Workshop on Advancing Controlled Environment Agriculture on Land and in Space in the Next 20 Years

Event Agenda

Tuesday, JUNE 27

(8:00 – 8:20) Registration & Poster Hangup

(8:20 – 9:00) Opening remarks (Moderator: Dr. Frank Calzonetti)

Representative Marcy Kaptur (Ohio 9th District)


Steven Kappes (USDA-ARS)

Associate Administrator - U.S.D.A, office of National Programs

Headshot of Steven Kappes of the United States Department of Agriculture

Dr. Kappes became the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Associate Administrator for the Office of National Programs in August 2016.  The Office of National Program sets the research direction and develops budgets for the entire ARS research portfolio which includes plants, animals, natural resources, human nutrition, insects and microbial pathogens.  The Office of National Programs also includes the international research program.  Prior to the Associate Administrator appointment, Dr. Kappes served as the ARS Deputy Administrator for Animal Production and Protection (APP) in the Office of National Programs.  The APP program includes animal production, animal health, entomology, aquaculture and animal well-being research in cattle, pigs, sheep, horses, trout, catfish, and salmon.  The APP staff also includes the ARS Biosafety Officer and the ARS Animal Care Officer.

Currently, Dr. Kappes is leading the ARS Big Data Initiative.  He had also served as a senior advisor for Animal Protection and Production in the USDA, Office of the Chief Scientist.  He has worked with USDA agencies on issues related to animal health and production, herbicide resistance, and biosafety and biocontainment in high and maximum biocontainment laboratories.

Previously he co-chaired a U.S. Government Interagency Biosafety Taskforce and was a co-chair of the National Science and Technology Council Subcommittee on Foreign Animal Disease Threats.  Dr. Kappes was a member of the USDA, One Health Joint Working Group and worked with USDA agencies and Food and Drug Administration to address issues on antimicrobial resistance.

Tom Stenzel (CEA Alliance)

Executive Director - Controlled Environment Agriculture Alliance

Headshot of Tom Stenzel of the United Fresh Produce Association

After almost 30 years as President and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association, Tom helped launch the International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA), a new association formed by the combination of United Fresh and the Produce Marketing Association.  He served as Co-CEO of IFPA through March 2022, before forming his own consulting business The Stenzel Group LLC.Today, Tom serves as Executive Director of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Alliance. 

The CEA Alliance is a membership association representing and serving indoor vertical farms and greenhouse producers growing fruits and vegetables in a highly controlled indoor production environment.  The CEA Alliance provides a portfolio of services to CEA growers and their business partners supporting the CEA supply chain.Under Tom’s leadership at United Fresh, the association was widely respected for its work in government affairs, agricultural policy, food safety and nutrition, leadership development, and industry education. 

Tom has been recognized often by the produce industry throughout his career, and is past Chairman of the International Federation for Produce Standards, a global body representing national produce associations around the world.  Tom currently serves on the Bipartisan Policy Council Nutrition Task Force, developing policy recommendations to improve nutrition and public health through US government programs. 

presentation Details

Opportunities and Challenges for the CEA Sector

The presentation will outline some of the opportunities that CEA production brings to agriculture, followed by thoughts about challenges ahead.

(9:20 – 9:45)
TECHNICAL KEYNOTE (Moderator: Dr. Kale Harbick)

Dave Hawley (Fluence Research)

Principal Scientist - Fluence Research

Headshot of Dave Hawley of Fluence Research

Dr. David Hawley leads the scientific research initiative at Fluence as the company's Principal Scientist. His experience in controlled environment agriculture (CEA), horticultural lighting and plant physiology naturally underpins Fluence’s mission to drive industry-leading lighting research to explore the interaction between light and life. Dr. Hawley’s early research in CEA lighting explored the relationships between lighting and plant yield, morphology, and quality, later with an emphasis on photobiochemistry. At Fluence, this approach of tailoring lighting solutions for optimal overall development is weighed alongside technological and economic considerations that lead to commercially optimized horticultural lighting solutions.

presentation Details

Optimizing CEA Economics Leveraging the Latest in Applied Photobiology

David will provide an industry look at the state of lighting technologies in CEA, highlighting how market and economic trends have influenced lighting product and research decisions, emerging technologies core or complimentary to CEA lighting, and an overview of Fluence’s most recent and relevant research.

(9:45 – 10:45)
Emerging technologies in sensing, automation, AI/ML, and control. (Moderator: Dr. Kale Harbick)

Conrad Leiva (CESMII)

VP of Ecosystem and Workforce Development - Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute

Headshot of Conrad Levia of CESMII In his role, Conrad is accelerating Smart Manufacturing adoption and education programs through a national ecosystem of regional centers, technology partners, and education institutions. A recognized industry authority, he engages manufacturing business leaders, educators and practitioners across all dimensions of industry to develop and share knowledge on both the How and Why to leverage information technology in manufacturing. Conrad has over 30 years of experience in aerospace manufacturing, over 20 of those years in manufacturing systems development and implementation, over 10 years working on Smart Manufacturing practices with industry leaders at MESA International ( and holds an M.S. in Industrial Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

presentation Details

Smart Manufacturing Technologies Vision and Trends in Sensing, Automation, AI/ML, and Control

Advances in technologies for sensing, automation, AI/ML, and process control are at the heart of Smart Manufacturing methodologies that are used to optimize and orchestrate production processes with real-time information, connected teams, systems, and ecosystems.  In this presentation we will discuss examples of how these technologies and capabilities are threaded together into smart solutions that are practical to implement for companies of any size for improved productivity and improved use of energy and natural resources.

