Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research Convenes International Leaders to Discuss Next Frontiers in Indoor Agriculture at IBM Research Headquarters

Caleb Harper, principal investigator and director of the Open Agriculture (OpenAG) initiative at the MIT Media Lab, delivered keynote remarks at today’s FFAR event.

Yorktown Heights, N.Y., Nov. 13, 2017— The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a nonprofit established through bipartisan congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, is bringing together leaders from 26 businesses, seven universities, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and two trade associations today to identify opportunities for indoor agriculture to contribute to more productive, sustainable urban food systems.

Participants are traveling from as far as Japan and the Netherlands to help establish research priorities for a potential public-private partnership supported by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), which matches each grant awarded with non-Federal funds. With more than half the global population now living in cities and suburbs, FFAR aims to better understand the potential for controlled environment agriculture to provide fresh, nutritious food locally and year-round in urban environments.

Discussion topics at today’s event will include new market opportunities and understudied areas of science that could unlock new opportunities for growing different types of crops in this space.

“Imagine being able to buy fresh, local, great-tasting fruits and vegetables year-round in cities across the globe,” said Sally Rockey, Ph.D., executive director of FFAR. “The ability to control every aspect of a plant’s environment with indoor agriculture makes that vision a possibility. New research is needed to understand at what scale that will be possible, how soon, and for which crops. Starting with today’s event, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research is taking a leading role in moving this exciting field forward.”

Today’s speakers include:

  • Caleb Harper, Ph.D., MIT Media Lab (Keynote)
  • Roger Buelow, Ph.D., AeroFarms
  • Kevin Folta, Ph.D., University of Florida
  • Eri Hayashi, Japan Plant Factory Association
  • Ian Justus, Driscoll’s
  • Chieri Kubota, Ph.D., The Ohio State University
  • Brian Lanes, PlantLab
  • Zhijian Li, Ph.D., USDA-ARS
  • Thomas Lubberstedt, Ph.D., Iowa State University
  • Ard Reijtenbagh, PlantLab
  • Stephen Schauer, Ph.D., KeyGene
  • Asheesh Singh, Ph.D., Iowa State University
  • Matt Vail, Local Roots

The Crops in Controlled Environments event is being held at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center.

“Controlled Environment Agriculture is an exciting area of innovation at the intersection of biology, artificial intelligence, software and hardware that has the potential to deliver a stable food supply with consistent quality, just in time for consumers who value hyper local and sustainable products,” said Robin Lougee, Research Industry Lead for Consumer Products and Agriculture at IBM Research. “We’re excited to host this important event at the IBM Research THINKLab.”

The Foundation’s work in Urban Food Systems aims to enhance our ability to feed urban populations through urban and peri-urban agriculture, augmenting the capabilities of our current food system. The first Urban Food Systems grant was awarded to AeroFarms for work with Rutgers University to define the relationships between stressed plants, the phytochemicals they produce and the taste and texture of the specialty crops grown. The work will result in commercial production of improved leafy green varieties and yield science-based best practices for farming.

The Crops in Controlled Environments Convening Event is sponsored by Bayer Vegetable Seeds, IBM Corporation, and KeyGene.

For more information about the Foundation’s work in controlled environment agriculture, please visit foundationfar.org/challenge/urban-food-systems/ or contact John Reich, Scientific Program Director at jreich@foundationfar.org.

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