Resilient Harvests Conference leadership hopes to develop a regional conference model

Aug. 19, 2022
Event management says CEA conference go-to-market strategy is to provide in-person practical discussion and solutions that help fertilize the prospects for indoor ag operations and supporting technologies.

Road to RHC Series

LEDs Magazine recently interviewed Endeavor Business Media Technology Group vice president Steve Beyer, who also serves as our publisher and oversees the team responsible for the upcoming Resilient Harvests Conference, for straight talk on the event’s partnership strategy and future direction to serve professionals across the entire controlled environment agriculture (CEA) market and supply chain.

LEDs Magazine: How does the Resilient Harvests Conference differ from past iterations of the Horticultural Lighting and HortiCann conferences?

Steve Beyer: Three years ago — prior to the pandemic — HortiCann was a live show and a successful show. When the pandemic hit, we had to take it to a virtual world. While the marketplace of folks that would register loved the virtual format, the suppliers and manufacturers didn’t like not being in front of people. So we decided to reengineer the “shell” from HortiCann — which was primarily attracting suppliers of lighting products on the exhibition side — to a much broader group of suppliers who are all involved in different types of indoor agriculture products and technologies.

With HortiCann, we were able to develop a large database of growers and ancillary people in that industry — the design/build firms and others. We also found that we attracted growers from all over the country, even some from around the world. About a third of them told us that they were either building new or retrofitting an existing facility in the coming year. When we decided to develop a broader Resilient Harvests Conference to address more needs in controlled environment agriculture, we learned that the marketplace wants to be in person. So we are taking the show live to Long Beach, Calif.

We’ve since learned that growers can get all kinds of energy credits from the utilities out in California. In turn, we’ve gotten Southern California Edison as a partner in the show. What we heard is that instead of having out-of-pocket, upfront costs to redo your lights or your HVAC or other products used in the growth cycle, they could actually amortize the cost of the upgrade to new lighting or HVAC, and so on, through the utility. That’s a huge bonus for the growers out there, for everything from medical products — nowadays, that includes cannabis, CBD products, and even growing of mushrooms for the market in certain states — to food produce. The market for CEA is just so expansive, so we decided we needed to expand our focus and partnerships as well.

LEDs: What motivated your team to collaborate with Resource Innovation Institute to develop this year’s conference?

SB: We heard at other trade shows that this group called Resource Innovation Institute was working on the best practices for growing and for using indoor agriculture products. They were working with the U.S Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy, and with specific states, doing educational programs on a state level.

Derek Smith, the president, talked to us about how they had done a show three years ago with a partner that really wasn’t attuned to developing a program in this marketplace. They didn’t have the context; they didn’t have the database or the suppliers and manufacturers that they could call upon. So while it was a successful conference, it just wasn’t something that was viable for them to do again, and they were looking for a new partner.

We were also looking for a new partner. Our editor in chief, Maury Wright, was retiring at the end of 2021 and we needed somebody with conference program expertise but going in a slightly different direction. Now we have lined up the number one organization in the country when it comes to indoor agriculture and how to grow more efficiently in the market. We work weekly with RII to develop the content and to make decisions, down to the location we have selected.

LEDs: Do you think, then, that the partnership with Resource Innovation Institute is more symbiotic because they have the benefit of the Endeavor Business Media brand portfolio at their disposal as well as our experience with events?

SB: Absolutely. The beauty of a partnership with Endeavor Business Media is that we have brands that are in the HVAC area — a very important part of the growth cycle. We have lighting brands, water brands, utility brands, and even the recently acquired Microgrid Knowledge group. The beauty of having that publication is grow operations required a lot of energy. And when some of them have approached the utilities to see if they could get a line to their new facility, they were told that might take upwards of a year or maybe even two years. So what they’ve done is gone “off the grid.” They’ve actually developed a microgrid to allow them to build a grow facility without a connection to the utility.

