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Integration, Efficiency, and the Future of CEA: Q&A With Microclimates Founder Neda Vaseghi

Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) is experiencing rapid growth, driven by technological advancements. At the forefront of this innovation is Microclimates, a platform that unifies various CEA systems, offering a holistic view of operations. By integrating data and controls from different sources, Microclimates helps growers improve productivity, manage resources efficiently, and ensure high-quality yields. In our conversation, Microclimates Founder Neda Vaseghi shares how their solutions are paving the way for sustainable and scalable CEA practices, setting new industry standards in California and beyond.

Microclimates IntegrationQ: The MicroClimates  software platform integrates various aspects of controlled environment agriculture, such as lighting, climate control and irrigation.  Can you explain how this integration benefits greenhouse operators and vertical farm growers in terms of productivity, quality, and efficiency?

At Microclimates, our vision from the start has been to provide a hardware-agnostic and user-friendly interface. Over the years, we have partnered with numerous companies to offer both wired and wireless (LoRaWAN) solutions. Staying true to our hardware-agnostic approach, we have developed a robust technology platform that integrates with various systems and programming languages.

Integrating the various aspects, can significantly benefit greenhouse operator and vertical farm growers in the following ways:

  • Improve productivity & streamline operation: By unifying siloed systems onto a single platform, we are able to streamline data integration for continuous improvement. These controls monitor conditions, facilitate inter-system communication, and provide a comprehensive facility-level view. This allows everyone to observe how mission-critical systems respond. Greater efficiency is achieved through ongoing engagement with data from integrated controls and analysis platforms. Alerts and reports offer insights to help growers update Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and control sequences. As changes are implemented, benchmarking key performance indicators can verify improvements. Over time, more systems can be integrated and controlled from the unified platform, enabling remote control and automation for seamless decision-making across all systems. Like an orchestra, these systems work together harmoniously for optimal performance.
  • Resource Management: The Microclimates system offers sub-metering energy monitoring, enabling operators to track energy consumption of specific components like lighting and HVAC systems. This data, combined with local utility peak demand hours and fees, allows for operational adjustments to support energy savings. Optimizing lighting schedules and intensities reduces electricity consumption, while precise climate control minimizes the energy required for heating, cooling, and ventilation. Additionally, automated and precise irrigation systems reduce water waste and ensure that nutrients are delivered in the right amounts at the right time, enhancing resource use efficiency and reducing costs.
  • Data Today & Data Tomorrow: Data-Driven decisions are at the core of integrated software platforms, which not only collect and analyze data from various sensors and control systems but also empower growers to make insightful decisions for their operation today. By harnessing this data-driven approach, operators can identify trends and adjust strategies proactively to optimize growth conditions, enhancing productivity and quality. Moreover, the collected data serves as a valuable resource for future advancements, enabling machine learning and AI applications to further revolutionize CEA. Recognizing that data is power, the platform emphasizes the importance of collecting heterogeneous data from various sources, laying the foundation for the intelligent automation of the future, including machine learning & AI.
  • Scalable Growth With Cost Efficiency: The system is designed with scalability in mind, allowing it to grow alongside an operation. An operator can start their integration journey with one or two systems and expand as needed, ensuring that the system evolves with their business. This flexibility is crucial for keeping operational costs affordable, especially when competing with outdoor agriculture prices. By integrating various aspects of controlled environment agriculture, the system makes it easier to scale operations without a proportional increase in labor or operational expenses. As the operation grows, the software adeptly manages the increased complexity, facilitating a seamless expansion while maintaining a close watch on OPEX. This approach ensures that efficiency and cost-effectiveness are prioritized, supporting sustainable growth for greenhouse operators and vertical farm growers.
  • Quality: Quality is a key benefit of integrated systems, which provide uniform conditions that result in consistent plant quality. Each plant receives the same care, leading to uniform size, taste, and appearance, crucial for meeting market standards. By minimizing environmental stress through precise control, plants are less likely to develop diseases or pests, resulting in healthier crops with better nutritional profiles and longer shelf lives. Additionally, the ability to tailor the environment to specific crops or growth stages, such as vegetative or flowering, allows growers to maximize the quality of a diverse range of plants.

MicroclimatesYour collaboration with ERI for the CalNEXT study on the benefits of integrated control systems for greenhouses and indoor farms is an exciting initiative.  How do you envision these findings shaping the future of controlled environment agriculture in California and beyond?

The findings from our collaboration with ERI on the CalNEXT study have the potential to significantly transform the CEA industry in California and set a precedent for similar advancements globally. By focusing on the integration of smart controls for lighting, HVAC, and irrigation systems, we aim to demonstrate substantial energy savings and operational efficiencies in greenhouses and indoor farms.

Overall, the findings from the CalNEXT study will be instrumental in driving the future of controlled environment agriculture by promoting sustainable practices, reducing energy consumption, and improving crop productivity. This project represents a significant step towards achieving California’s climate goals and setting a benchmark for global agricultural practices.

Here is more detail in how we envision the study might shape the future of CEA. I certainly hope it’s the first of many studies on this topic.

Impact on California’s CEA Industry:

  1. Energy Efficiency and Cost Reduction: The implementation of smart environmental controls will enable growers to optimize their resource usage, thereby reducing energy consumption and operational costs. This is crucial in California, where energy prices are high, and there is a strong emphasis on sustainability and reducing carbon footprints. We must identify ways to reduce our energy consumption in CEA. A lot of emphasis has been placed on LED lights, including rebates. Very little on integrated controls.
  2. Enhanced Crop Yields and Quality: Intelligent control systems provide precise monitoring and adjustments to environmental conditions, ensuring optimal growth conditions for crops. This can lead to higher yields and improved quality of produce, benefiting both growers and consumers.
  3. New Utility Rebate Programs: The goal for the  study is to identify new rebate programs for utilities to support the adoption of these technologies. This financial incentive will encourage more growers to invest in smart control systems, accelerating the adoption rate and broadening the impact across the state.

Broader Implications:

  1. Scalability and Replicability: The technology roadmap and insights gained from this study will serve as a model for other regions and countries. The demonstrated benefits in California can be replicated in other areas facing similar challenges, promoting global advancements in CEA.
  2. Innovation and Industry Standards: By collaborating with leaders such as Cornell University GLASE consortium & ERI, we are setting new standards for energy efficiency and sustainability in CEA. This collaboration fosters innovation and encourages the development of next-generation technologies that can further enhance the industry.
  3. Equity and Inclusion: CalNEXT is committed to ensuring that all Californians benefit from clean and healthy environments. The insights from this study will help us identify ways to support equity and inclusion in delivering these technologies, ensuring that small and disadvantaged growers also have access to the benefits of smart environmental controls.

MicroclimatesWith an extensive background in food safety – and considering your upcoming speaking role at the CEA Summit in Virginia – what do you see as the most critical food safety challenges currently facing the indoor agriculture industry? And, how does MicroClimates’ technology contribute to enhancing food safety in CEA operations?