Eric Highfield (Green Automation)

Green Automation

Headshot of Eric Highfield of Green Automation

Eric Highfield, the founder of High Yield Horticulture, has been captivated by hydroponic systems for the past 25 years. His passion for soilless cultivation grew while he earned his B.S. in molecular biology with a minor in chemistry, and continued to develop while in graduate school, where he managed the aquaponics research greenhouse and successfully defended his thesis on integrated hydroponic-aquaculture production systems.

Highfield went on to become the director of plant sciences at the largest indoor cannabis cultivation in North America at the time, where he honed his skills creating customized hydroponic nutrient formulations. In addition, he designed and built nutrient delivery systems for over 60,000 plant sites and mentored employees on implementing proper commercial controlled environmental agriculture (CEA) techniques while in this role. Highfield has become a leader in the industry through the implementation and optimization of automated cultivation facilities for cut baby leaf greens.  His decades of experience in hydroponic cultivation, systems integration, and efficient design shows his passion for economically viable and sustainable agriculture.

presentation Details

Green Automation: Hands-Free Cultivation of Baby Leaf Greens

An overview of the fully automated cultivation system for cut baby leaf greens from Green Automation. This presentation will guide attendees through the cultivation process and the equipment used to facilitate a hands-free process, as well as the benefits of maximizing production in the cultivation area including minimizing the labor required. 

Ketut Putra (Koidra Inc.)

IoT & Automation Researcher - Koidra Inc.

Transforming agriculture and industrial automation with AIoT

(10:45 – 11:00
) Coffee break

(11:00 – 12:20) Production operations (Moderator: Dr. Jennifer Boldt)

Bruce Bugbee (Utah State University)

Utah State University

Headshot of Bruce Bugbee of Utah State University

Bruce Bugbee is a Professor at Utah State University where he teaches plant nutrition, plant physiology, and environmental instrumentation.  He is well known for his work with NASA to determine potential crop yield and is currently funded by NASA to study food production for a colony on Mars. He holds the Governors Medal for Science from the State of Utah and is a Fellow in both the Agronomy and Horticultural Societies. He once summarized everything he knows in a TED talk titled, “Turning Water into Food.” 

presentation Details

The Physics of Farming Without Sunlight:  40 Years of Research with NASA

Indoor agriculture may increase our food carbon footprint, but it can recycle transpired water, and we will likely run out of water before we run out of energy.

Dick Kramp (AB Greenhouse Power Netherlands)

AB Greenhouse Power Netherlands

Headshot of Dick Kramp - CEO of AB Greenhouse Power Netherlands

Dick, Is responsible for Center Of Excellence for CEA cogeneration applications for AB Energy USA. Dick, has a 30 year long history in the CEA industry developing modular built cogeneration systems all over the world. In total Dick was involved in more than 1000 greenhouse projects representing almost 2.5 GW of electrical power generation. Developing projects by knowing the specific needs of the greenhouse customer is what is driving Dick to optimize integration, efficiencies and profitability. Dick, is widely respected in the greenhouse industry and by policy makers around the world.

presentation Details

What All Grid Regulators and Policy Makers Should Know about CHP for CEA Applications

Nadia Sabeh(Dr. Greenhouse)

Dr. Greenhouse 

Headshot of Dr. Nadia Sabeh of Dr. GreenhouseDr. Nadia Sabeh is the President and Founder of Dr. Greenhouse, Inc., a mechanical and agricultural engineering firm that specializes in HVAC design and climate optimization for crops grown indoors and in greenhouses. Her firm has designed or supported over 175 cultivation projects in 32 US states, 6 Canadian Provinces, and 5 continents. She’s been an integral participant in the development and pursuit of new engineering standards, emerging technologies programs, and cutting-edge horticultural research focused on CEA profitability. In her podcast, “The Doctor Is In,” Dr. Sabeh talks to growers, scientists, and manufacturers in the CEA space about their experiences and vision for the industry. Dr. Sabeh’s 25 years of experience and know-how make her a highly sought after consultant to growers, owners/operators, investors, and researchers around the world.

presentation Details

HVAC: The Next Frontier in Indoor Ag Technology


Kellie Walters (University of Tennessee)

University of Tennessee

Headshot of Kellie Walters of The University of Tennessee

Kellie is an assistant professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Tennessee where her research team focuses on food crop physiology in controlled environments including greenhouse and indoor production systems, spanning from potted culture to hydroponics. The overall goal is to determine how to leverage environmental controls (light intensity, duration, and quality, temperature, and CO2), plant nutrition, and plant growth regulators and hormones to improve vegetable, leafy green, and culinary herb production efficiencies, yield, and crop quality. In addition to general physiology and production research, her lab is focusing on in-house analysis of secondary metabolites contributing to crop flavor and nutritional value to improve taste, appearance, overall consumer appeal, and producer profitability and sustainability.

presentation Details

Leveraging CEA to Yield Nutritious Crops

(12:20 - 1:30 )

(1:30 – 2:00) Industry roundtable (Moderator: Dr. Morgan Pattison)

David Flynn (AmplifiedAg, Inc.)

