DANVILLE, VA – New connections and collaboration were clear themes that emerged from the inaugural October 25-26, 2022 edition of the Eastern Summit of Controlled Environment Agriculture (ACE) held at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) in Danville, VA. Co-hosted by Indoor air conditioning and the Controlled Environment Agricultural Innovation Center (a joint project between Virginia Tech’s School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech’s Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center, and IALR), the new event drew more than 200 attendees from 28 states plus Puerto Rico and the Canada, including producers, educators, scientists, extension specialists, suppliers, engineers, technical specialists, architects/developers and other industry members.
During the 1.5-day event, attendees enjoyed quality time to meet, network, and learn during keynote addresses, panels, and breakout conference sessions; explore 17 tabletop exhibits showcasing the latest innovations and services; and take advantage of a wealth of networking opportunities.
“We are thrilled with the results of this first edition and our partnership with the CEA Innovation Center,” said Brian Sullivan, CEO, Indoor Ag-Con. “Both organizations saw a tremendous opportunity to create a different type of event for this industry – bringing together a concentrated sector of business and academic audiences in an incredible research setting that fostered an environment for sharing ideas and opportunities. Based on the feedback we heard from our attendees and exhibitors, we delivered on our promises.”
“This event really crystallized our vision to bring together our research and education agenda to help drive the CEA industry forward,” added Dr. Scott Lowman, Co-Director, Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center and Vice President, Applied Research , IALR.
“What’s exciting about this conference is that it brought people together from across the United States to share ideas and goals, which always fuels your own ideas,” said Dr. Michael Evans , co-director of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center and director. , School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Among the many highlights of the new event are:
Morning kick-off conferences
AeroFarms CTO, Roger Buelow, kicked off the opening morning with a keynote to learn about the new AeroFarms Danville, the world’s largest aeroponic smart farm, capable of growing over 3 million pounds of fresh leafy greens per year. On day two, Matthew Lohr, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, started the day by sharing the state’s direction and goals for growing the CEA industry. “It comes down to collaboration – with the whole Commonwealth working together. We have made progress, and I am even more excited about what the future of agriculture looks like,” he said, echoing the central theme of the conference.
The CEA Summit comprised 3 educational tracks – CEA Skills, Business Advice and Regulation and Teaching, Outreach, Workforce Development – which brought together academics, producers and business experts covering a wide range of topics ranging from seeking funding and selecting technologies for CEA operations in the power supply. safety, aquaponics sustainability, and ways to work with the land-grant university extension system. A special panel discussion titled “Building the Future of CEA” and 15-minute CEA research and industry presentation sessions allowed attendees to hear about the latest research results and other success stories from industry.
“We worked to create a conference program that offered something for everyone,” says Dr. Kaylee South, assistant professor of controlled environment agriculture, Virginia Tech. “It was gratifying to see how engaged our audience members were in the Q&A segments of all of our sessions.”
Tabletop exhibits and networking
In addition to the conference sessions, attendees had plenty of opportunities to meet the 17 Summit exhibitors during coffee breaks, lunchtime panel discussions and an afternoon cocktail hour.
Visit of the CEA Innovation Center
The event ended with collective visits to the CEA Innovation Center. Over 60 conference attendees enjoyed the unique opportunity to get an inside look at CEA’s hydroponic and above-ground production systems/systems, including indoor growth rooms, greenhouses, growth chambers and vertical growing supports. They were also able to learn about some of the Centre’s exciting research projects.
Look for more information to come on dates and details for the 2023 edition. In the meantime, industry members can also plan to attend the 10th Annual Indoor Agricultural Congresson February 27-28, 2023, when it returns to Caesars Forum in Las Vegas to once again co-locate with the National Grocers Association (NGA) Show.
The CEA Summit is co-organized by:
ACE East Summit Partners
ABOUT AG-CON INTERIOR
Founded in 2013, Indoor Ag-Con has become the premier indoor trade event | vertical farming | controlled environment agriculture, the practice of growing crops in indoor systems, using hydroponic, aquaponic and aeroponic techniques. Its events are culture-neutral and touch all areas of the business, covering products, legal cannabis | hemp, alternative proteins and non-food crops. More information – www.indoor.ag | 404.991.5186
ABOUT SCHOOL OF PLANT AND ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES AT VIRGINIA TECH
The School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech trains the next generation of professionals in the areas of plant breeding and genetics, agricultural and horticultural production, plant protection, soil management and systems resources, agricultural technologies, environmental restoration and agro-environmental management. . It conducts research to improve agricultural productivity, reduce negative environmental impacts, and improve soil and water health. Through outreach programs, it provides scientific information to stakeholders to help them feed the world while protecting the environment. More information — www.spes.vt.edu
ABOUT THE VIRGINIA SEAFOOD AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH AND EXTENSION CENTER AT VIRGINIA TECH
The Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Virginia Tech works to support the future of the historic seafood industry – in Virginia and beyond. Its extension specialists work with industry and research partners to identify and respond to emerging needs and provide technical advice to stakeholders at all levels of the seafood supply chain. technical assistance, training, process validation, value-added product development, etc., it helps stakeholders ensure product quality, safety and sustainability. More information — www.arec.vaes.vt.edu
ABOUT THE IALR
The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) serves as a regional catalyst for economic transformation. Key focus areas include research that paves a clear path to commercialization, advanced learning opportunities where education meets experience, training and rapid launch space for advanced manufacturers, and development economic through conferences and a partnership with the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance. It is located in scenic and historic Danville-Pittsylvania County on the VA/NC state line, a short drive from Roanoke, Greensboro and Raleigh. More information – www.ialr.org