 

The most critical food safety challenges in indoor agriculture revolve around pathogen control, water quality, cross-contamination, and traceability.

Often, the challenge is exacerbated because food safety is not adequately addressed during the design or build-out phase of agricultural facilities. When buildings and irrigation systems are not designed with food safety in mind, it becomes a much larger challenge to implement effective monitoring & management protocols. As for traceability, effective traceability systems are crucial in indoor agriculture for quickly identifying and containing contamination incidents. By tracking produce from seed to sale, these systems ensure compliance with regulatory standards like Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and facilitate swift recall management when necessary. This capability enhances transparency across the supply chain, bolstering consumer confidence in product safety and quality. Robust traceability not only safeguards public health by enabling precise removal of affected batches but also preserves the industry’s reputation for reliability and responsibility in food safety practices.

In 2006, a spinach recall due to contamination with E. coli bacteria significantly impacted consumer confidence and sales. The outbreak, linked to spinach grown in California, resulted in over 200 reported illnesses across multiple states, with several cases of severe illness and even deaths. This incident led to a widespread recall of spinach products from grocery stores nationwide, causing financial losses for growers and distributors alike and prompting consumers to avoid spinach products for a period.

Similarly, in 2011, a cantaloupe recall was initiated due to a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak traced to a farm in Colorado. The contaminated cantaloupes were linked to numerous illnesses and deaths across multiple states. The outbreak had severe consequences for the cantaloupe industry, with consumers avoiding purchases due to concerns over food safety. This led to a decline in sales and financial losses for growers and distributors, highlighting the devastating impact of foodborne illness outbreaks on consumer trust and market demand.

These recalls underscore the critical importance of robust food safety practices, including traceability systems, to quickly identify and remove contaminated products from the market. Such incidents serve as reminders of the need for stringent adherence to food safety standards and continuous efforts to maintain consumer confidence in the safety and quality of agricultural products.

Microclimates’ technology focuses on environmental automation. We have developed an easy-to-deploy mapping application that allows companies to upload a map, blueprint, or any image of their facility into the platform. This application can overlay various types of data onto these maps. Currently, we specialize in displaying environmental data, such as temperature and humidity. However, our platform is designed for integration and we welcome partnerships with companies interested in overlaying food safety data onto their facility maps. Tracking food safety data alongside environmental metrics can provide a comprehensive view of facility conditions, enhancing the ability to monitor and manage both environmental and food safety parameters effectively.

Overall, currently, our platform’s impact on food safety in CEA is limited. However, I am optimistic that we can identify customers who are eager and have the capacity to delve into integrating and aligning food safety protocols with our environmental automation capabilities. This proactive approach will enable us to enhance our platform’s contribution to ensuring safe and secure agricultural practices in controlled environments.

Microclimates Energy SavingsGiven your years of experience across various facets of the industry, what do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the CEA sector today? How is MicroClimates positioning itself to address these?

Challenges:

  • Energy Consumption: One of the biggest challenges is energy consumption. CEA facilities often require significant energy for lighting, HVAC, and other systems. Lighting and HVAC alone consume about 70% of the energy. Managing and reducing energy consumption while maintaining optimal growing conditions is a major challenge. At Microclimates, we have launched a sub-metering energy monitoring wireless solution to address this issue. This allows operators to input their peak demand utility fees while measuring the energy consumption of their facility at a granular level. For example, our solution enables the differentiation of energy usage for specified periods of lighting versus HVAC or down to the equipment level—information that cannot be gathered simply from a utility bill. Understanding consumption and costs at such a granular level can be an eye-opener. This detailed information can be used to make modifications, resulting in significant cost savings.
  • Initial investments: Another challenge is the initial investment and ongoing costs associated with setting up advanced CEA systems, including infrastructure, technology, and automation. At Microclimates, we have stayed hardware agnostic, allowing our platform to integrate seamlessly with both existing environmental systems and new ones. As hardware prices continue to decline, our hardware-agnostic approach enables us to offer a very affordable entry fee for automation. This flexibility helps clients start with a cost-effective solution and scale their systems as needed over time, without being tied to specific hardware vendors. This approach not only reduces initial investment costs but also provides the adaptability required for long-term growth and efficiency.
  • Connectivity: To enable remote environmental monitoring and controls, operators rely heavily on solid internet connectivity. This model typically thrives in urban areas or developed regions where robust internet infrastructure is readily available. However, a significant challenge lies in ensuring that the benefits of advanced agricultural technology extend to underserved communities and bridging the digital divide. At Microclimates, we recognize this challenge and have partnered with edge computing hardware solutions to extend connectivity to areas with limited internet access. Through this partnership, we aim to first lay the foundation for connectivity and subsequently introduce automation solutions tailored for both indoor and outdoor farms. By addressing connectivity barriers, we can empower all farmers, regardless of their location, to leverage cutting-edge technology for enhanced efficiency and productivity.

 

Opportunities:

  1. Technological Advancements: A significant opportunity in the CEA sector lies in technological advancements, particularly in LED lighting, HVAC systems, automation, and AI. Innovations in LED lighting and HVAC systems can greatly enhance energy efficiency and boost crop yields, making production more sustainable and cost-effective. Additionally, the integration of automation and AI technologies can optimize growing conditions, reduce labor costs, and increase scalability, allowing for more consistent and higher quality outputs. Microclimates Inc. is capitalizing on this opportunity by not only integrating various technological silos into a common user interface but also collecting vast amounts of data to support ongoing intelligent automation. This comprehensive approach ensures the continuous improvement and sustainability of CEA operations, setting a new standard for the industry both today and in the future.
  2. Sustainability and environmental impact: Both are key advantages of CEA systems, which typically use significantly less water than traditional agriculture, addressing critical water scarcity issues. CEA also supports urban agriculture initiatives, reducing food miles and providing fresh produce to urban populations. Environmental automation plays a crucial role in these advancements by optimizing resource usage and minimizing waste, leading to more sustainable indoor farming practices. Additionally, Microclimates Inc. enhances these benefits by offering sub-metering energy monitoring, enabling continuous improvement in lowering energy consumption. This comprehensive approach not only boosts the sustainability of CEA operations but also sets a new standard for efficient and responsible indoor farming practices.
  3. Year-round production: CEA ensures a consistent supply of fresh produce, independent of seasonal changes. This is particularly crucial given my years in food safety and firsthand experience with the challenges posed by climate instability in Salinas, CA, which impacts all agricultural products, including almonds. With CEA, we have a real opportunity to make a difference by maintaining a stable supply chain despite external environmental fluctuations. Microclimates Inc. plays a pivotal role in this by offering scheduling for seasonal automation and data analytics, enabling the replication of successful production cycles. This capability not only supports continuous and reliable production but also enhances the overall sustainability and efficiency of indoor farming practices.

MicroclimatesYour passion for innovation and sustainability is evident.  What is your long-term vision for Microclimates, and how do you plan to continue driving innovation in the indoor growing sector to create value for customers, partners & stakeholders?