Vice President, Business Development - Amplified Ag, Inc.

Headshot of David Flynn of AmplifiedAg, Inc.Mr. Flynn is one of the earliest members of the AmplifiedAg team. Throughout his tenure, he has overseen numerous functions, including development of the software, hardware, farm construction, and maintenance capabilities. In his current role, he advises independent and established operators on the advantages of the AmplifiedAg platform. Prior to joining AmplifiedAg in 2016, Dave spent more than 24 years in the U.S. Army serving in executive level positions, including large scale multi-disciplined organizations solving complex problems of water, infrastructure, logistics and food supply for impoverished communities in the Middle East.

Melanie Yelton (Grow BIG CEA Consulting)

Independent Consultant - Grow Big C.E.A. Consulting

Headshot of Melanie Yelton of Grow Big CEA Consulting

Melanie Yelton works as an independent consultant across the Controlled Environment Agriculture sector for Grow Big CEA Consulting.  There she applies insight from her work as a director in plant science at Plenty, and as a researcher in the horticulture lighting industry.

In previous roles, her research has focused on optimizing plant growth, flavor and quality using light, and she holds a patent for work involving filamentous fungus. Melanie served as a lecturer and scientist at Stanford University for more than 25 years, studying plant signaling in alfalfa and corn. She also served as Director of Sequencing at the Stanford DNA Sequence and Technology Center, part of The Human Genome Project. Melanie earned her Ph. D. from the University of California, Davis, in plant molecular biology; a master’s degree in biochemistry from the University of South Carolina; and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Virginia Tech.

Roger Buelow (AeroFarms)

CTO - aeroFarms

Headshot of Roger Buelow of AeroFarms

As CTO, Roger Buelow leads AeroFarms’ innovation and capabilities team and works closely with R&D and Business Development. He is an LED innovator and engineering technologist with over 20 years of experience in government and the private sector. Roger previously served as CTO of Energy Focus (a publicly traded company) for ten years leading their R&D, Engineering, and Operations to refit the U.S. Navy with LEDs, develop lights that leverage blue light to help regulate sleep cycles, and to set the world’s record for most efficient solar cell. Roger started helping AeroFarms with lamp and fixture design in 2009, bringing his extensive network and industry expertise with LEDs. He has been the principal investigator on over a dozen federally funded research contracts spanning military and civilian technologies and holds over 20 patents covering a wide array of technologies. He has brought over 50 products from concept, through R&D, into engineering, and then onto the open market. Roger has a B.S. in Mathematics and an M.S. in Systems and Control Engineering from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.

Michael Bledsoe (Village Farms)

Vice President, Food Safety and Regulatory Affairs - Village Farms

Headshot of Michael Bledsoe of Village Farms

Dr. Bledsoe is Vice President for Food Safety and Regulatory Affairs at Village Farms, one of the largest greenhouse operations in North America. He has more than 45 years working experiences in agriculture, 25 years in greenhouse hydroponic vegetable industry. Dr. Bledsoe received his PhD in Entomology, minor in Pathology from the University of Florida.  He serves on the Board of Directors for the IR-4 program and represents the U.S. greenhouse vegetable industry on regulatory and food safety issues.

Steven Summerfelt (Superior Fresh LLC)

superior Fresh L.L.C

Headshot of Dr. Steven Summerfelt of Superior Fresh LLCDr. Steven Summerfelt is Chief Science Officer at Superior Fresh in central Wisconsin. He manages the scientific research, leads the technological designs during facility expansion, trains the fish house team, and develops standard operating practices at Superior Fresh. Steve has pioneered technologies for land-based salmon farming, designing facilities and also publishing over 100 refereed journal papers on these and related areas. Steve is a Professional Engineer with a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering (Environmental Emphasis) and M.S. and B.S. in Chemical Engineering. Previously, he was with the Conservation Fund Freshwater Institute for 26 years where he directed Aquaculture Research.

(12:30 – 1:30) Lunch

(2:00 – 3:00) Water and nutrient efficiency (Moderator: Dr.James Altand)

Steven Summerfelt (Superior Fresh LLC)

superior Fresh L.L.C

Headshot of Dr. Steven Summerfelt of Superior Fresh LLCDr. Steven Summerfelt is Chief Science Officer at Superior Fresh in central Wisconsin. He manages the scientific research, leads the technological designs during facility expansion, trains the fish house team, and develops standard operating practices at Superior Fresh. Steve has pioneered technologies for land-based salmon farming, designing facilities and also publishing over 100 refereed journal papers on these and related areas. Steve is a Professional Engineer with a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering (Environmental Emphasis) and M.S. and B.S. in Chemical Engineering. Previously, he was with the Conservation Fund Freshwater Institute for 26 years where he directed Aquaculture Research.

presentation Details

Aquaponic Production in CEA: Status & Future Direction

Superior Fresh is a family farm in central Wisconsin that is sustainably producing two of the healthiest foods lacking in the American diet, i.e., salmon and greens. Superior Fresh is the world’s largest aquaponic farm and is the first land-based farm to produce Atlantic salmon in the United States. We produce organic leafy greens using a sustainable model unmatched in the food industry. Our production methods are environmentally friendly, keep our water safe, and give back to the land. Our existing facilities are on target to produce approximately 700 MT and 2000 MT of fish and lettuce in 2023, respectively.  Superior Fresh LLC uses state-of-the-art water recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) technology in a “fish house” and connected hydroponics “greenhouse” to produce baby greens, head lettuce, herbs, and Atlantic salmon year-round while recycling over 99% of the flow added to the system.

