of refrigerated food display cases. In the early ‘50s, at the request of Iowa State University, the company created the first commercially available plant growth chamber, eventually changing its name to Percival Scientific. Today, Percival designs and manufactures over 100 models of controlled environment chambers for research in the plant and animal sciences. The company’s products are the preferred choice of universities, government research institutions and biotechnology companies in all 50 states and more than 79 countries around the world.

To learn more about Percival Scientific and its large catalog of products, visit

Trendlines Is Supporting Farmers With AgTech Developments | Agritecture Xchange Sneak Preview

AgritectureXChange Trendlines Agrifood Innovation Center CEO
Source: Arabian Reseller

 Indoor Ag-Con is a proud media sponsor of Agritecture Xchange, a virtual conference connecting key innovations in the field of AgTech to the future health of our cities coming up in December!  Agritecture sat down with Anton Wibowo, CEO of Trendlines Agrifood Innovation Centre, prior to Agritecture Xchange. Anton will be speaking on the panel, Investor Viewpoint: Most Impactful AgTech Developments of 2020.

Meet Anton Wibowo at Agritecture Xchange, buy your tickets today and save with our Indoor Ag-Con Promo  Code -IAC10.  

Tell us a little about yourself! What sparked your interest in the field of agriculture and led you to work for Trendlines Agrifood Innovation Centre?

I come from Indonesia, with a family business background in the agricultural commodities trading industry. So, in some ways, I’ve always had interest in agriculture. Before joining Trendlines, I worked in a Singaporean tech startup that developed an agricultural waste recycling technology, a rapid composting process. 9 years in that startup gave me regional exposure to the field of agriculture. In short, my career to date has always been related to agriculture.

What can we expect to hear about in your intervention at the “Investor Viewpoint: Most Impactful AgTech Developments of 2020” panel?

To keep the suspense going, I’ll only reveal a little bit for now. I have been seeing a rapidly increasing trend for the utilization of big data and analytics in almost every aspect of agtech development this year. From biotech (seeds genetics, active ingredients screening) to automation (robotics, farm management), and even “fintech” (yield prediction, microloans to farmers).

What limitations have you seen the financing front causing for farmers? In relation to this, why do you believe it’s important to educate and aid farmers in this aspect?

This is a topic that is very close to my heart. Almost 80% of the farmers in the Southeast Asia region are smallholder farmers who live hand to mouth and are often just one bad harvest away from falling below the poverty line. Sadly, big organisations are unwilling to provide financing, understandably due to the perceived high risk. The farmers become vulnerable to “unlicensed and unregulated moneylenders” that charge exorbitant interest, making it incredibly difficult for the farmers to come out of that cycle.

In your experience, how have farmers and AgTech businesses been challenged financially and otherwise during this pandemic? How does the current Covid-related agricultural landscape compare to that of the past?

In my opinion, Covid has exposed the many vulnerabilities of the food supply chain, especially those affecting farmers. The problems that have been around for several years are brought to surface because people are beginning to realize that if we don’t support farmers, there is no sense in having seamless logistics and food manufacturers.

How has the management and investment experience in the Singaporean biotechnology and agribusiness communities been for you during these unprecedented times? Do you think there is a stronger need for such work given the growing agricultural challenges?

Yes, I definitely think that the need for tech will only grow here onwards. Working with the various stakeholders in agriculture is also extremely important. For instance, I see that the adoption of tech is much more complex than just having brilliant technology. The business model has to adapt, the big corporates who often have the distribution channel have to buy-in, and the regulators have to approve.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell our audience prior to watching you address the panel?

There is no more pressing and yet exciting time like today for you to make a positive impact in this industry.

Learn more at Agritecture XChange December 1-3, 2020

Farm Aid Virtual Festival 2020

Story Sourced from Farm Aid Press Release

Indoor Ag-Con is pleased to share news on the Farm Aid Virtual Festival 2020 and a link to the Farm Aid  YouTube channel live stream.  The goal of the virtual festival is to raise critical funds for and awareness of the organization and its mission, which it typically does through ticket sales to the annual in-person music and food festival. According to its press release,  Farm Aid 2020 On the Road, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 26, from 8 to 11 p.m. EDT, will include performances from more than 20 artists. The 3-hour event will be streamed at, on Farm Aid’s YouTube channel, AXS TV and

Farm Aid 2020 On the Road artists include Farm Aid board members Willie Nelson and The Boys, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, and Dave Matthews, as well as Black Pumas, Bonnie Raitt and Boz Scaggs, Edie Brickell with Charlie Sexton, Brandi Carlile, Chris Stapleton, Jack Johnson, Jamey Johnson, Jon Batiste, Kelsey Waldon, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Margo Price, Nathaniel Rateliff, Particle Kid, The Record Company, Valerie June, and The War And Treaty, with other artists to be added.