 

Thank you for recognizing our passion for innovation and sustainability. At Microclimates, our long-term vision revolves around pioneering advancements in the indoor growing sector that enhance productivity, efficiency, and sustainability. We are committed to driving innovation by expanding our integrations with as many companies as possible, fostering collaboration even with competitors to create a unified industry ecosystem rather than silos. Our goal is to broaden our integration portfolio to support the entire industry and facilitate seamless operations for our customers, partners, and stakeholders.

Data analytics will be pivotal in our strategy, leveraging big data and AI-driven insights to revolutionize crop forecasting, optimize yield management, and enable predictive maintenance. This approach empowers our customers to make informed, data-driven decisions that enhance operational efficiency and maximize profitability.

Additionally, we are deeply invested in two specific areas: academia and underserved communities. We plan to continue our close collaboration with academia to drive technological advancements in CEA, ensuring we remain at the forefront of innovation. Simultaneously, we are committed to partnering with companies that share our values in addressing the needs of underserved communities, using our technology to promote food security and sustainability.

By focusing on these initiatives, Microclimates aims to lead the way in sustainable indoor growing practices while fostering collaboration, innovation, and social responsibility across the industry. Together with our partners and stakeholders, we are dedicated to shaping the future of CEA through technology and inclusive community support.

Learn more about Microclimates here.

 

 

 

Campo Caribe: Transforming Tropical Farming With High-Tech Innovation

Jonah Helmer Head Shot
Campo Caribe Head Grower Jonah Helmer

Located in the mountains of Barranquitas, Campo Caribe is officially on its way to providing fresh produce to Puerto Rican families, creating new jobs and reducing the island’s dependence on imports. Following last week’s press conference where Puerto Rico’s Governor Pedro R. Pierluisi announced the expansion of  the agricultural project’s state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouse operation — the largest in the Caribbean – Indoor Ag-Con spoke with Campo Caribe’s Head Grower Jonah Helmer. Read on as he shares the cutting-edge technologies and innovative strategies the team is implementing to overcome tropical weather challenges, optimize growing conditions, and sustainably produce fresh, high-quality lettuce year-round.

Can you share how Campo Caribe will be leveraging its unique location in the central mountains of Puerto Rico to optimize growing conditions and mitigate the challenges posed by the tropical island environment, such as hurricanes and extreme weather fluctuations?

Campo Caribe
Campo Caribe commercial greenhouse in the mountains of Puerto Rico

With our location in the central mountains of Puerto Rico, Campo Caribe has climatic advantages, including high levels of sunlight and mostly moderate temperatures due to the higher elevation. However, there are some additional issues we face in our tropical island location, such as risk of hurricanes, periods of excessive sunlight, frequent rain events, periods of low humidity and of excessive humidity, and periods of extreme air and irrigation water temperatures.

To control these variables, Campo Caribe is building one of the most technologically advanced and sustainable lettuce greenhouses in the Caribbean. At 5.5 acres, this is the largest hydroponic greenhouse in the Caribbean and the largest of only 3 greenhouses in the world combining the Cravo retractable roof structure and Hydronov deep water culture growing system. The Cravo retractable roof and shading system allows us to passively cool our greenhouse throughout the day. We can open the roof to maximize our light levels during cloudy periods and close the roof and shade system to reduce peak light intensity. We grow our lettuce in deep water culture, which uses a greater water volume to buffer fluctuations in water and air temperature around the plant. We added a Vifra high pressure fogging system to maintain optimal humidity levels for our plants to help them transpire, photosynthesize, and maximize growth all day long without becoming water stressed under the strong tropical sun.

Campo Caribe Research Greenhouse
Prior to completion of its commercial greenhouse, Campo Caribe built research and development greenhouses.

Our unique combination of location, facility design, growing equipment, and controls systems allows us to overcome these issues and puts us on the cutting edge of the controlled environment agriculture (CEA) industry. This makes our facility more productive, energy efficient, and sustainable than those of our competitors, and makes our products tastier and healthier for our customers. Our greenhouse is built to withstand hurricane force winds up to 165 mph and will allow us to achieve a higher order fulfillment rate for Puerto Rican businesses.

The integration of the Cravo retractable roof structure and Hydronov deep water culture growing system are distinguishing features of Campo Caribe. Can you explain how this combination enhances plant growth and resource efficiency compared to traditional greenhouse setups?

Cravo Retractable Roof Campo Caribe
Cravo retractable roof

Conventional glass and plastic greenhouses are not designed to operate in tropical climates with high temperatures and humidities all year round. The Cravo greenhouse allows us to optimize the aerial environment around the leaves of the plants in our hot climate while the Hydronov deep water culture system provides deep, cool, and oxygenated reservoirs of recirculating nutrient solution that will support plant growth even with severe fluctuations in temperatures and interruptions in power supply that can occur in Puerto Rico.

The roof and sides of the Cravo greenhouse fully retract allowing us to combine the benefits of outdoor and CEA production systems to enhance plant growth. By maximizing natural sunlight and controlling the environment, Campo Caribe is able to exceed the average yields of lettuce grown in deep water culture without the use of any artificial lighting and with lower chemical inputs.

The retractable roof prevents the excess heat buildup that occurs in conventional greenhouses and ensures that we have uniform growing conditions throughout the 5.5 acre structure. Retractable cooling curtains help regulate the sunlight and air temperatures, while our high-pressure fogging system and horizontal airflow fans optimize the humidity levels around the leaf surface.

Campo Caribe uses minimal electricity since the retractable roofs and cooling curtains consume only 2-3 kw hours of electricity per day per hectare compared to over 1000 kw hours for conventional greenhouses cooled with cooling pads and fans. We are not using any supplemental lighting to grow our lettuce, which saves a significant amount of energy and expense compared to greenhouses in higher latitudes.

Tropical climates provide favorable conditions for foliar and root diseases due to consistently warm temperatures and high humidity and precipitation levels. Hydronov designed our growing system to reduce risk of crop loss from disease and improve productivity. Our growing system features 16 independent production ponds, each fed with ozone sterilized source water to prevent the introduction of water-borne pests and diseases into the ponds. We have precise control systems for the water temperature and oxygen concentration of our growing solution to further reduce disease risk and improve plant health to make our product top in quality and in safety.

The use of rainwater collection and high-pressure fogging systems reflects a commitment to resource efficiency and environmental sustainability. Could you elaborate on how these systems contribute to Campo Caribe’s overall sustainability goals and operational efficiency?

Campo Caribe Packaging
Campo Caribe’s lettuce will come in butterhead, romaine and spring mix varieties, and will be available in supermarkets and restaurants around the island, as well as at a direct sales stand at the farm’s facilities in Barranquitas.

Campo Caribe designed our production systems to improve the sustainability and reliability of produce available in Puerto Rico. By replacing imports with locally grown produce, Campo Caribe will help decrease Puerto Rico’s dependency on imported food, which currently stands at approximately 85%. The majority of lettuce available in Puerto Rico is grown in California or Arizona and shipped by truck and by boat to the island. It is not uncommon for some of this produce to go bad during this long journey and be wasted before it gets to consumers, contributing to higher carbon emissions.