Daniel Yeh (University of South Florida)

University of South Florida

Headshot of Dr. Daniel Yeh of the University of South FloridaDr. Daniel Yeh is a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of South Florida (Tampa, Florida, USA) and co-founder of the clean-tech startup BioReNEW, inc. He is also a Visiting Professor at NASA Kennedy Space Center. Daniel’s research and teaching interests are in water & wastewater engineering, global water & sanitation, water/energy/food nexus, anaerobic and algal membrane bioreactors, and bioregenerative life support systems for space travel. Of particular interest are automated, off-grid, small-scale water recycling and waste resource recovery systems. Daniel holds degrees from the University of Michigan (BS Natural Resources, BSE Civil Engineering, MSE Environmental Engineering) and Georgia Institute of Technology (PhD Environmental Engineering), and conducted postdoctoral research at Stanford University. He is a professional engineer, an AAEES board-certified environmental engineer, a LEED Accredited Professional, and a Senior Member of the National Academy of Inventors.

presentation Details

The NEWgenerator Resource Recovery Machine for Nutrient, Energy, and Water Recycling from Wastewater and Organic Wastes: Opportunities for Controlled Environment Agriculture.

Water conservation, nutrient availability, energy reduction, and crop residue management represent some of the key technical and financial challenges for CEAs operations. These risks can be partially mitigated through small-scale onsite wastewater reuse and waste recycling. Initially developed to address global water/sanitation gaps, the NEWgenerator resource recovery machine aligns well with the needs of the CEA industry. The containerized system is compact, automated, operates on solar PV and is easily transportable to be coupled with CEA facilities to enable recirculating fertigation. The technology is comprised of major subsystems of anaerobic membrane bioreactor to break down organic wastes and recover nutrients as soluble ions, a nutrient management system to dampen and tune nutrients to meet plant requirements, and a final polishing subsystem to disinfect and remove trace organic constituents. By enabling extensive water and nutrient recycling, the NEWgenerator aims to reduce the cost of CEA operations and expand CEA implementation to water-scarce and remote regions. This presentation will describe applications of the NEWgenerator for agriculture, including horticultural studies in South Africa and Florida.

Jennifer Stokes-Draut (NAWI, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab)

N.A.W.I, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Headshot of Jennifer Stokes-DrautJenn’s research focuses on the economic and environmental implications of complex infrastructure systems. For over 15 years, she has studied innovative and integrated water systems, specifically evaluating tradeoffs and synergies in water systems as well as interdependencies with energy and food. She serves as the Deputy Topic Area Lead for Data, Modeling, and Analysis for the National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI) and is an expert in conducting life-cycle cost assessment (LCCA) and life-cycle assessment (LCA). Jenn has PhD from UC Berkeley in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

presentation Details

Water Reuse and Resource Recovery for Controlled Environment Agriculture

This talk will discuss opportunities for water treatment technology innovation identified by the National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI's) agriculture sector roadmap that are relevant for controlled environment agriculture (CEA). In particular, NAWI is focused on increasing water reuse and energy and/or nutrient recovery in small scale treatment systems which may be able to reduce the costs and environmental implications of CEA.

(3:00 – 3:15)

(3:15 – 4:35) Plant breeding and adaptations to controlled environments (Moderator: Dr. Paul Zankowski)

Celina Gomez (Purdue)

Purdue University

Headshot of Celina Gomez of the Purdue University

Celina Gómez is an Associate Professor at Purdue University. She leads a cross-commodity research and teaching program in Controlled Environment Horticulture. Her research centers on three subject areas: 1) urban gardening to support the increasing consumer interest in growing compact fruiting vegetables in residential spaces; 2) indoor propagation of high-value crops using indoor farming technologies; and 3) lighting for indoor plant production, focused primarily on evaluating plant responses to light spectrum or quantity. She currently teaches courses related to plant production in controlled environments.

presentation Details

Traits to Consider for Indoor Productions of Fruiting Vegetable Crops

Tyler Hoopes (Sakata Seed Company)

Protected Culture Specialist - Sakata Seed Company

Headshot of Tyler Hoopes of the Sakata Seed Company

Tyler Hoopes has been with the Japanese seed manufacturer now for over 5 years.  He is the Lead Product Manager for specialty tomatoes for controlled environment systems and is a key senior member of Sakata's CEA Leafy Greens Division.  He manages the majority of Sakata's trial implementation, evaluation and data collection with CEA growers of numerous varied systems and crops. Tyler attended Michigan State University where he achieved a bachelors in Agribusiness Management with a minor in Agronomy.  Currently, he is located in Michigan, where he focuses his product development and sales activity throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.  Tyler is excited about the many advancements in genetics that continue to shape the future for global food security.  Through his professional career, he has also developed a strong passion for seeking to understand new ways to farm through advanced agriculture techniques.

