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.

###

About the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a nonprofit organization established by bipartisan Congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, builds unique partnerships to support innovative and actionable science addressing today’s food and agriculture challenges. FFAR leverages public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships critical to enhancing sustainable production of nutritious food for a growing global population. The FFAR Board of Directors is chaired by Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum and includes ex officio representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation.

Learn more: www.foundationfar.org Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking

Overcoming Water Scarcity

Overcoming Water Scarcity

Continue

Agriculture uses 70 percent of the world’s accessible freshwater. FFAR’s 2016-2018 Overcoming Water Scarcity Challenge Area addressed water use efficiency in agriculture by developing water conservation and reuse technologies, improving crop and livestock breeds, creating improved agronomic practices, increasing the social and economic tractability of conservation practices and enhancing the efficacy of Extension services.

FFAR’s Sustainable Water Management Challenge Area builds on earlier work to increase water availability and water efficiency for agricultural use, reduces agricultural water pollution and develops water reuse technologies.

Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms

Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms

Continue

FFAR’s 2016-2018 Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms Challenge Area increased soil health by building knowledge, fueling innovation, and enabling adoption of existing or new innovative practices that improve soil health.

The Soil Health Challenge Area advances existing research and identifies linkages between farm productivity and soil health, while also addressing barriers to the adoption of soil health practices.

Protein Challenge

Protein Challenge

Continue

FFAR’s 2016-2018 Protein Challenge Area sought to improve the environmental, economic and social sustainability of diverse proteins.

The Advance Animal Systems challenge area supports sustainable animal production through environmentally sound productions practices and advancement in animal health and welfare. Additionally, the Next Generation Crops Challenge Area develops non-traditional crops, including plant-based proteins, and creates new economic opportunities for conventional crops to increase future crop diversity and farm profitability.

Food Waste and Loss

Food Waste and Loss

Continue

About 40 percent of food in the US, or $161 billion each year, is lost or wasted. FFAR’s 2016-2018 Food and Waste Loss Challenge Area addressed the social, economic and environmental impacts from food waste and loss through research that developed of novel uses for agricultural waste, improved storage and distribution, supported tracking and monitoring, minimized spoilage through pre- and post-harvest innovations and changed behaviors to reduce food waste

FFAR’s current Health-Agriculture Nexus Challenge Area addresses food waste and loss and supports innovative, systems-level approaches to reduce food and nutritional insecurity and improve human health in the US and globally.

Forging the Innovation Pathway to Sustainability

Continue

Supporting innovation is necessary for sustainable results. Over the last 50 years, farmers have tripled global food production thanks to agricultural innovations. Forging the Innovation Pathway to Sustainability was a 2016-2018 Challenge Area that focused on understanding the barriers and processes that prevented the adoption of technology and research results into sustainable practices.

Urban Food Systems

Urban Food Systems

Continue

The 2016-2018 Urban Food Systems Challenge Area addressed feeding urban populations through urban and peri-urban agriculture and augmenting the capabilities of our current food system.

The Urban Food Systems Challenge Area continues this work and enhances our ability to feed urban populations.

Making My Plate Your Plate

Continue

FFAR’s 2016-2018 Making My Plate Your Plate Challenge Area focused on helping Americans meet the USDA 2015 Dietary Guideline recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption, including research to both produce and provide access to nutritious fruits and vegetables.

FFAR’s current Health-Agriculture Nexus Challenge Area supports innovative, systems-level approaches to reduce food and nutritional insecurity and improve human health in the US and globally.