To conserve resources, Campo Caribe utilizes collected rainwater from the roof of the greenhouse as the primary water source for the facility and saves 90% more water than conventional outdoor lettuce farms. By collecting and using our rainwater, Campo Caribe can support its production with less reliance on municipal or well water. This helps us to produce a reliable supply of lettuce for our customers all year round.

General Manager, Zuleyka Mendoza, and Farm Supervisor, Andrea Baez, in Research Greenhouse
Campo Caribe General Manager, Zuleyka Mendoza, and Farm Supervisor, Andrea Baez, in research greenhouse

The Cravo retractable roof structure significantly reduces the amount of energy used to vent and cool the greenhouse, but high solar radiation levels can cause severe spikes in air temperature and drops in humidity levels. To prevent our plants from getting water stressed, we have installed a Vifra high pressure fogging system to maintain optimal humidity levels and cool down peak air temperatures. Vifra’s high pressure fogging system produces water droplets 1 micron in size that evaporate immediately in the air, increasing humidity without wetting the leaf surface, which reduces risk of foliar disease.

The high pressure fogging system will work in combination with the retractable cooling curtains to reduce peak temperatures making our greenhouse more resistant to extreme temperatures caused by climate change. By maintaining optimal humidity levels during hot summer days, our crop will not become water stressed and instead can take full advantage of the sun’s energy to grow faster and yield more. The high pressure fogging system will only be required for several hours per day when the humidity levels drop below 60% which will reduce the amount of fresh water for cooling by over 95% compared to conventional pad and fan cooled greenhouses.

The Priva Control System will play a key role in maintaining optimal growing conditions. Can you discuss how this system improves operational efficiency and ensures consistent yields – particularly in a high-tech greenhouse environment like Campo Caribe?

Campo Caribe Commercial Greenhouse Pond Recirculation Corridor
Campo Caribe greenhouse pond recirculation corridor

Campo Caribe selected a Priva climate control system to monitor and control all climate variables and control the irrigation system in our greenhouse. Priva (based in De Lier, Holland) is a global leader in CEA control systems, developing software, hardware, and services for the horticulture industry worldwide. We collaborated with Priva partner, Borlaug, in designing, developing, manufacturing, shipping, installing, and commissioning our climate control system. Priva integrates with the Cravo greenhouse and production equipment so we can monitor and control the climate conditions in our greenhouse from anywhere with an internet connection via their online platform. We can monitor and control the air temperature, humidity level, light level, CO2 concentration, wind speed, and leaf temperature in the greenhouse. For each independent recirculating pond we can precisely add pH and nutrient adjusted solutions using a Priva Nutrifit system and monitor the pH, EC, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and Oxidation Reduction Potential (ORP) in real time.

The Priva system notifies growing staff if climate variables are out of range so actions can be taken to resolve problems quickly and to return to optimal conditions. This high level of control and monitoring allows Campo Caribe to optimize the growing conditions at all times to produce high quality lettuce all year round, empowering the farm to hit 95% fulfillment for our customers.

Energy efficiency is a significant focus for Campo Caribe, as demonstrated by your energy management system and facility design. How do these systems contribute to reducing overall energy consumption while still meeting the demands of a large-scale lettuce operation – and what are the expected benefits in terms of cost savings and environmental impact?

Campo Caribe Team with Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi
Campo Caribe Team with Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi at press conference

To reduce our daily electrical usage, Campo Caribe is utilizing a Deep Sea Electronics generator controller to perform advanced electrical dispatching and integrate with Priva and the major loads of the facility. An easily programable load shed system turns off major electrical loads in the facility to save energy and to prevent overloading our electrical service and back-up generator. We prioritize the dispatching of power to equipment needed to maintain an optimal production climate for our plants including operations of the greenhouse roof and shade curtains, fogging system, and water recirculation pumps. We will only run some equipment at night, such as the Priva Nutrifit, to fill up the production ponds in order to reduce power consumption during the day when we are harvesting and packaging.

Other parts of our operation including the refrigerated warehouse were designed to maximize energy efficiency. Excess insulation in the warehouse and packing room coupled with fast acting roll-up doors will maintain cold food safe temperatures using less energy from the cycling of condensing units.

In case of electrical outages, we have a back-up generator that can support the entire facility. We are continuing our research to determine when our peak power demand occurs, and we are working with Ageto Energy to provide for a variety of power sources in the future. Ageto Energy’s ARC system will ultimately act as the single interface for the disparate energy resources and will optimize to provide the cheapest, cleanest, and most reliable power.

This unique power system and facility design allows us to be more reliable in the face of power outages and storms and provide a more sustainable product with less carbon emissions for our customers.

 

Learn more about Campo Caribe and keep up with its progress here — www.campocaribe.com 

Press Conference With Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi
Puerto Rico Governor and General Manager in Research Greenhouse
Puerto Rico Governor and General Manager in Campo Caribe Research Greenhouse

Campo Caribe hosted a press conference on Monday, May 13 where Puerto Rico Governor Pedro R. Pierluisi and other officials participated in the announcement of the company’s expansion plans. Check out some of the press coverage from outlets, including:

Sin Comillas.com, Ey Boricua, WIPR, WAPA

 

 

High Tech Greenhouse Debuts in East Pasco – Local Bounti

From Tri-City Herald, Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Local Bounti Northwest made its official debut in Pasco on Tuesday morning.

Local Bounti Northwest formally dedicated its new lettuce growing greenhouse in Pasco, shown here during construction, with a ribbon cutting ceremony May 7 and visits by executives.
Photo courtesy of Tri-City Herald. Local Bounti Northwest formally dedicated its new lettuce growing greenhouse in Pasco, shown here during construction, with a ribbon cutting ceremony May 7 and visits by executives.

The young ag tech firm celebrated operations at its 242,000-square-foot hydroponic greenhouse with a ribbon cutting, a visit by company executives and an employee appreciation lunch at the site, near East Lewis and “A” streets.

Local Bounti , based in Hamilton, Mont., built a greenhouse to grow lettuce and other leafy greens at 950 S. Elm St.

The warehouse features stackable growing systems to produce spring mix, butter lettuce, romaine crisp, green leaf and other lettuce blends for distribution through a national network of grocery chains.

The three-acre greenhouse was seeded in January and completed its food safety certification process in April. It employs 40 people. Pasco supports distribution to customers in the Pacific Northwest.

CEO Craig Hurlbert issued a statement for the occasion.

“We are proud to officially be able to call Pasco home with the opening of this latest facility, which enhances our rapidly growing distribution footprint across the U.S.,” he said.

Read full story from Tri-City Herald and Yahoo

Launch of RE-Greenhouse, an Interreg North-West Europe-project

Greenhouse energy shift: accelerate the transition to renewable energy

North-West Europe has the highest density of heated greenhouses in Europe and fossil fuels are the main energy source. Energy is the second largest component of production costs, second to labor. RE-Greenhouse is a new Interreg North-West Europe-project that aims to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy in the greenhouse sector for climate resilience, food security, and enhanced competitiveness.