John Purcell (Unfold Bio) 

Chief Strategy Officer - unfold Bio

Headshot of John Purcell of Unfold Bio

He has dedicated his life to helping farmers safely and sustainably grow food using less of the earth’s natural resources. In his current role at Unfold, John is continuing this same mission to improve the food ecosystem with more sustainable, fresher, and better-tasting fruits and vegetables. During his time at Bayer and Monsanto, John led programs designed to breed and cultivate fruits and vegetables that farmers love to grow and consumers love to eat. His earlier work led to innovations and diverse technologies for important global crops including corn, cotton, and wheat.  John is also part owner of a family ranching operation in Lolo, Montana.

Kim Lewers  (USDA-ARS) 

research Geneticist - U.S.D.A, Agricultural Research Service

Headshot of Kim Lewers of the USDA - ARS

Dr. Kim Lewers is a Research Geneticist (Plants) with the USDA-ARS. Since 2001, she has developed new cultivars of strawberry for the Mid-Atlantic and surrounding areas while studying inheritance of important traits. Key selection criteria include disease resistance, flavor, and shelf life of “June-bearing” and “repeat-fruiting” cultivars. Recent cultivars are Flavorfest, Keepsake, and Cordial, all resistant to anthracnose fruit rot. Supporting accomplishments include: 1) low tunnels for summer production; 2) early strawberry molecular markers and maps; and 3) the inheritance of the “repeat-fruiting” trait and sex-determination trait in strawberry. Dr. Lewers enjoys supporting the strawberry industry and other strawberry researchers as Chair of the North American Strawberry Growers Research Committee, Chair of the Small Fruits Crop Germplasm Committee, and member of the Tier II Executive Board of Directors for the National Clean Plant System (Berries).

presentation Details

Breeding Strawberries for CEA

(4:35 – 6:35)
Poster session & bEER/WINE Social

Wednesday, June 28

(8:30 – 9:50) Pest management and plant health, pollinators (Moderator: Dr. Kai Ling)

Kai-Shu Ling (USDA-ARS)

U.S.D.A, Agricultural Research Service - Vegetable Laboratory

Headshot of Kai-Shu Ling of the USDA-ARSDr. Kai-Shu Ling has been a Research Plant Pathologist (virology) at the USDA-ARS, U.S. Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, SC since 2004.  Dr. Ling received his Ph.D. in Plant Pathology (Virology) from Cornell University in 1995. As a Research Plant Pathologist in USDA-ARS, he built his research program focusing on greenhouse emerging viral diseases of vegetable crops. To respond to the growing trend in controlled environment agriculture business in the U.S. and around the world, Dr. Ling initiated an ARS Grand Challenge project for controlled environment agriculture in 2018, using tomato as an example.

presentation Details

Managing Emerging Diseases of Vegetable Crops Under Control Environment

Dr. Ling leads a productive research program in disease diagnosis, virus detection, characterization and management of emerging diseases caused by highly contagious viruses that are seed-borne and transmitted easily by many hands-on activities in plant growing and crop production in greenhouses and indoor vertical farms. He will offer general guidance on viral disease diagnosis, seed health testing, and field-based detection of common viruses. He will then focus on management strategies in selecting effective disinfectants for seed treatment by seed companies, seedling propagation by nursery propagators and plant growing and fruit production by greenhouse growers to prevent and manage emerging diseases.

Chuansheng Mei (IALR)

institute For Advanced Learning and Research

Headshot of Chuansheng Mei of the Institute for Advanced Learning and ResearchDr. Chuansheng Mei is a Chief Scientist in the Plant Endophyte Center at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville, Virginia and Adjunct Faculty in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech. He obtained his Ph.D. degree in Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has worked on bacterial endophytes for more than 15 years. Currently, his research focuses on crop production improvement and disease inhibition by utilizing beneficial bacterial endophytes particularly in hydroponic systems.

presentation Details

Applying Endophytic Microorganisms for Crop Production Promotion and Disease Management Under CEA

Plant growth promoting microorganisms including endophytic and rhizosphere microorganisms, generally, promote plant growth, enhance nutrient uptake, increase stress tolerance, and inhibit pathogen growth. We exploit beneficial bacterial endophytes for lettuce and spinach growth promotion and disease inhibition in CEA from our bacterial endophyte library of more than 2000 strains.

