Controlled Environment Agriculture Center

Research, Instruction & Extension for Producing Crops
With Sustainability, Efficiency & Eco-Friendliness
Friday, January 29, 2016 - 4:00pm

Covering Environments--The CEAC Monthly Seminars

SEED TO TABLE: THE ECONOMICS OF VERTICAL FARMING

January 29, 2016 @ 4:00pm

Controlled Environment Agriculture Center, 1951 Roger Rd

Marc Ferguson, CEO Hungry Planet Farms, Austin TX

Imaginative, prolific, successful, energetic, thoughtful, caring and even audacious—these are just some of the characteristics which describe Marc Ferguson, the speaker of the next Covering Environments CEAC Seminar scheduled for January 29, 2016. Marc Ferguson, founding CEO of Hungry Planet Farms is accurately described as a serial entrepreneur—a rare breed of a business person who does not shy away from taking risks or confronting controversy, who craves learning, who understands that failure is but a necessary step to success, and one who is passionate about his work. To qualify for the additional title of 'serial', Ferguson has over the past quarter century successfully developed several companies in the banking, software and biotechnology industries.

Today Ferguson is leaving his mark on yet another aspect of Controlled Environment Agriculture through his newest, and possibly most impactful, enterprise dedicated to R&D of foundational technologies and economical considerations needed to make urban, vertical farming (VF) a reality in the production of fresh, safe produce while also reducing the carbon footprint of food production.

Ferguson is not shy about the mission and eventual success of his company: "We have one part of the answer to the question 'how will we feed nine billion people on a planet with changing water resources and increasing energy costs, while improving the environment' he asserted in a recent news release. The answer he concluded "is through controlled environment agriculture" of which VF is the newest and most challenging development.

In a rebuke to a public critique of the viability of VF by Louis Albright, a pioneer researcher in controlled environment agriculture (Cornell University), VF demonstrates the contentious nature of the debate. Albright* suggests that VF is "just a pie in the sky" and is most unlikely to be ecologically nor financially feasible. While respecting Albright's analytical approach, Ferguson counters by comparing Albright's criticisms to what the CEO of GM might say about Tesla's innovative, but also controversial, avant-guard car development. "Albright is stuck in the paradigm of greenhouses, free sunlight, and the global food distribution network. All of the problems he has identified (for VF) can and will be solved" concluded Ferguson with strength and conviction**. How these problems are being addressed from the business and technological points of view will be the substance of Ferguson's CEAC seminar. It promises to be interesting, exciting and a glimpse into the future of food production.

^ http://www.hungry-planet-farms.com/ *http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2014/02/indoor-urban-farms-called-wasteful-pie-sky ** https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8217267/profile Read about Despommier's futuristic view on VF here: http://www.verticalfarm.com/

Location

Controlled Environment Agriculture Center, 1951 Roger Rd