 

FarnTech Society Press Release 1RE-Greenhouse brings together 11 partners from 5 NWE countries (BE, FR, DE, LU, NL),  each expert in a particular field with pilot greenhouses using a specific renewable energy source. A high potential for use of renewable energy sources in the greenhouse sector is unexploited because expertise on promising renewable energy sources is locked behind borders and greenhouse holders often lack time, means and knowledge to make decisions. The RE-Greenhouse project partners want to collaboratively tackle this challenge by exchanging expertise and setting up various cross-border actions.

 

11 multidisciplinary and complementary partners committed to a common goal: speeding up the uptake of renewable energy sources in greenhouses.

Pilot set-ups of promising renewable energy source technologies

The project will set up a transnational metrix plan and transfer system for greenhouse

operational data and implement this in six pilot sites with six renewable energy source technologies:

  1. Solar energy
  2. Heat network
  3. Residual heat
  4. Pellet heating system
  5. Wood heating system
  6. Biogas
FarmTechSociety Release 2
RE-Greenhouse focuses on six promising renewable energy source technologies

The data retrieved from the pilot set-ups, together with information from stakeholder consultations and historical data will be used to develop an open decision tool for the flow, production, consumption and storage of renewable energy sources in greenhouses.

On-site demonstration visits to the pilots will be organized to inform, inspire and stimulate  greenhouse holders and stakeholders to transition to renewable energy sources.

Image: RE-Greenhouse focuses on six promising renewable energy source technologies

The ‘Greenhouse renewable energy source decision tool’ will be a gamechanger for every greenhouse operator in North-West Europe.

Energy decision tool for greenhouse holders

The new decision tool will be able to determine which renewable energy sources are possible and opportune for a specific greenhouse production. It will offer easy technical and economical options. The tool will be offered widely in Belgium, Germany, France, Luxemburg and The Netherlands through an international open call. On-site demonstration visits and targeted trainings will be organized to increase the adoption and uptake of the tool and thus supporting the greenhouse holders in the needed transition to renewable energy sources.

 

Towards sustainable, resilient and environmentally friendly practices

By transitioning to renewable energy sources, greenhouse holders will be able to avoid negative volatility caused by geopolitical events and market spikes. The long-term effect is a systemic change of a fossil dependent and energy consuming sector towards sustainable, resilient and environmentally friendly regional practices, which leads to food security, provide attractive career options and increased competitiveness in the global market for sustainable agricultural products. Increasing the resilience of an important sector in agriculture will also provide opportunities for further digitalization and integration into wider infrastructure developments.

About RE-Greenhouse

RE-Greenhouse is a project funded by Interreg North-West Europe, The RE-Greenhouse-project officially started 22/11/2023 and will run for 4 years. The consortium consists of 11 partners in 5 NWE-countries (BE, FR, LU, NL): Inagro (BE), Boerenbond (BE), FarmTech Society (BE), Vegepolys Valley (FR), CTIFL- Interprofessional Technical Centre for Fruit and Vegetables (FR), Astredhor (FR), IFSB- Construction Sector Training Institute (LU), Greenport West-Holland (NL), The Hague University of Applied Sciences (NL), Heat Grid Westland (NL), Trier University of Applied Sciences – Ifas- Institute for Applied Material Flow Management (DE) .

 

The project is coordinated by Inagro and supported by a €2,3m grant from the Interreg North-West Europe programme. The goal of RE-Greenhouse is accelerating the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy production in NWE-greenhouses.

Produce Grower Magazine: Rooftop Empire

This full article by Mike Zawaki was published by Produce Grower in April 2024

Produce GrowerFor greenhouse growers, the siren song of growth and expansion is undeniable. It whispers increased yields, broader markets and greater financial stability. But like any seductive melody, it masks a treacherous undertow. While brimming with potential, challenges lurk unseen, ready to overwhelm with complexities, resource strains and logistical nightmares.

(Photo Above- Gotham Greens CEO Viraj Puri, copyright Gotham Greens) 

A fundamental entrepreneurial principle, especially relevant for greenhouse growers, is that expansion should be a deliberate strategic decision, not solely a reaction to opportunity. This principle rings true for Brooklyn, New York-based Gotham Greens, which has navigated numerous recent expansion projects with calculated precision. Led by the visionary leadership of co-founders Viraj Puri (CEO) and Eric Haley (CFO) and Chief Greenhouse Officer Jenn Frymark and supported by a dedicated internal team of horticulture pros, Gotham Greens carefully examined every expansion challenge and established effective best practices. This has empowered the grower to overcome the complexities of a revolutionary way of growing and providing fresh produce in the U.S.

Today, Gotham Greens is synonymous with urban agriculture and cutting-edge, sustainable growing practices, and its growth and expansion wouldn’t be done justice without highlighting its rapid ascent in the greenhouse grower market.

Its legacy is rooted in the heart of Brooklyn, New York, an urban, culturally diverse foodie paradise. In 2009, Puri and Haley collaborated on a shared dream to provide fresh, pesticide-free, sustainably grown produce directly to local communities. Two years later, the vision materialized on a Greenpoint neighborhood rooftop with Gotham Greens’ first 15,000-square-foot soilless hydroponic greenhouse, marking a milestone in traditional farming. At its heart, this revolutionary model addressed long-held agricultural challenges — how to overcome long distances, mitigate environmental impact and provide greater access to fresh, locally produced foods.

Continue Reading From Produce Grower…

Indoor Ag Revolution: Citi’s Adam Bergman Shares Strategies For Growth, Sustainability

In this Q&A following his keynote address at last week’s Indoor Ag-Con 2024, “Indoor Farming – The Next Revolution In Agriculture,” Adam Bergman, Global Head of AgTech Investment Banking for Citi, sheds light on the promising trajectory of indoor farming despite the challenges encountered in 2023. He discusses the pivotal role of technology, financial strategies, crop diversification, funding opportunities, and strategic partnerships in propelling the indoor farming sector towards a sustainable and prosperous future.

Q: In your keynote, you talked about the promising future of indoor farming despite setbacks in 2023.  Can you elaborate on specific strategies and/or innovations that you believe will drive the rapid growth of indoor farming, especially in the context of the mega trends of food security, sustainability, and health & nutrition?

A: Food security, sustainable food systems, and health & nutrition are the biggest drivers of indoor farming. Food security initially spurred on indoor farming because of the supply chain disruptions caused by the Covid pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As a result,  the trend toward food globalization that started following World War II has gone into reverse. In the past few years, a growing number of countries, especially those in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that generated a huge amount of money during a period of high energy costs, speak more about food self-sufficiency and the role of indoor farming. Indoor farming is attractive to the GCC, because they do not have enough arable land and/or an optimal climate to grow outdoors.

