Controlled Environment Agriculture revolutionises food and drug production. An overview of the market, innovations and research on March 25 at the digital preview of NovelFarm and AlgaeFarm.

What negative effect is the pandemic having on innovative agriculture, such as soilless cultivation and vertical farming? According to some leading players, in the end little or nothing. Or rather, it has caused a change in trade markets, but growth has not stopped, on the contrary, it has accelerated towards increasingly more technological solutions.

This is according to the 2020 edition of the Global CEA Census Report, carried out by Agritecture Consulting and Autogrow, on a global sample of operators in the field of controlled environment crops.

One of the traditional markets for these crops, restaurants, has largely disappeared, but the growers have immediately reoriented themselves towards short-chain and community supplies and online, also aided by the enormous flexibility that the controlled environment allows. From this point of view, technology is more and more paying off.

Compared to the previous edition of the research, dating back to 2019, the percentage of companies interviewed that adopts vertical farming has reached 60 percent of the total, with a year-on-year growth of 20 percent. The future looks bright: 20 percent of the interviewees opened their business in the middle of the pandemic, on average they are young, they are in the whole very optimistic about the future, even if they have not received venture capital funds but are self-financed.

The results of the survey confirm that by making the most of the fruits of research and innovation, even the apparently most challenging problems can be tackled, from contingent ones, such as the pandemic, to those of a more structural nature. This is the focus of the NovelFarm digital preview programme, the international key event for the soilless cultivation, vertical farming and agritech sector, to which the new AlgaeFarm has been added, dedicated to the research and the market of cultivated microalgae supply chain.

On the afternoon of March 25 via a live stream, some of the major national and international experts of the two sectors will contribute to an overview of the most interesting and fundamental  present and future issues.

The keynote is entrusted to the Italian multidisciplinary team author of the study on the use of plants for the development and rapid production of diagnostic tests, therapies and vaccines to fight new and old diseases. Linda Avesani, professor at the University of Verona and coordinator and spokesperson for the team, will explain what can be done and the main advantage compared to current techniques: thanks to the use of dedicated vertical farms it would be possible, for example, to produce in a 2000 square meter farm 36 million doses of vaccine per week extracted from plants.

The agenda includes the already partially mentioned results of the latest research by Agritecture, historical partner of NovelFarm. The prospects of Italy would receive a strong boost if the law of parliamentary initiative on the soilless cultivation, that awaits discussion in the Chamber of Representatives, were approved. Politecnico di Milano and the University of Brescia will present the results of the research of Smart AgriFood Observatory; Talent Garden will illustrate the growth of start-ups and venture capital aimed at foodtech at a global and Italian level, while an update on the most active trends will arrive from the University of Wageningen, the European "temple" of applied soilless research. The round table will bring together well-known names in the sector in Italy and Europe: Mattia Accorsi, Light Biologist, C-LED; Mark Horler, Chairman, UK Urban Agritech; Luca Travaglini, Co-founder and Co-CEO, Planet Farms; and Pierluigi Giuliani, Co-founder and CEO, Agricola Moderna, who, coordinated by Fabio Gallo, RAI-Linea Blu host, will provide examples of experiences, trends and innovations "from the field without the soil".

To close the day, the presentation of the new AlgaeFarm project at Pordenone Fiere, the event dedicated to innovations and technologies in algaeculture, introduced by Lucia Prosdocimo, project manager of the event. The substance of the content will instead be edited by Alberto Bertucco, President, AISAM - Italian Association for the Study and Applications of Microalgae, who will deal with the state of the art of research in Italy and by Liliana Rodolfi, professor at the University of Florence, on the microalgae market and applications.

The preview will be introduced by a top-level institutional panel, composed by the President of Pordenone Fiere, Renato Pujatti, by Stefano Zannier, Councilor for agri-food, forest and fish resources and the mountains of the Autonomous Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, and by Giordano Emo Capodilista, Vice President of the Confederal Executive Board of Confagricoltura. A demonstration of commitment and support of sectors and events that are essential for the future of our economy and society.

In the morning, the digital preview of AquaFarm will be held, the reference event in southern Europe on aquaculture and sustainable fishing. The digital preview is free to access in both Italian and English, upon registration on the site.

NovelFarm is the most important Italian event entirely dedicated to new cultivation techniques, soilless and vertical farming. This year accompanied by AlgaeFarm, an event dedicated to technologies and applications in algae cultivation.

AquaFarm is the international exhibition-conference dedicated to aquaculture and sustainable fishing industry.

More information on NovelFarm is available, HERE, and more information on AquaFarm is available, HERE.

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