Opening Keynote: Views from the Farm
This session will take place on Tuesday, September 13th from 9:00 - 9:40 AM
Farmers face great challenges: technical, environmental, and reputational. The need to produce greater quantities of food at greater efficiencies and with greater environmental benefit continues to rise. Fewer individuals engage in or understand the details of food production or farming. However, consumers demand to “connect” with their food and are concerned about the food system as a whole. Fewer farmers must produce more under changing climates and as land ownership patterns continue to change.
Speakers in series of short keynotes will provide “views from the farm,” with perspectives on challenges and opportunities from three very diverse sectors of agriculture: Midwest commodity farming from investor- owned to professionally managed and investor owned acres, western specialty crop growers, and indoor farming of specialty crops.
The Rise of Indoor Agriculture: A Futurists Point of View, Darryn Keiller
Indoor agriculture has reached parity with field economics for certain crops with the rise of greenhouse based production. Like its outdoor cousin, indoor farming functions as both a producer of high volume fresh produce crops like lettuces and tomatoes as well as higher value herbs and microgreens, the shoots and first leaves of plants used in salads. It encompasses everything from “undercover” production in more than 25000 acres of greenhouse production in Mexico to retooled shipping containers. The same forces driving innovation in outdoor agriculture are driving agriculture indoors: the need to produce more food on dwindling arable land and the need to meet rising consumer demand for higher quality foods, while reducing consumption of water, energy and labor inputs.
Technological advances in a broad sense has enabled the rise of indoor agriculture including innovations in plastics, sensors and control software and hardware, hydroponic methodologies, packing processes, magnetic rails, robots, and other automation. We have seen leaps in crop density and use of controlled environment agriculture technologies to create greater output from fewer inputs.
This keynote will tease apart the distinctions among urban farming and vertical growing and will go beyond organic and salad to provide insights into the state of indoor agriculture writ large and the transferability of knowledge gains between indoor and outdoor and vice versa exploring where is it all going to from here?
Innovation Perspective from Specialty Crop Growers in the Western US, Hank Giclas
The agriculture industry faces many challenges. Never before has the consumer been at once so distant from those who produce food while at the same time so focused on food and the way it’s produced. Climate change is adding additional climate risk and fresh water has become a limited and contested resource. Challenges that western USA growers of high value specialty crops face around which innovation is developing but still more is needed include: scarcity and unpredictability of field labor, food safety, food traceability from field to table, irrigation management, pest management and crop protection-especially management for invasive species, environmental impacts of agriculture (soil, water, and air). Farmers are seeking technologies that help them make sustainable decisions that balance and consider environmental health, economic profitability, and social responsibility.
The Western Growers Association, representing member growers in California, Arizona, Colorado who produce ~50% of the fresh produce consumed in the US, works to advance innovation in the fresh produce industry, enabling the production of more food in more efficient ways while strengthening the sustainability of farms and the agriculture industry. The WGA works directly to promote innovation that is important to the future of the fresh produce industry through its operation of the Center for Innovation and Technology an incubator for startups.
The Future of Midwest Commodity Farming, Matt Mayer
MPG Farms manages acres for land investors as well as the acres they own. Such professional management for agriculture land investors is an increasing trend for US farmland. Matt Mayer will explore where he views what the future of US Midwest farming will look like in light of this land management trend as well as how consumer demands are continuing to drive changes at the farm and along the food system.
Senior VP President Science & Technology, Strategic Planning