2019 Innovation in Greenhouse & Vertical Farming

Morning Session Speakers

Keynote: Building a Controlled Environment Agriculture Business

Neil Mattson, Ph.D., Cornell University, Ithaca NY

In addition to being the director of Cornell Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) group, Neil S. Mattson is also the principle investigator of a three year, $2.4 million grant recently awarded to Cornell University by the National Science Foundation. The overall goal of the proposal is to evaluate the viability of vertical farming as a means of producing food for the masses. So, where better to start our conference than with a “nuts and bolts” talk on the elements of putting together a CEA business, including topics such as site assessment, types of growing structures to consider, and types of crops and hydroponic/soilless growing systems.


Local Vegetable Production Using Hydroponics

Jerry and Joyce Conner, Four Oaks Farms, LLC, Wirtz VA

Although Jerry and Joyce do not come from a farm, they were raised by parents with some agricultural background. As children, both of them worked family gardens/small farms to grow as much of their own foods as possible for the year. As adults, they have gardened and grown food for their own use on a seasonal basis. With a little extra land that they wanted to put to better use, they began researching ways to provide fresh vegetables for themselves and family year round. We discovered Hydroponic method of growing greens and from that Four Oaks Farms was born in 2012. A local produce operation they hope to see continued by their children/grandchildren into the future.


CEA Automation: Technology in the Greenhouse

John McMahon, Schuyler Greens, Schuyler VA

John McMahon owns and operates Schuyler Greens Company, a high-tech greenhouse operation and farm located near Charlottesville, VA. He has been featured on Virginia Home Grown (PBS), Vegetable Growers Magazine, and has provided technical growing support to a wide range of clients including growers, universities, and technology companies in the CEA industry. John has a MBA in Finance and approaches farming from a data-driven perspective. His current interests are automation, data analytics, and machine learning in the greenhouse.


Innovation in Greenhouse Food Production

Chris Higgins, Hort Americas, Fort Worth TX

As General Manager at Hort Americas, LLC, Chris is a leader in providing technical assistance to businesses, including commercial greenhouse operations, state-of-the-art hydroponic vegetable facilities, vertical farms, and tissue culture laboratories. He works with seed companies, manufacturers, growers and universities regarding the development of projects, new products and ultimately the creation of brands. Chris’ role includes everything from sales and marketing to technical support and general management/owner responsibilities. His talk will focus on using technology for climate control and reducing labor needs.


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