We have all these media brands, we have all these expertise, we have a division of our company that manages trade shows and conferences. So all the things that RII is really great at doing in terms of education and context in the industry – they can focus on those. We have the other side of the business, which is contacts to the suppliers, the manufacturers of products for the indoor agriculture industry, and the databases to bring in a much larger audience. And our goal is to look at this and say, “Should we take this to the top two, three, four regions of the country where indoor agriculture is a big part of the states’ economy?” States like California, New York, Michigan — all these states have large indoor agriculture facilities, and they need guidance on how to grow products more efficiently, profitably, and sustainably.

We will get growers from all over the country, but the needs are different. The utility programs, incentives, energy credits based on code…the overall energy needs of each state are different. So the growers really need to understand their region, how policies are changing, what barriers there are to indoor agriculture in their region.

LEDs: Speaking of barriers, what do you think is the biggest obstacle or challenge to the growth of CEA practices, facilities, and technology adoption?

SB: The biggest barrier for indoor agriculture to take off isn’t the market, it’s our government, at least in the U.S. The government has to do a better job of funding this segment of agriculture. It’s always been small. But water needs and energy needs are changing in the states. A perfect example of that is southern California, where you don’t have as much rainwater or runoff from the mountains to supply the needs of the area; then energy-wise they’re maxing out their grid. With indoor agriculture, you can potentially use 95% less water. You can increase your yields dramatically and grow a lot of the fruits and vegetables that we are now importing from overseas. I read something that said around 75% of all the fruits and vegetables we have available in the U.S. will be imported [by 2027, according to Food Safety News].

This conference is going to allow individuals from government, utilities, state, and energy commissioners and top management from these growing facilities to come together and have meaningful conversations about these topics.

LEDs: We’ve talked about barriers. What about opportunities?

SB: What’s exciting is that you can take existing buildings that have been emptied or abandoned for commercial use and retrofit them for an indoor agriculture facility. Think of the possibilities for commercial properties that just aren’t being used. We also understand there’s a brand-new facility going into Compton, Calif. – a more urban area. Indoor agriculture building and equipping projects and operations can boost the job economy and business opportunities nearly anywhere.

Universities are getting involved in teaching courses or expanding their ag curriculums to indoor and CEA. One of our keynote speakers is from Ohio State, one of the leaders in indoor agriculture education and research. Then we have the Energy Commissioner of the State of California. They are framing the perspectives from the educational and practical applications of growing plants of all kinds, to the operational, logistical, and business needs to make those modern facilities run and generate profit.

Our goal is to try to do these events around the country so more growers can get involved and we can help to expand the CEA market and insights into the entire value chain in the U.S.


The Resilient Harvests Conference will be held Nov. 1–2, 2022 at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach in Long Beach, Calif. Register before Sept. 1 to save $200 with the Early Bird discount.

CARRIE MEADOWS is managing editor of LEDs Magazine, with 20 years’ experience in business-to-business publishing across technology markets including solid-state technology manufacturing, fiberoptic communications, machine vision, lasers and photonics, and LEDs and lighting.

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About the Author

Carrie Meadows | Editor-in-Chief, LEDs Magazine

Carrie Meadows has more than 20 years of experience in the publishing and media industry. She worked with the PennWell Technology Group for more than 17 years, having been part of the editorial staff at Solid State Technology, Microlithography World, Lightwave, Portable Design, CleanRooms, Laser Focus World, and Vision Systems Design before the group was acquired by current parent company Endeavor Business Media.

Meadows has received finalist recognition for LEDs Magazine in the FOLIO Eddie Awards, and has volunteered as a judge on several B2B editorial awards committees. She received a BA in English literature from Saint Anselm College, and earned thesis honors in the college's Geisel Library. Without the patience to sit down and write a book of her own, she has gladly undertaken the role of editor for the writings of friends and family.

Meadows enjoys living in the beautiful but sometimes unpredictable four seasons of the New England region, volunteering with an animal shelter, reading (of course), and walking with friends and extended "dog family" in her spare time.