Michael Bledsoe (Village Farms)

Vice President, Food Safety and Regulatory Affairs - Village Farms

Headshot of Michael Bledsoe of Village Farms

Dr. Bledsoe is Vice President for Food Safety and Regulatory Affairs at Village Farms, one of the largest greenhouse operations in North America. He has more than 45 years working experiences in agriculture, 25 years in greenhouse hydroponic vegetable industry. Dr. Bledsoe received his PhD in Entomology, minor in Pathology from the University of Florida.  He serves on the Board of Directors for the IR-4 program and represents the U.S. greenhouse vegetable industry on regulatory and food safety issues.

presentation Details

Emerging Pests and Diseases and Their Management in Greenhouse Vegetable Production

For over 25 years, Dr. Bledsoe has helped shape the U.S. greenhouse industry by developing programs on food and employee safety and managing emerging pests and diseases. In this presentation, he will cover topics on the status of the North American greenhouse industry, grower perspectives on new and emerging pests and diseases on vegetables and the needs for research to develop novel solutions for effective management of emerging pests and diseases in greenhouse, with potential applications for indoor vertical farming.  

Johnathan Koch (USDA-ARS)

U.S.d.a, Agricultural Research Service - Pollinating Insect Research Unit

Headshot of Johnathan Koch of the USDA-ARS

Dr. Jonathan Koch is a Research Entomologist at the USDA-ARS-PWA Pollinating Insects – Biology, Management, Systematics Research Unit (PIRU) in Logan, Utah. His research focuses on bee biology, ecology, and evolution, with the goal of producing science that informs their management and conservation in agricultural and wild ecosystems. He earned his PhD in 2015 from Utah State University in Ecology studying the population genetics of bumble bees of both agricultural and conservation importance. After his PhD, he was awarded two postdoctoral fellowships from the National Science Foundation and the David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship Program where he applied genomic techniques to characterize underling genetic diversity of invasive and imperiled insects in Hawaii.

presentation Details

The Potential for Pollinators in Controlled Environment Agriculture

The effectiveness of insect-mediated pollination in controlled environment agriculture is an emerging grand challenge. To date, effective pollination of flowering plants by insects is observed in large commercial fields, small gardens, and enclosures such as greenhouses and screen houses. Pollination in protective enclosures is likely to be the closest analog to controlled environment agriculture. Bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea) are the primary insects responsible for pollination in agricultural systems, with bumble bees being the sole pollinator actively used in greenhouse settings across the planet. In his presentation, Dr. Koch will provide an overview of bee pollinators in agricultural systems, and their promise to be managed for controlled environment agriculture.

(9:50 – 10:15) Coffee

(10:15 – 11:55)
Food quality, safety, and nutrition (Moderator: Dr. Yaguang Luo)

Erik Runkle (MSU)

Michigan State University

Headshot of Erik Runkle from Michigan State UniversityDr. Erik Runkle is a Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University. Erik obtained a B.S. in Ornamental Horticulture from the University of Illinois and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Horticulture at Michigan State University. Since he joined the faculty in 2001, he and his graduate research team have performed numerous experiments in controlled environments to determine the effects of light, temperature, and other environmental factors on plant growth and development. Experiments have been performed on a wide range of herbaceous specialty crops including leafy greens and ornamentals. Erik recently developed the Controlled-Environment Lighting Laboratory to better understand how the light environment can be manipulated to produce crops with desired quality attributes. He is the director of OptimIA, which is a project focusing on improving the profitability and sustainability of indoor leafy-greens production.

presentation Details

The Light Spectrum Regulates Crop Quality and Yield

Gioia Massa (NASA)

NASA Kennedy Space Center

Headshot of Gioia Massa of NASAGioia Massa is a NASA scientist at Kennedy Space Center working on space crop production for the International Space Station and future exploration endeavors.  She led the science team for the Veggie validation and she heads an interdisciplinary team to study nutrition and flavor of space-grown crops.  She has a BS in Plant Science from Cornell, a PhD in Plant Biology from Penn State, and postdoctoral research from Purdue and Kennedy Space Center.  She has worked in the areas of plant space biology and bioregenerative life support.

presentation Details

Controlled Environment Agriculture on the International Space Station

This presentation will discuss NASA’s Space Crop Production vision and introduce the crop plant research and production capabilities on the International Space Station, Veggie and the Advanced Plant Habitat.  I will highlight the different crop production research that has been conducted in these facilities and discuss how these projects contribute to NASA’s goals and needs.

Yaguang (Sunny) Luo (USDA-ARS)

U.S.D.A, Agricultural Research Service - Food Quality Lab and Environmental Microbial and Food Safety Lab

Headshot of Yaguang (Sunny) Luo of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service

Dr. Yaguang (Sunny) Luo is a Senior Scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS). She joined the agency in 2001 after over five years of research and management experience in the fresh produce industry. Her research is innovative and practical and centers on the intersections between food quality, nutrition, and safety of fresh produce in the farm to fork continuum. Dr. Luo has training and education in horticulture, food science, and bio-system engineering. She currently collaborates with NASA in researching best methods for growing microgreens in space.

presentation Details

Dynamic Lighting for Targeted Enhancement of Quality and Nutrition of Fresh Produce

In this CEA workshop, Dr. Luo will share her research findings regarding LED light modulations for targeted improvements in food quality and nutrition of fresh produce.

