Friday, April 27, 2018

Innovation and Design in Vertical Agriculture and Sustainable Urban Ecosystems

A workshop sponsored by The U.S. Department of Agriculture & The U.S. Department of Energy
June 27 – 28, 2018
Washington D.C.
An Opportunity for Innovation

As the global population grows, so too does food demand as well as constraints on land and natural resources. By the year 2050, the world’s population will approach 10 billion people, and at least 2 out of 3 people will live in urban centers.

With this increased urbanization comes the unique opportunity to develop engineering and agricultural innovations within urban systems that sustainably stimulate growth to help meet future needs.

Vertical agriculture operations could augment production while offering lower emissions, higher-nutrient produce, and reduced water usage and runoff. And placing vertical farms in the context of a renewable urban ecosystem - where one industry’s waste is another’s raw material - could stimulate sustainable economic growth.

At this free workshop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy, representatives from the public and private sectors will identify and discuss challenges, opportunities and possibilities associated with vertical agriculture and sustainable urban ecosystems. Information on featured speakers can be found on the back page of this brochure.

The public may attend all morning programs, but your RSVP is required. For additional information or to RSVP, please contact Sarah Federman at or David Babson at

(Agenda and Federal Registration links below)

Featured Speakers Include:

Featured Speakers, left to right: Dr. Sabine O’Hara, Dr. Dickson Despommier,Dr. Raymond Wheeler, Dr. Weslynne Ashton, Nate Storey, Nick Starling.

Dr. Sabine O’Hara, Dean of the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES) of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC). As Dean of CAUSES, she is responsible for academic, research and community outreach programs, and is leading the UDC’s efforts to build a cutting-edge model for Urban Agriculture and Urban Sustainability that improves the quality of life and economic opportunity for urban populations. Sabine is a respected author, researcher and higher education executive, and is well known for her expertise in sustainable economic development, global education and executive leadership.

Dr. Dickson Despommier, microbiologist, ecologist, and Emeritus Professor of Public and Environmental Health at Columbia University. Despommier is widely considered to be the originator of the modern concept of vertical farming.

Dr. Raymond Wheeler, Plant Physiologist, NASA – As the lead for Advanced Life Support Research activities at the Kennedy Space Center, Wheeler has been studying ways to grow safe, fresh food crops efficiently off the Earth. Astronauts on the International Space Station recently harvested and ate a variety of red romane lettuce that they activated and grew in a plant growth system called “Veggie.”

Dr. Weslynne Ashton, Associate Professor of Environmental Management and Sustainability, Illinois Institute of Technology Stuart School of Business. Ashton’s research focuses on industrial ecology, optimizing resource flows in socio-ecological systems, and developing entrepreneurial solutions to social and environmental challenges. She currently leads projects examining urban food system sustainability with Plant Chicago and the Chicago Food Policy Action Council.

Nate Storey, Chief Science Officer, Plenty, Inc. - Plenty is building a global network of field-scale indoor farms to transform produce from a boring commodity to a delicious movement for all. Located near communities around the world, Plenty farms will utilize cutting-edge growing technologies and proven plant science to deliver industry-leading yields of locally-grown, backyard-fresh produce. By shaving thousands of miles and weeks off the journey from farm to table, Plenty will transition agriculture to a reliable, predictable, and resource-efficient model.

Nick Starling is the chairman of Skyscraper Farm, LLC. Nick has been researching vertical farming since 2011. During this time, he has discovered a variety of improvements needed to feed the world while dramatically reducing water usage and eliminating agricultural runoff.


Thomas Jefferson Auditorium, USDA South Building,
1398 Independence Ave. SW, Washington DC

June 27th
8:45 a.m. – Open Session: Welcome
9:30 a.m. – Envisioning Incentivizing Sustainable Urban Ecosystems: Sabine O’Hara, Univ. of the District of Columbia
10:00 a.m. – Envisioning Vertical Agriculture: Dickson Despommier, Columbia University
10:30 a.m. – Vertical Agriculture in Practice: Nate Storey, Chief Science Officer, Plenty Inc.
11:00 am – 3x5s, State of the Practice: lightning talks
12:00 p.m. – Break & Lunch
12:45 p.m. – Breakout sessions (attendance by invitation only)
Pest and Pathogen Management
Plant Selection and Breeding
Systems Engineering
Sustainability and Community Services
Sustainability and Ecosystem Services
4:30 p.m. – Wrap Up

June 28th
8:30 a.m. – Rapporteur from 06/27 breakouts
9:30 a.m. – Open Session: Welcome
10:00 a.m. – Expanding Applications for Controlled Agriculture: Raymond Wheeler, NASA
10:30 a.m. – Economics and Scalability of Vertical Farms: Nick Starling, Skyscraper Farm LLC
11:00 a.m. – Industrial Ecology for Sustainable Urban Ecosystems: Weslynne Ashton, Illinois Institute of Technology
11:30 a.m. – Open Session: Closing Remarks
12:00 a.m. – Break & Lunch
12:45 p.m. – Breakout sessions (attendance by invitation only)
Pest and Pathogen Management
Plant Selection and Breeding
Systems Engineering
Sustainability and Community Services
Sustainability and Ecosystem Services
4:30 p.m. – Wrap Up

Register Now:

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