“This pandemic and so many other challenges have revealed how essential family farmers and ranchers are to the future of our planet,” said Farm Aid President and founder Willie Nelson. “Farm Aid 2020 is going to give the whole country a chance to learn about the important work of farmers and how they’re contributing to our well-being, beyond bringing us good food.”

A Time of Unprecedented Uncertainty

Indoor Ag-Con Farm Aid 2020 Blog PostFarm Aid’s 35th anniversary comes at a time of unprecedented uncertainty, suffering and upheaval in our country. The COVID-19 pandemic, economic stress and the racial justice movement are urgent concerns that all of us share. The impacts of COVID-19 have revealed the fragility and injustice in our food system. As a result of the compounding challenges family farmers face, thousands are at risk of going under.

There is now even more urgency and a critical need for a national response to keep family farmers on the land.

“Since we started in 1985, Farm Aid has kept its finger on the pulse of farm country and deployed funds and resources to help farm families confront the challenges they face,” said Executive Director Carolyn Mugar. “It’s clear that this is a critical moment for farmers and ranchers. We risk losing their important contributions to our communities and our families if we do not adequately respond as a country.”

The virtual festival also will showcase stories from farmers from across the country who were invited to share why they farm, how they manage to stay resilient, and their vision of the future of agriculture.

This year, more viewers will have unprecedented access to Farm Aid’s annual festival than ever before as Farm, Farm Aid’s YouTube channel, AXS TV and will offer a multiplatform experience, streaming the event at no cost to viewers. Additional viewing options will be announced later. To find AXS TV in your area, visit

Exclusive Trips, Memorabilia and More

Farm Aid will again offer exclusive trips and artist-signed memorabilia, including a number of “from the vault” guitars and prints from previous Farm Aid festivals, for auction. The online silent auction will launch the morning of the festival, Sat., Sept. 26, and close on Friday, Oct. 9, with proceeds to benefit the organization.

Farm Aid accepts donations year-round at

Event Updates & Sponsor Info

For event updates, follow Farm Aid on Twitter (@FarmAid), Facebook ( and Instagram (, and visit Viewers are encouraged to use the hashtags #FarmAid2020 and #OnTheRoad to join the conversation on social media around this year’s virtual festival.

Sponsors include ButcherBox, Horizon Organic, Pete & Gerry’s Organic Eggs, Patagonia Workwear and Lundberg Family Farms. Farm Aid welcomes the participation of the business community. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, contact Glenda Yoder at

Farm Aid’s mission is to build a vibrant, family farm-centered system of agriculture in America. Farm Aid artists and board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews host an annual festival to raise funds to support Farm Aid’s work with family farmers and to inspire people to choose family farm food. For more than 30 years, Farm Aid, with the support of the artists who contribute their performances each year, has raised nearly $60 million to support programs that help farmers thrive, expand the reach of the Good Food Movement, take action to change the dominant system of industrial agriculture and promote food from family farms.


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!

Re-Engineering America’s Fresh Produce Supply Chain Post Covid-19 for Greater Resilience, Inclusiveness and Sustainability

How Vertical/Indoor Farming Plays a Key Role in the Much-Needed Upgrade
by Prof. Joel Cuello, Ph.D.

Americas Fresh Produce Food Supply Post Covid-19The UN World Food Programme recently announced that over a quarter of a billion people around the globe could suffer acute hunger by end of this year in large part owing to the coronavirus crisis — a doubling of the 130 million people estimated to experience severe food shortages last year.

Such forecast makes all the more notable the three-way split screen that has been flickering  in the news recently across the United States — showcasing barren shelves at grocery stores, miles of cars and people lined up at food banks, and milk by the millions of gallons being dumped in Wisconsin and Ohio as well as tons of fresh vegetables being plowed back into the soil in Idaho and Florida.

As jarringly incongruous and disturbing such split-screen images are, they have helped bring into stark relief the surprisingly sclerotic rigidity of the U.S. food supply chain amid the prodigious disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

A Double-Stranded Supply Chain

At the heart of America’s fresh-produce supply-chain predicament in the time of Covid-19 are the double strands that make up this supply chain — running in parallel and perhaps even looping around each other, but never quite meeting and converging.

One supply-chain strand supplies the food service channels of restaurants, schools, hotels, offices and coffee shops, while the second strand supplies the retail channels of grocery stores, supermarkets and other retail outlets.