As climate change persists, conditions are getting harsher for outdoor farmers, who are forced to deal with increasing weather volatility. Additionally, the global population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, which will necessitate roughly a 50% increase in the amount of food produced. Farmers, working with governments and NGOs around the globe, are going to need to figure out how to grow more with similar or fewer resources (chemical fertilizers, crop chemicals & pesticides, land, and water). Since indoor farms typically don’t use chemical fertilizers, crop chemicals or pesticides, and use significantly less land and water, they are a better solution for more environmentally sustainable agriculture.

The consumer also plays a key role in the food system. Previously, consumers were frequently beholden to CPG companies and retailers to purchase food. However, there have been significant changes in how consumers, particularly in the developed world, purchase food (direct-to-consumer, online purchases, food delivery, and meal kits), which is disintermediating many incumbents. Gen Z and Millennials especially are pushing back against industrial agriculture, which has played a large part in the ecological harm to soil and contamination of ground water, lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans, as well as damaging human health, as obesity rates have soared globally. Today, more consumers are demanding fresher, healthier and more nutritious foods that is grown sustainably. Indoor farms can be built on sites close to population centers, one advantage of which is having a much shorter supply chain.  Consumers can buy produce that lasts longer before spoiling and indoor farmers can grow products for taste, texture, and nutrient density rather than yield and logistics, which are priority for outdoor farmers shipping across North America or around the globe. In total, these three mega trends of food security, sustainable food systems and health & nutrition are poised to have a significant impact in accelerating on the growth of indoor farming globally.

Q:  Your extensive experience in Clean Energy Transition and AgTech investment banking positions you at the intersection of technology innovation and climate change.  How do you envision technology advancements influencing the future of indoor farming, and what role can financial institutions play in supporting these technological innovations for sustainable growth? 

A: Innovations in the greenhouse sector have accelerated over the past 150 years, with automation & robotics, building materials, digitization, more efficient water usage and improved energy efficiency all driving progress recently. The vertical farming sector is poised for similar transformational changes as LED light technology advances, and seed genetics are optimized to grow plants under various light spectrums. Once more indoor farms get to a point where key risks have been mitigated (financial performance, including positive EBITDA, multiple farms operating at full capacity, project developers with a strong track-record, and customer off-take agreements), financial institutions can play a significant role in financing new indoor farms, similar to the role they played in the growth of solar and wind projects. Once bankruptcy risks for indoor farming companies and projects are substantially reduced, opportunities will open up for project finance with 70+% debt to develop indoor farming and cheaper capital from insurance companies and pension funds looking for strong, long-term cash-flowing entities.

Q: In your presentation, you touched on the expansion of crop production into areas like  higher-margin produce, pharmaceuticals and specialty ingredients.  Could you provide insights into strategic considerations for indoor farmers looking to diversify their crop portfolios, and what opportunities you foresee in these emerging markets?

One of the challenges many vertical farming companies face is high production costs. This is mainly due to limited production capacity and high capital expense and operation costs currently. As vertical farms continue to struggle to be cost competitive with outdoor grown produce and many greenhouses, it is extremely important to diversify away from leafy greens to grow other products that command higher prices. This is similar to the biofuels sector two decades ago, when various companies decided to compete against the commoditized fuel sector rather than specialty chemicals, which could be sold at a much higher price point. Those companies that tried to compete against commoditized fuels frequently went bankrupt as they were capital intensive and did not have the requisite scale or cost structure to be economic.  Only those companies that focused on specialty chemicals were able to achieve a cost structure that made economic sense and, as they expanded and optimized production, were able to reduce costs and become cost competitive with more commoditized end-markets.  Based on the trends I have seen, I believe the same thing will occur with vertical farms, which should look to provide a variety of products that can be sold at higher prices (berries, coffee, forestry, pharmaceuticals, specialty ingredients), and ultimately to achieve economies of scale and drive costs down.

Q: In the context of securing funding for sustainable growth in the indoor farming sector, you mentioned leveraging the USDA loan program and other non-dilutive sources of capital.  Can you offer practical advice for businesses in the CEA industry on accessing these funding opportunities and navigating the financial landscape successfully?

The equity capital markets remain extremely challenging for most early- and growth-stage companies, with the traditional debt markets available for only a few of the largest, most profitable indoor farming companies. In challenging capital markets, it is more important that companies look for creative non-dilutive sources of capital. The two areas that show the most promise are government grants and government-backed loans. To this end, several companies have been able to secure state and local incentives to build new indoor farms in various locations throughout the US. Additionally, a growing number of indoor farming companies have accessed USDA loan guarantees. The advantage of loans associated with the USDA is they typically come at lower interest rates and frequently have lower covenants. Capital will remain one of the biggest obstacles for expanding indoor farming operations throughout North America and the rest of the world.

Q:  Strategic partnerships play a key role in the success  of companies in the indoor farming sector.  From your perspective, how can companies best approach and establish meaningful collaborations with partners like crop input providers, suppliers, retailers and others  to drive innovation and overcome challenges?

A: Like many highly capital-intensive growth sectors, indoor farming faces challenges in validating their business as a prerequisite to accessing capital, both equity and debt. In particularly difficult capital markets, strategic partners provide a means of validation for investors. It is also equally important to establish relationships with key customers, both food service and retailers. Finally, to be an attractive to potential investors, indoor farming companies need to be able to answer the following questions posed by investors:

1) What is your proof that you can build an indoor farm and scale production?

2) Are there consumers who want to buy your products?

3) Will consumers buy your products at a price where you can generate positive gross profit and EBITDA margins?

Those companies with positive answers will find an increasing amount of capital availability for growth, whereas those that struggle, particularly to generate positive financial metrics, will find sources of capital limited.

Indoor Ag Con 2024 Boosts Worldwide Attendance At Largest Event To Date

16% Attendance Increase For Las Vegas March 11-12, 2024 Event That Drew CEA Industry Members from 49 U.S. States, 31 Countries

(MARCH 18, 2024) — Indoor Ag-Con marked its 11th edition with increases in attendee and exhibitor participation for its March 11-12, 2024 run at Caesars Forum Las Vegas. The exhibiting company roster grew by 54% with a sold-out show floor featuring 207 companies in 287 booths vs. 134 companies in 174 booths for 2023. Attendance saw a 16% increase over 2023 with 1584 attendees from 49 states, the District of Columbia and US territories, as well as 31 other countries. Attendees included C-level execs and other decision-makers involved with every sector of controlled environment agriculture — grower/operators, investors, tech providers, start-ups, academia, government, real estate developers, food service retail, suppliers and more.

For the third year, Indoor Ag-Con once again co-located with the National Grocers Association (NGA) Show, attracting 146 attendees from that event to the Indoor Ag-Con expo floor — taking the total attendance number over the 1700 mark.

“Every year our speakers, exhibitors and attendees from across the country and globe look forward to Indoor Ag-Con as it brings together our industry as a community to hold important discussions on timely topics and show off what’s new in indoor agriculture,” said Brian Sullivan, CEO, Indoor Ag-Con. “This year we experienced record exhibitor growth and attracted companies and attendees from 35 countries to our global event. Next year, we are moving to a new location providing more expo and meeting space as we continue to grow with this ever-evolving industry.”

