I’ve just returned this week from a couple days in Las Vegas for Indoor Ag-Con 2022, and I must say, I certainly felt the rejuvenating and refreshing power of travel these last few days since returning.
The show itself felt like a great snapshot in time of where indoor farming/CEA is currently: growers are all-around jazzed about the direction things are heading, investors are stoked on the segment’s top-end potential, and consumers love sustainable, local and fresh produce. Win-win-win.
I think, though, it’s fair to say that no matter how much I fall deeper into admiration for this little corner of the farming world, I’m not sure I’ll ever reach the same level of passion for CEA as AppHarvest founder Jonathan Webb.
Webb gave the opening keynote in Vegas. As someone who’s sat through into the near triple digits of conference keynote addresses over my near-decade in ag media, it’s rare that one sticks in my craw.
And yet, a single question that Webb posed to the industry in Vegas is still gnawing at me: “Why is CEA not considered critical infrastructure?”
Even putting aside for a second the fact that sustainable local food production is clearly critical to our national security, his main point was that, without that critical infrastructure designation for indoor farms, the industry has been left to basically self-fund the whole deal with private equity. Tax-break incentives and government subsidies (for those who qualify) would be a huge boon to the CEA produce world.
So, I guess we have our marching orders from here on out. Get in someone, anyone’s ear who can make a difference, and make sure they know that CEA is the very definition of critical infrastructure.
Thank you for listening to my TED Talk, ha-ha.