Monday, October 26, 2015

Canadian Greenhouse Conference and Indoor Ag-Con

By Andrew Mefferd, Johnny’s Selected Seeds

October was a busy month for me, with two major, consecutive greenhouse conferences taking place mid-month — the Canadian Greenhouse Conference and the Indoor Ag-Con. They looked to be great events so I wanted to make sure and get to both of them — even if it made for a travel-packed schedule.
Canadian Greenhouse Conference at the Scotiabank Convention Center

First I went to beautiful Niagara Falls, Ontario, the week of October 5th, for the Canadian Greenhouse Conference. The Canadian greenhouse industry is highly advanced, so I knew there would be good information and vendors. The highlights included the many developments underway in the use of beneficial insects to control pests, with an informative discussion on how to identify pests and the best biocontrols to combat them without the use of harmful chemicals.

There was also a lot of talk about how to make greenhouses more efficient. In addition to hearing about the many ongoing developments in LED lighting and other technologies to increase energy efficiency, I sat in on a great presentation on a program by the Dutch government that is working towards having zero water and fertilizer emissions from greenhouses.

It is not a new idea that the ideal greenhouse would be one that produces no emissions whatsoever, and the technology is now catching up with the idea. In a country like Holland with a big greenhouse industry, reducing or even eliminating the amount of greenhouse emissions could have a big impact on improving the environment. As the technology comes on line to accomplish this, the Dutch government is tightening emissions standards to prompt growers to install newer, more efficient technology. It is exciting to see the technology being developed for cleaner greenhouses, because the Dutch tend to come up with a lot of the greenhouse innovations that end up being adopted worldwide.
Great looking produce and flowers

Other useful workshops included how to train and motivate workers, how to understand soil and water tests, and how to mix your own custom fertilizer solution. Overall, a very good conference that is worth attending for greenhouse growers.

The next week I went down to New York City for the first East Coast Indoor Ag-Con. This conference has been held three times in the past in Las Vegas, and is branching out into Asia with a conference in Singapore in January 2016, and is being held again in Las Vegas in April 2016.
If you look closely you can see that Johnny's was an event sponsor for Indoor Ag-Con!

This was a visionary conference, in that it focused on technological innovation leading the vanguard of protected agriculture. It provided a forum for those working on next-generation greenhouse technology to present their work and perspectives. Examples of topics that get a lot of attention include use of LED lighting, aquaponics, vertical greenhouses, aeroponics, and urban greenhouses.

I feel this conference gives us a glimpse into the future of indoor agriculture. Even if all of the innovations don’t become commonplace, chances are some of the new technologies being discussed will become standards in the future. The conference sold out, so maybe they will consider a multi-day format on the East Coast as they have in the past the West. Overall, it was a very informative and inspiring conference.
Indoor Ag-Con in NYC

Both conferences got me excited about the potential for improving protected agriculture, though they did make for a very busy October! Visit our Grower’s Library, where you can read more about attracting and putting beneficial insects to work; as well as controlled environment agriculture, including Johnny’s greenhouse trialing program, what to look for when choosing which varieties to grow under protected culture, and recent advances in protected culture crop production.