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Cornell: Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Entrepreneur Conference


  • Cornell University 401 Warren Hall Ithaca, NY 14853 (map)
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Wednesday November 1 – Thursday November 2
Optional Friday November 3 Cornell CEA Industry Stakeholder Meeting

Have you been researching new ways to grow vegetables? Is your farm looking to diversify? Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) may be the answer----and this conference can help!

CEA enables year-round production of fresh vegetables through greenhouse environmental control (heating, lighting) combined with hydroponic/soilless production systems. While CEA is an increasingly popular method of meeting consumer demand for locally grown food, many factors must be considered when developing a business plan and assessing its viability. This conference is intended to provide more detailed knowledge of CEA production systems, economics, marketing, and ways to access financing and state resources. It will also help guide new or transitioning operations through the process of developing a business plan for a CEA greenhouse vegetable business.

The conference will be held November 1st and 2nd in Ithaca NY. The group size will be limited to 30 businesses (each may send 1 or 2 representatives), and attendees must apply to be accepted into the program.

The program will combine practical information specific to CEA businesses including costs of production, financing sources and state and regional incentives, marketing, along with a structured process for developing an agriculture business plan. The Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture as well as the NYS Small Business Development Center templates will be used. Sample worksheets will lend a practical perspective and illustrate how to set goals, research processing alternatives, determine potential markets, and evaluate financing options. Templates will help participants to develop a detailed, lender-ready business plan or map out strategies to take advantage of new opportunities.

Who should apply to attend?

Anyone with a serious interest in developing a business plan for a New York state based commercial CEA operation. Attendees may represent a completely new business in early stages of development or an existing agriculture operation looking to transition to greenhouse CEA. Attendees must agree to complete homework assignments guiding them through stages of the business planning process prior to the conference. Attendees must also agree to complete a draft business plan and to complete a brief annual survey on business development and economic impact related to their CEA business.

If selected, the program is free, however travel and lodging must be covered by attendees. Applications are due by September 29 and must be completed online here. If selected to attend you will be notified by October 3.

The program is hosted by Cornell University and will be led by Neil Mattson, associate professor and director of the Cornell CEA group; Laura Biasillo, Agricultural Economic Development Specialist; Miguel Gómez, associate professor and horticultural economist; and Julie Stafford, Industry Liaison, Cornell Institute for Food Systems. For questions please contact Neil Mattson at nsm47@cornell.edu

Attendees may also wish to attend the November 3 meeting of the Cornell CEA Advisory Board, a large multi-faceted stakeholder group which meets twice yearly to address opportunities and barriers in the CEA supply chain. View summaries from previous meetings.

This project is supported by the U.S. Department of Agricultural Marketing Service through grant 15SCBGPNY0023. The grant is administered and supported by the New York Farm Viability Institute (NYFVI) and the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets. Project contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official view of USDA, NYFVI or the State of NY.