International Congress on Controlled Environment Agriculture – Networking


(I bet you all thought I forgot!  Nope, just needed to take a little vacation after a really busy spring.)

Day 2

As promised here is the second installment of my recap from the 2015 International Congress on Controlled Environment Agriculture (#ICCEA2015) in Panama City, Panama.

As day 2 started, I noticed that the atmosphere was much different than other professional events that I have attended in recent years.  After a full and inspiring day 1, people were excited.  They were not only excited to keep learning, but they were equally excited to network.  Speakers from day 1 were swamped with questions from upstart farmers.  Entrepreneurs were eager to explain their ideas to one another (without NDA’s) and learn from each others’ mistakes and successes.  Vendors listened to needs of the attendees and eagerly tried to figure out how their product portfolio or expertise may help to provide solutions to the problems being faced by the innovative growers and farmers.

What I enjoyed the most was that (for the most part) the conversations were real.  There were no promises of solving global issues and macro problems.  There was no idea that one company had it all “figured out” and that all you needed to do was buy their product or hire them to build you a turn-key facility.  What we did have, with the help of qualified researchers and extension professionals, was the building of a solid foundation.  A foundation based on science and the realities of the competitive agribusiness world (which included market demands, financial issues and regional climate differences.)  A foundation the businessmen, investors, educators, politicians, farmers and growers could take home and build off of.  And thanks again to Dr Kozai, the conversations continue to focus in on sustain-ably and profitably producing healthy food by maximizing yields based on local and regional opportunities and resources.

Day 2 was concluded with a Gala that everyone was invited to (the cost of the Gala was included with registration).  Ambassador Ritter opened up the Gala with a rousing speech that set the right tone for the remainder of the evening.  Then all the guest were treated to a Panamanian show featuring dancers dressed in traditional customs accompanied by musicians and narrators.  (Some of us were actually “dragged” onto the dance floor and encouraged to join in.  I am really hoping that none of those photos surface.)


As dinner concluded the open “networking” continued, but turned into fun socializing with people that were becoming friends.  The most memorable part for me was what I call “selfies with Kozai”!  It is exactly what it sounds like, it was awesome to watch people ask Dr. Kozai to join them in selfies and get photos with many of the other speakers.  Myself, I took the opportunity to practice my photo bombing skills.  The fun continued into the night as the party moved outside where everyone had the opportunity to enjoy after dinner drinks and Cuban cigars provided by David Proenza and Urban Farms.

BUT, we did actually also have a full day of speakers on day 2.  Here are the highlights:

Dr Jung Eek Son (Seoul National University, Korea) discussed Hydroponic Systems and Nutrient Solutions.

Dr Don Wilkerson (Caliber Biotherapuetics, Texas) discussed the Basics of Hydroponic Nutrient Solutions.

Dr Hiroshi Shimizu (Kyoto University, Japan) discussed Production of Nutrient Rich Vegetables in Plant Factories.

Dr Qichang Yang (Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development in Agriculture, China) discussed how Plant Factories are an Essential Component in Urban Area Development.

Finally, and one of the audience favorites, was Dr Wei Fang’s (National Taiwan University) presentation on the Plant Factory Industry and Recent Research in Taiwan.  We actually learned that a karaoke store had been converted into a successful plant factory/vertical farm!  Even though he was the last speaker of the day, Dr. Fang’s stories and photos kept everyone’s attention all the way to the very end.

Stay tuned for next weeks’ final recap of day 3 at #ICCEA2015 in Panama.

Chris Higgins –