Among the 11th Annual Edition highlights:

indoor ag-con 2025Keynote Sessions
Each year, Indoor Ag-Con features three inspiring Keynotes and this year’s all-star speakers included Paul Sellew, Founder and CEO of Little Leaf Farms. A mid-morning keynote on day one, “Leader Insights: Charting the Future Landscape of Controlled Environment Agriculture”, was  led by industry veterans Moderator, Daniel Malech, Board Chair, SVP CEA Alliance for Plenty, Jim DiMenna, President of Red Sun Farms, Viraj Puri, Co-Founder and CEO of Gotham Greens, and Matt Ryan, CEO of Soli Organic. Adam Bergman, Managing Director, Clean Energy Transition Group, Global Head of AgTech for Citi, delivered the day two morning keynote address.

Indoor Ag-Con 2025Educational Tracks & Expo Floor Theater Panel Discussions
The Conference features two jam-packed days of educational and insightful sessions from 90+ speakers in four tracks including Planning & Operations, Grower, Cultivating Possibilities and NEW this year, the Cannabis track.

Sold Out Expo Floor
In 2024, the Expo Hall grew and expanded boasting 207 world-class companies in 287 Booths that showcased the most cutting-edge technologies, products and services in the indoor agriculture industry from lighting and control systems to substrates, equipment, irrigation systems.

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

Indoor Ag-Con |Philips VIP Welcome Party
Back by popular demand, Philips Horticulture LED Solutions teamed up once again with Indoor Ag-Con to tee-up the 2024 edition with a VIP Welcome Par-tee on Sunday evening, March 10 at Topgolf Las Vegas.  Indoor Ag-Con conference speakers and other industry VIPs came together for an incredible evening of golf, networking, cocktails, food, music and fun – all compliments of Philips LED Horticultural Lighting.

Looking ahead, Indoor Ag-Con Las Vegas will move to the Westgate Las Vegas for its March 11-12, 2025 edition.  The new location provides additional expo floor and meeting room space to accommodate the event’s steady growth.

For more information, please visit www.indoor.ag.

ABOUT:

Founded in 2013, Indoor Ag-Con has emerged as the largest trade show and conference for vertical farming | greenhouse |controlled environment agriculture. 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, visit www.indoor.ag.

 

 

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The Center of Excellence for Indoor Agriculture Announces Partnership With Microclimates, Inc.

The Center of Excellence for Indoor Agriculture, a U.S. based company that supports the growth of the vertical farming and greenhouse industry, announced a partnership with Microclimates, a software development company that provides farms with a platform that offers monitoring, control, data analytics and automation to growers.

The new partnership is designed to assist growers from start-up to farm-build to continued operations. The Center brings its business planning, financial analysis, venture strategy and farm operations assessment expertise to the partnership. Microclimates brings its expertise in platform development and software solutions for lighting, climate, fertigation, irrigation, layered mapping and energy management to the partnership. Together they offer clients a robust set of solutions for indoor farm development and growth.

Eric W. Stein, Ph.D., founder and Executive Director of the Center of Excellence notes, “We are delighted to work with Neda Vaseghi and Loren West at Microclimates. They have built a robust and easy-to-use software platform that helps indoor growers to succeed. One of the challenges for growers is to operate a farm in an efficient and sustainable way in order to achieve profitability. Their solution provides a high level of monitoring, control, and automation at an affordable price point.”

Neda Vaseghi, CEO and co-founder of Microclimates says, “We are thrilled to be partnering with the Center of Excellence and Dr. Eric Stein. His unparalleled expertise in indoor agriculture, technology innovation, and sustainable practices perfectly complements our mission to revolutionize CEA. With Dr. Stein’s visionary leadership and our commitment to cutting-edge environmental automation, supported by integration of silos and hardware- agnostic approach, we are poised to unlock new possibilities and drive transformative impact in the agriculture industry. Together, we look forward to shaping a more efficient, sustainable, and resilient future for growers.”

About The Center: The Center of Excellence for Indoor Agriculture provides business expertise and analytical advisory services to investors, entrepreneurs, industry partners, and community organizers to de-risk the process of building sustainable and profitable indoor vertical farms and greenhouses. Services include strategy, due diligence, economic and technical feasibility analysis, market research and analysis, operations assessment, sustainable methods, training and development. The Center and its partners offer indoor farm design solutions based on sustainable architectural design and optimal operations management principles. As the first U.S.-based Center of Excellence dedicated to indoor farming, it promotes best practices, benchmarking, best in class solutions and research. The Center is located in the Philadelphia metro region.

About Microclimates, Inc. Microclimates is a software company that offers a platform for monitoring, control, automation, and data analytics for various aspects of controlled environment agriculture (CEA), including lighting, climate (HVAC), watering, nutrient dosing, energy monitoring, and maps. Its solution aims to address the current scenario where most CEA systems operate independently, functioning as isolated entities. The Microclimates platform seamlessly unifies monitoring & control systems, while providing a hardware- agnostic model. This integration provides users with a centralized software interface, simplifying management by reducing the number of controllers to oversee. Additionally, it brings about cost savings through labor reduction, mitigates risks associated with the use of multiple control systems, harmonizes data across various components, and facilitates informed, data-driven decision-making for operators.

Nourse Farms Continues to Lead the North American Berry Propagation Industry, Adopting New Tissue Culture Production Technology

John Place Nourse Farms
John Place, Nourse Farms CEO

For over 90 years, Nourse Farms (Indoor Ag-Con 2024 Booth 317) has remained steadfast in its commitment to providing growers with high-quality, virus-indexed, highly productive plants grown using the best possible practices. This commitment drives Nourse Farms to stay on the cutting edge of the latest developments in the industry.

To amplify Nourse Farms’ commitment to innovation, the North American berry plant propagator is embarking on an exciting journey in 2024. Later this year, Nourse Farms will open the 15-acre North Carolina greenhouse it acquired last year. Additionally, Nourse Farms expects to open a modern tissue culture lab and a seven-acre greenhouse for foundation material in Massachusetts.

Nourse Farms expects to open a modern tissue culture lab and a seven-acre greenhouse for foundation material in Massachusetts later this year.
Nourse Farms expects to open a modern tissue culture lab and a seven-acre greenhouse for foundation material in Massachusetts later this year.

Striving for a new era of excellence in tissue culture production, Nourse Farms’ modern tissue culture lab will include automated tissue culture planters developed and manufactured by Viscon, in close collaboration with ISO Group. The automated tissue culture planters are a tremendous breakthrough for growers, redefining and elevating production while operating in a sterile environment, resulting in increased quality products.

“Tissue culture has been the cornerstone of what we do for decades, so strategic investments in technology and advancements in this part of our operation are not only ideal but necessary,” said Nourse Farms CEO John Place. “With the exciting addition of Viscon’s automated tissue culture planters to our operation, we expect that we will see a significant increase in our production and efficiency.”

