Indoor farming entrepreneurs and experts came to Cornell in early November with a goal: leverage the innovation at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to create viable businesses for local vegetables and produce grown indoors.
Known as controlled environment agriculture (CEA), the systems combine greenhouse environmental controls such as heating and lighting with hydroponic and soilless production, enabling year-round production of fresh vegetables. The process extends the growing season through a range of low-tech solutions – such as row covers and plastic-covered tunnels – to such high-tech solutions as fully automated glass greenhouses with computer controls and LED lights.
Led by Neil Mattson, director of Cornell CEA and associate professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell has become a world leader in CEA research. In early November, the Cornell CEA Advisory Council, which was formed in 2015 to expand the retail and food service markets for products grown using CEA, hosted on campus more than 80 entrepreneurs and stakeholders from across the Northeast to discuss the state of the indoor farming industry, urban agriculture, supermarket trends and new technology.
At the conference the group announced the formation of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Global Association, an organization to foster growth, understanding and sharing ideas related to controlled environment agriculture and associated industries.
Erico Mattos, executive director of the newly formed Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium, presented his vision to advance CEA by bringing together expertise from industry and academia to create solutions.
“The CEA Advisory Council meeting provided a great opportunity to connect with key players from the different segments of the CEA supply chain in New York. I was impressed with the quality and quantity of the ongoing initiatives in this area supported by Cornell University professors and staff members and the level of engagement from the industry members,” Mattos said.
Mattos said private companies and public research from Cornell offer collaborative opportunities that can advance the CEA industry.