Ana Allende (CEBAS-CSIC)

Spanish National Research Council

Headshot of Ana Allende of Spanish National Research Council

Dr. Ana Allende from CEBAS-CSIC (Spanish National Research Council) in Spain is a Senior Researcher with focus on safety of fresh produce. She obtained her PhD in Food Science and Technology at the University of Cartagena, (Spain). She holds several positions in (inter)-national institutions including vice-chair of the BIOHAZ panel at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), vice-director of the CEBAS-CSIC, Member of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meetings on Microbiological Risk Assessment (JEMRA) Roster of Experts. She has published more than 230 research articles in peer-reviewed international journals focused on the safety of fresh produce with about 8500 cites. Her current H index is 53. She has built up more than twenty years of scientific research but also management experience by executing, initiating and guiding more than 30 international and national research projects in the area of microbial safety of fresh produce. Promotor of 7 PhD students (past and present). Over the last years, her research activity has been focused on safety aspects of fruits and vegetables, specifically, on leafy greens and fresh-cut products from pre-harvest to post-harvest operations. Her research topics deal with the study of preventive and intervention strategies implemented through good agricultural practices, and the optimization of processing operations including water disinfection in the agro-food industry, that impacts product quality and safety.

presentation Details

Significance of Production Environment on the Safety of Fresh Produce in Controlled Environment Agriculture

Controlled environment agriculture (CEA) has become increasingly popular in recent years as a way to produce fresh produce year-round, regardless of climate or weather conditions. These protected systems promote the efficient production of high-value crops at maximum productivity in an environmentally friendly way but they are not inherently safer than open systems as contamination can occur through production practices and procedures that introduce hazards into the environment. Prevalence studies of foodborne pathogens have been performed mostly in the production environment of open fields as well as packing houses and processing environment of fresh-cut facilities. However, more research is needed to obtain science-based guidance for systematically assessing food safety risks in the growing and harvesting of leafy greens under CEA systems. Particularly, the industry needs more research describing field-based assessments and data-based development of corrective actions, mitigations, response to positive findings, and standardization of Environmental Monitoring Programs (EMPs) under CEA. Since January 2023, a new Center for Produce Safety (CPS) project focuses on potential risk sources and routes of contamination in CEA systems including a comprehensive understanding of the behavior of persisting bacterial forms in controlled environmental niches. The first objective of the project focuses on a systematic sampling of different indoor systems through an Environmental Monitoring (EM) plan of critical sampling sites will allow the detection of potential sources and routes of contamination with Salmonella spp., and L. monocytogenes. This presentation focuses on the presentation of the main objectives of this research project as well as the results obtained in the first EM samplings, highlighting the main sources of contamination.

Patricia Millner (USDA- ARS)

U.S.D.A., Agricultural Research Service - Environmental Microbial Food Safety Laboratory and Sustainable Agriculture Systems Laboratory 

Headshot of Dr. Patricia Millner of the United States Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service Dr. Millner, a Research Microbiologist at the USDA, ARS, Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, conducts research on environmental and crop production factors and practices that impact food safety and sustainability of fresh market produce in organic and conventional, soil-based and soilless farming systems. Her current focus is on food safety microbial ecology in hydroponic and aquaponic systems. In prior years with USDA-ARS, her research focused on developing treatment technologies to destroy zoonotic pathogens in animal and farm wastes and capture of valuable nutrients for crop production and improved soil quality. Her research on bioaerosols associated with farm practices and bioaerosols focused on environmental survival and dissemination of pathogens into the food chain from various farming, animal husbandry, produce harvesting and processing operations. 

Presentation Details

Potential for Growth and Survival of E. Coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Listeria in Hydroponic and Aquaponic Leafy Greens Production Systems

Kurt Nolte (FDA)

Food & Drug Administration - Center of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Fresh Produce Branch

Headshot of Dr. Kurt Nolte of the Food and Drug Administration

Dr. Kurt Nolte works within the FDA - Center of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Fresh Produce Branch and is a subject matter expert in human illness outbreak investigations that involve fresh fruits and vegetables.   Kurt is part of the team involved in the design, planning and implementing on-farm outbreak investigations and performs post-outbreak analysis of outputs associated with these types of investigations. 


Presentation Details

Insight review from a recent outbreak of Salmonellosis infections associated with a CEA operation

(12:00 – 1:00)

(1:00 – 2:00) Economics, hurdles to adoption, and societal impacts (moderator: Dr. Paul Zankowski)

Daniel Plant (Plant Dynamics)

Plant Dynamics

Headshot of Daniel Plan of Plant Dynamics

Daniel Plant, an economics graduate from Queen's and Uppsala Universities, is a consultant for advanced CEA projects, providing comprehensive guidance from conception to commercialization. Known for his objectivity and data-driven decision-making, Daniel engages diverse stakeholders and navigates complex challenges, yielding fundamental insights into CEA economics, adoption hurdles, and future technology applications. With a background in asset value creation at Brookfield, Daniel's technical expertise spans energy and transportation infrastructure projects, fostering innovation and performance in the CEA industry from strategy through operations.

Presentation Details

Proximate and Scalable: The Evolving Economics of Greenhouse Autonomous Production

Chuck Nicholson (University of Wisconsin)

University of Wisconsin - Madison

Headshot of Chuck Nicholson of The University of Wisconsin

Chuck Nicholson is an agricultural economist and food systems modeler at the University of Wisconsin—Madison.  His research focuses on three thematic areas: 1) production, marketing and supply chain systems for dairy in US and low-income country settings; 2) economic and environmental analysis of supply chains for controlled environment agriculture, and 3)  determinants of food security outcomes in low- and middle-income country settings.  He previously worked with the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University and the Smeal College of Business at Penn State.