This innovative system meticulously transplants individual plants at a predetermined position and depth in the agar, ensuring higher explant quality and improved growth uniformity. The planter includes advanced gripper technology that prioritizes precision and certifies minimal physical plant damage. The automated planter features in-place tool sterilization and automatically sterilizes between transplant batches. Safeguarding sterility reduces the contamination risk seen in manual plant handling.

Nourse Farms’ modern tissue culture lab will include automated tissue culture planters developed and manufactured by Viscon, in close collaboration with ISO Group.
Nourse Farms’ modern tissue culture lab will include automated tissue culture planters developed and manufactured by Viscon, in close collaboration with ISO Group.

By adopting Viscon’s technology, Nourse Farms expects operational efficiency and control to strengthen due to enhanced traceability software that will capture data to help inform process decisions. The software uses barcoding technology that automatically tracks and traces plants in cups. This operation will allow Nourse Farms to monitor and accurately trace plants to the original plant material. By capturing this data, the growers can make informed plant production decisions based on production numbers, multiplication rates, material losses, and location status.

By utilizing this system, Nourse Farms’ skilled lab technicians can focus on preparing and cutting the plants for transplanting.

“This is a transformative time for growers and Nourse Farms is passionate about being at the forefront of implementing modern growing practices,” said Place. “We might be over 90 years old, but we’ve only just begun. We are proud to continue leading the North American berry propagation industry and look forward to what will come out of our new modern tissue culture lab.”

About Nourse Farms

For over 90 years, Nourse Farms has produced and sold premium quality small fruit plants to national and international commercial fruit growers, home gardeners, and resellers. Nourse Farms’ commitment to providing customers with virus-indexed, highly productive plants drives the organization to stay on the cutting edge of the latest developments in the industry. By identifying and testing new varieties and growing techniques, Nourse Farms stands behind its promise to deliver quality. What was once a strawberry nursery serving local growers has grown to be an internationally recognized soft fruit nursery selling strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry plants. For more information about Nourse Farms, visit NourseFarms.com.

Industry Leaders From Gotham Greens, Plenty, Red Sun Farms, Soli Organic Join Keynote Line-Up For Indoor Ag-Con Las Vegas 2024

Top Execs Share Insights on  Future Landscape of Controlled Environment Agriculture

Indoor Ag-Con is excited to announce its third keynote address, “Leader Insights: Charting the Future Landscape of Controlled Environment Agriculture,” led by industry veterans on Monday, March 11 at 11am. The keynote will feature Moderator, Daniel Malech, Board Chair of the CEA Alliance and SVP, Plenty, Jim DiMenna, President of Red Sun Farms, Viraj Puri, Co-Founder and CEO of Gotham Greens, and Matt Ryan, CEO of Soli Organic.

In this compelling keynote presentation, attendees will discover the foresight from industry leaders as they share their predictions, strategies, and unique perspectives on the emerging trends that will shape the landscape of controlled environment agriculture. Attendees will gain valuable insights to stay ahead in this dynamic field and be part of the conversation that is charting the course for the future of sustainable and innovative food production.

This panel joins the Indoor Ag-Con 2024 headliner keynote line-up, which also includes the opening morning kick-off session with Paul Sellew, CEO, Little Leaf Farms and the day two morning keynote from Adam Bergman, Global Head of Agtech for Citi. These all-star leaders and keynotes will engage and inspire attendees.

“We are excited to bring this panel of CEA industry leaders to our keynote stage to offer insider tips and predictions shaped by real world experience. The keynote will provide key takeaways about the future of indoor agriculture, as it holds tremendous promise as a sustainable solution to the challenges posed by traditional farming methods,” said Brian Sullivan, CEO, Indoor Ag-Con.

In addition to Indoor Ag-Con’s Keynotes, the event will feature educational panels, sessions and other presentation formats aligned in several Conference tracks.  Attendees will also enjoy quality networking events and explore an expanded expo floor bringing together 200+ suppliers and service providers representing the top names and emerging leaders in the controlled environment agriculture sector. For more information on the full line-up of sessions, exhibitors and events, please visit www.indoor.ag.

Daniel Malech, Board Chair, CEA Alliance & SVP, Plenty

Dan chairs the Board of Directors of indoor agriculture trade association the CEA Alliance, with a focus on developing category-wide metrics and guidelines as well as policy advocacy.  Dan is also the SVP of Strategy & General Counsel at Plenty, where he oversees corporate strategy, legal, compliance, government affairs and sustainability. His work helps drive scale for the indoor vertical farming company, including structuring and closing on multiple industry-leading strategic partnerships and financing rounds.

Jim DiMenna, Red Sun Farms

Jim DiMenna is the President of Red Sun Farms, one of the largest vertically integrated high-tech greenhouse vegetable growers with ownership of each stage of the process; seed selection, to plant growth, to harvesting, packaging and distribution. Red Sun Farms has over 800 acres throughout Mexico, USA and Canada. Born and raised in Leamington Ontario, the produce business has always been a part of Jim’s  life. As a teen, he worked his way up from the packing room into sales and marketing before starting his own firm J-D Marketing in 1990. In 2001, Jim formed JEMD International along with Golden Jem Farms, to meet the industry call for better direct-line connections between the retailers, distributors and growers. In 2008, Jem D International merged with Agricola El Rosal, and was rebranded as Red Sun Farms.

Viraj Puri, Gotham Greens

Viraj Puri co-founded Gotham Greens, a pioneer in indoor agriculture and a leading fresh food company. A Certified B Corporation™, Gotham Greens farms with the future in mind, delivering long-lasting and delicious leafy greens, herbs, salad kits, salad dressings, dips and cooking sauces all year round to retail, restaurant and foodservice customers. Over the past decade under Viraj’s leadership, Gotham Greens has grown to be one of the largest and most commercially successful indoor farming companies in the world with more than 500 employees and 13 high-tech greenhouse facilities across nine U.S. states. Prior to Gotham Greens, Viraj led start-up enterprises in the United States, India and Malawi focused on sustainable agriculture, green building, renewable energy and environmental design.

Matt Ryan, CEO, Soli Organic

As CEO, Matt Ryan’s focus is on strengthening the company’s competitive advantages and achieving scaled topline growth. Prior to his role at Soli Organic, Ryan served as the chief marketing officer and chief strategy officer at Starbucks where he developed and executed marketing and strategy plans, managed the food and beverage portfolio and led all other marketing, product, brand, and consumer functions. As the head of brand management for The Walt Disney Company, he oversaw the company’s brand management, brand development, franchise management, customer data, and CRM. Ryan currently sits on the Board of Directors for Kaiser Permanente. He received a Bachelor of Arts in history from Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude.

About Indoor Ag-Con

Founded in 2013, Indoor Ag-Con has emerged as the largest trade show and conference for vertical farming | greenhouse |controlled environment agriculture. 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, visit www.indoor.ag.