Never do these two fresh-produce supply-chain strands converge in normal times, but remain distinctly discrete and resolutely independent of one other.

And this explains how when Covid-19 shuttered in quick succession myriads of restaurants, schools and coffee shops across the country, the producers and the roughly 15,000 suppliers that cater to the $300-billion U.S. food service industry are suddenly unable to sell the bulk of their produce.

And in attempting to pivot from the food service supply chain to the retail supply chain, they find themselves confronted, not only with the time-consuming and costly repackaging and relabeling requirements for their produce, but also with the daunting task under time duress of finding proper contacts as well as developing the needed contracts to deliver and sell their produce through the retail supply chain instead.

With many producers and food service suppliers completely unprepared and ill-equipped to accomplish the foregoing, many are forced to make the final dreadful choice of destroying millions of pounds of fresh food that they can no longer sell.

The industry trade group Produce Marketing Association estimates that an approximately $5-billion worth of fresh fruits and vegetables have already gone to waste in the United States.

Thus, redesigning America’s fresh-produce supply chain post Covid-19 to make it certainly more nimble and flexible in routing and rerouting as needed the logistical paths that connect from which farms to which tables is absolutely imperative.

Equally imperative in such redesign is also to make the fresh-produce supply chain definitively more inclusive and sustainable.

Re-Engineering for Upgrade

Here are six essential touchstones that should inform the much-needed re-engineering of America’s double-stranded fresh-produce supply chain after Covid-19.

(1) Regionally and locally-based — greater geographical proximity between the re-engineered supply-chain sources (producers) and sinks (retailers and food service providers) fosters increased resilience in terms of shorter distance, quicker access to produce, and allowing for time to repackage and relabel produce in events where there is need to switch supply-chain strands; proximity also promotes sustainability in terms of shorter food miles, lower concomitant greenhouse-gas emissions, less food waste during transport as well as greater produce quality and freshness;

(2) Inclusion of small and medium-scale producers — Addition of medium and small-scale producers in the re-engineered supply chain not only promotes economic inclusivity, but fortifies the supply chain’s resilience given the relative ability of medium and small-scale producers to react more quickly and nimbly to projected changes in demands in the supply-chain sinks;

(3) Mixing of food service and retail clients in the chains — Combining to the extent possible food service and retail sinks in the re-engineered supply chains fosters resilience in regard to establishing and maintaining clients in both strands of the supply chain, and thus providing greater facility in events where produce needs rerouting from one supply-chain strand to the other.

(4) Inclusion of indoor and/or vertical farm producers — Addition of indoor and/or vertical farms significantly boosts the resilience of the re-engineered supply chain in terms of increased supply reliability (independent of weather, season, climate and geography), higher produce yield and quality, increased food safety owing to cleaner and controlled-environment operations, and amenability to automation of operations for labor efficiency. The recent decision by Wendy’s, for instance, to source all of its tomatoes for all of its 6,000 restaurants across North America from indoor hydroponic greenhouses has helped enable the American fast-food company to uphold its motto of Always Fresh by way of ensured quality as well as enhanced food safety, predictability, reliability and product traceability for its now far more dependable fresh-tomato supply chain;

(5) Linking producer farms with sources of renewable energy — Incentivizing and linking producer farms to ready sources of renewable energy, including solar and wind power plants, promotes enhanced environmental sustainability. Especially in temperate regions with reduced solar irradiance in certain periods of the year, producer farms may also be linked with wastewater treatment plants that generate renewable natural gas from digested organic wastes as exemplified by the Newtown Creek Watewater Treatment Plant in Brooklyn, New York City; and,

(6) Certification of the supply chain nexus — Certification for resilience, inclusiveness and sustainability (that is, a RISe certification) adjudicated and awarded by an independent body to  supply-chain nexus of producers, suppliers and retail/food service clients would be a great boon to the fresh-produce distribution industry as well as to consumers, the general public and the environment.

With Covid-19 temporarily decimating the global economy and in the process exposing the vulnerability of partial paralysis of the American fresh-produce supply chain amid the chaotic disruptions wrought by the pandemic, a silver lining that has emerged is that America’s fresh-produce supply chain can very well be re-engineered for a much-needed upgrade — toward greater resilience, inclusiveness and sustainability.


Dr. Joel L. Cuello is Vice Chair of the Association for Vertical Farming (AVF) and Professor of Biosystems Engineering at The University of Arizona. In addition to conducting research and designs on vertical farming and cell-based bioreactors, he also teaches “Integrated Engineered Solutions in the Food-Water-Energy Nexus” and “Globalization, Sustainability & Innovation”. Email