Carmen Azzareti (Resource Innovation Institute)

Resource Innovation Institute

Headshot of Carmen Azzareti of the Resource Innovation Institute

Carmen is an engineer with a passion for energy efficiency. While climbing wind turbines in the mountains of Vermont, she got her certification as a passive house consultant and further cultivated her passion for resource efficiency in the built environment, leading her to RII. As engineering & operations manager for Resource Innovation Institute, she focuses those passions on controlled environment agriculture, working towards the organization's mission to measure, verify and celebrate the world’s most efficient agricultural ideas

(2:00 – 3:30)
Federal funding opportunities (Moderator: Dr. Joseph Munyaneza)

Leslie Glover II (USDA)

U.S.D.A - Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production

Headshot of Leslie Glover II from the USDALeslie Glover II is the program manager for OUAIP. He serves as a subject matter expert for urban agriculture and innovative production, providing information and advice on all aspects of budget, strategy, plans, and policy direction to the Director and technical teams.


presentation Details

Food System Approach to Funding Urban and Innovative Agriculture

Presentation will touch on the two financial assistance programs administered by the USDA Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production as well as overlapping opportunities with other public and private funders.

John Reich (FFAR)

Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research 

Headshot of Leslie Glover II from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research

John Reich joined the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) in February 2016, as a Scientific Program Director. John joined FFAR because he strongly believes that advancements in agriculture will be key to maintaining our quality of life, and that the right investments at opportune moments will provide us with the necessary tools to overcome future challenges in agriculture. At FFAR, John works on building partnerships between the public and private sectors that targets pre-competitive research to advance agriculture science including FFAR’s first multi-stakeholder consortium, the Crops of the Future, creating a model for FFAR consortia, and his most recently announced consortium, the Precision Indoor Plants Collaborative. John continuously works on developing partnerships and programs that catalyze new areas of research and build on current investments to benefit the public.

Trained as a biomedical scientist, John applies his background in genetics, molecular biology, and biochemistry to broad range of topics that support food security, health, and economic opportunities through scientific advancement.

Ray Wheeler (NASA)

n.A.S.A - Exploration Research and Technology

Headshot of Ray Wheeler from the NASARay Wheeler is a plant physiologist at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center where he has worked for 35 years on the use of crops for life support in space.  This included hydroponic testing with a wide range of crops, and studies of plant lighting and CO2 enrichment.  Ray has a BS from Penn State, and MS and Ph.D. from Utah State, and did postdoctoral work at Wisconsin.  Ray currently serves at Chief Scientist for Kennedy Space Center.


presentation Details

CEA Funding Opportunities Through NASA

The talk will discuss some past projects funded on CEA research funded by NASA, and current funding opportunities.

Jessica Shade (USDA)

U.S.D.A. - National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Headshot of Jessica Shade of the USDA National Institute Food and AgricultureDr. Jessica Shade is a National Program Leader at USDA NIFA, in the Institute of Food Production and Sustainability, Division of Plant Systems – Production. In this role, she directs programs helping food and agriculture stakeholders overcome large-scale challenges. She received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.


presentation Details

NIFA Programs Supporting CEA

Dr. Shade will give a brief overview of NIFA programming, with a focus on programs that support Controlled Environment Agriculture

(3:30 – 4:00)
 Closing remarks

Kai-Shu Ling (USDA-ARS)

U.S.D.A, Agricultural Research Service - Vegetable Laboratory

Headshot of Kai-Shu Ling of the USDA-ARSDr. Kai-Shu Ling has been a Research Plant Pathologist (virology) at the USDA-ARS, U.S. Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, SC since 2004.  Dr. Ling received his Ph.D. in Plant Pathology (Virology) from Cornell University in 1995. As a Research Plant Pathologist in USDA-ARS, he built his research program focusing on greenhouse emerging viral diseases of vegetable crops. To respond to the growing trend in controlled environment agriculture business in the U.S. and around the world, Dr. Ling initiated an ARS Grand Challenge project for controlled environment agriculture in 2018, using tomato as an example.

Thursday,June 29

Greenhouse C.E.A Tour

(8:00 – 9:15) - drive to The Chef’s Garden

    • 1517 Scheid Rd., Huron, OH 44839

(9:30 – 10:45) - tour, The Chef's Garden

(11:00 – 12:15)  tour and lunch, The Culinary Vegetable Institute

    • 12304 Mudbrook Rd., Milan, OH 44846

(12:15 – 1:45) drive to Four Star Greenhouse

    • 1199 E. Sigler Rd., Carleton, MI 

(2:00 – 3:30) tour, Four Star Greenhouse

(3:30 – 4:00) Departure / Display Garden Tour

    • Bus #1 – Drive to Detroit airport (drop off at both terminals)
    • Bus #2 – Walk-through of trial/display garden at Four Star Greenhouse

(4:00 – 5:00) Buses return to Toledo

    • Passenger drop off at University of Toledo

Click the button below to learn more about the facilities we'll be visiting.

Greenhouse Location Details


Last Updated: 6/29/23