Controlled Environment Ag: Powerful tool Amazing opportunities Part 1 of ICCEA 2015

Wow!  The International Congress on Controlled Environment Agriculture in Panama was simply amazing.  Vendors, speakers, panelist and participants all had only positive comments regarding the content of the presentations and the opportunities for networking.  So, As I promised in my last post, here are the highlights from my first few days in Panama City (which I will break into three separate post over the next three weeks.)

(Go to Twitter to see post and photos from the event.)

Accommodations:

Let me start by describing the host hotel and amenities as “excellent” and “great value.”  When I travel, there a few things that always make my travel easier and more enjoyable:  a great breakfast and wireless internet.  Every morning started with an amazingly assortment of fruit and freshly squeezed orange juice; not sure that could get any better.  This was followed with free internet and complete connectivity through the entire hotel, including the entirety of the event.

Pre-show Meetings:

I finally had a chance to be introduced to and meet with many of the Panamanian’s that made this event possible.  This included Panama’s Ambassador to Japan,Senacyt, The Foundation for the Development of Controlled Environment Agriculture, The University of Panama and Universidad Tecnologica de Panama.  After only one meeting it became extremely obvious that the Panamanians’ were and are extremely serious about becoming leaders in the future of agriculture.

Day 1:

The show was opened by Dr. Jorge Arango (Minster of Agriculture Development).  The Minister provided a detailed explanation of why controlled environment agriculture is so important to the future of Panama.

Following the Minister was one of the presentations that everyone was waiting for; Dr. Toyoki Kozai of Chiba University.  As always, he delivered a clear presentation based on sound science and a simple message, “sustainable food production is a key critical issue for the 21st century.”  For me this has been one point that has been missing in many of the shows and events I have attended through the years.  It is not about vertical farming or greenhouse vegetable production, it is about looking towards the future and finding agricultural solutions that properly use the natural resources available based on the geographical location and the needs (both dietary and cultural) of that local population.

(In addition it was announced that Dr Kozai’s book on the 6 Key Components of Plant Factories will be published in October, 2015.)

The speakers and panelist that followed continued to build on Dr Kozai’s 6 Key Components.  Dr. Nadia Sabeh spoke on technologies behind controlling the climate in greenhouses and vertical farms; Dr. Leo Marcelis shared research on supplemental lighting from the world renowned Wagenigen University; then Dr. Don Wilkerson discussed the fundamentals of plant nutrition and how Caliber Biotherapuetics managed this at their facility in College Station, Texas.

Then came Caleb Harper of MIT.  While all the other presenters provided the participants with the science based facts of controlled environment agriculture, Caleb inspired the audience to think well outside of the proverbial box while he built a story of what the future of ag-tech could be.

The final presentations went right back to fundamentals. Dr Carlos Gonzalez discussion water conservation and Guillermo Salazar discussing alternative energy.

There is no other way to describe day 1 of the ICCEA as educational and inspirational.

– Chris Higgins