Having just made the two-hour trek yesterday back to our home base in northeast Ohio from the horticulture industry’s annual blowout event in Columbus, Cultivate’21, I’m still in a literal and figurative unpacking process as I type up this column.

Cultivate’21 was the first in-person event in the green industries since the COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on live events. After two straight seasons of (in some regions) historical plant, ancillary product, and food sales volumes, the positive vibes attendees were radiating all over the Short North were undeniable.

Just as our industry itself is always constantly evolving and reconfiguring to stay relevant, the mix of who has a stake in the show is also morphing. It seemed to this 2-time attendee there was a TON of discussion, educational sessions, and trade show participants from all corners of the CEA produce world.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Ohio State University’s Cheri Kubota’s talk on the massive opportunity to produce clean, flavor-packed strawberries – some exotic varieties are fetching $5 per berry (!) at retail – year-round in indoor and vertical farming production systems. There were other CEA produce focused sessions as well. Microgreens, lettuce, and berries grown indoors aren’t going anywhere (but up), anytime soon.

Of course, this all makes perfect sense. It has always been clear that – while disparate markets entirely – there are lessons CEA produce growers can learn from the traditional floriculture greenhouse operations, and vice versa. It only makes sense to see the convergence of these segments, all bundled up nicely under the umbrella of horticulture.

After all, at its most basic, it’s all just growing plants indoors, trying to produce the most output with the least overhead possible.

I suppose my message here is this: CEA and vertical produce farming are here to stay, in the mainstream, and only going to maintain momentum. These could be the Golden Days, but something (i.e. my experience at Cultivate’21) tells me we haven’t even sniffed the ceiling yet.

Matthew Grassi, Editor | mgrassi@gie.net | 216-393-0362