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Controlled Environment Agriculture – The Industry is Growing Up

Thursday 25th February @ 9:50 am - 4:20 pm

Agri-TechE has seen the controlled environment sector grow rapidly in maturity and the dialogue has changed considerably in just a couple of years.

Significant investment in vertical farming and controlled environment operations has seen the industry develop commercial-scale operations. The challenge now is around developing the business models for deployment and investment.

Innovations aimed at reducing the cost of production, optimising the growing environment and the breeding of plants best suited to these conditions are attracting significant interest from both conventional growers and newcomers, stimulating further research developments.

The social and economic disruptions of recent months and growing recognition of the benefits of transparent and responsive supply chains is also creating a new dynamic.

The 2021 CEA conference draws on speakers from across the agri-tech ecosystem, each with different perspectives. It provides an opportunity to review progress, look at the recent developments and gain informed glimpses of the future.



£85 + VAT non members

£50 + VAT members


09.50 – 10.00     Welcome and introduction

Dr Lydia Smith, Director, NIAB Innovation Farm & Eastern Agri-Tech Innovation Hub

10.00 – 11.00     Keynote Address – “Will vertical farms feed the cities of the future? Let’s talk numbers!”

Luuk Graamans, University of Waganingen

From domestic conservatories to major commercial high-care controlled environments, vertical farming and CEA is expanding to fill many different niches. Luuk will outline his recent research and explore how farming in controlled environments can play a role in the evolution of the food system, and the mechanisms by which it could move food production from broadacre production to an urban setting.  


11.00 – 11.30     Break


11.30 – 12.30     Technology innovations for CEA

Innovations in CEA and vertical farming continue at pace globally, and the need and potential for fundamental science to add greater value is significant. In this session we explore technologies, ranging from lighting to breeding which are poised to help derived even greater value from the ability to grow food crops under highly controlled conditions.  

Michael Ruggier, CEO, Airponix  

Jason Hawkins-Row, CEO, Aponic  

Kate Brunswick, Relationship Manager, Innovation Agri-Tech Group  


12.30 – 14.00     Lunch

A chance to browse the exhibition and listen to the podcast


14.00 – 15.00      Entrepreneurship in Controlled Environment Agriculture: Is it too late to start up and scale?

Chaired by Niall Mottram, Head of Industrial and Energy, Cambridge Consultants  

The scale of global capital flow into CEA and vertical farming companies has been described as “eye-watering” and analysts are keenly awaiting the major exits and return on investment. This session focusses on the potential for new innovations for CEA and explores the existing investor appetite, possible routes to market and the potential to go “beyond Babyleaf” as a start-up.

In this session we’ll also discuss the business models and investor appetites around vertical farming – are investors seeing what they want and expect in terms of the pace of development and novelty of innovation? Has the narrative moved on to the point where it is such a crowded space that creating a niche is going to be difficult – and the business models will be around selling either food product or technology platform? Is both possible? And what is the opportunity to scale?

Ande Gregson, Founder and Director, Green lab  

Kate Hofman, CEO, GrowUp Farms  

Mike Davies, Executive Chairman, Eider Investments  

Jack Farmer, Co-founder and Operational Lead, LettUs Grow  


15.00 – 16.15     Connecting with Citizens: Vertical Farming and Social Innovation

Chaired by Anthony Gardiner, Marketing Director, G’s Fresh 

Changes to the global agri-food system are urgent and inevitable. The shift in mindset from “consumers” to “citizens” is seen by some as a way of providing more effective insights into the food system, as well as an appreciation of how to help people engage with the methods of food production. This session will explore the potential role of vertical farming and CEA as an agent for social innovation in the food system of the future, as well as considering the central role of food production and its supply chains.

Andrew Johnson, CEO, Living Salads 

Jamie Burrows, CEO, Vertical Future  

Mira Merme, CEO, OneFarm


16.15 – 16.20    Closing Comments


16.20     Event close

Speakers include

Ande Gregson

Founder and Director, Green Lab

Ande started out in IT and founded and conceived media140, Europe’s first real-time web-conference, and subsequently developed it into a global social media brand. Following the success of media140 he became involved in philanthropic ventures such as Science Rewired before establishing Green Lab in 2015 to work with entrepreneurs and businesses to design food production systems, processes and new foods that can be scaled from a bench-scale trial to world-wide impact. Green Lab is an open innovation lab and ecosystem for individuals and organisations to design sustainable solutions to complex urban food, water and waste challenges.

Anthony Gardiner

Marketing Director, G’s Fresh

Anthony is a well-known face within the UK produce industry as Marketing Director for G’s Fresh. As fresh food industry specialist, Anthony joined G’s from Tesco in 2008 and has led the G’s team’s consumer insight, NPD, PR and marketing functions.

Since 2017 Anthony has been a Non-Executive Director in Zero Carbon Foods t/a Growing Underground and has supported the team to make the breakthrough to supplying vertically farmed produce to UK retail. A firm believer that vertically farmed product has a place in the future supply chain, Anthony is clear that it must add incremental consumer value and be able to compete with established traditional agriculture.

Dr Lydia Smith

Director, NIAB Innovation Farm & Eastern Agri-Tech Innovation Hub

Lydia leads Interactive farmer-facing research into sustainable farming; especially soil health, crop genetic improvement and waste minimisation. She lectured in soil science, crop microbial interactions, environmental biology/land reclamation before moving to NIAB. At NIAB-Innovation Farm interactive demonstrations promote knowledge exchange and innovation uptake, and at the EAI Hub there is incubation and research resource provision for SMEs and academics, with an additional focus on sustainable use of heat and power to drive innovation.

Luuk Graamans, Wageningen - Agri-TechE CEA speaker

Ir. Luuk Graamans

PhD Researcher and Engineer, Wageningen University & Research

Luuk Graamans is a doctoral candidate from Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), who is currently working as a researcher at Wageningen University & Research (WUR). The business unit Greenhouse Horticulture (WUR) and Climate Design & Sustainability (TU Delft) are investigating the feasibility of vertical farming as a new production system. Luuk’s past research has shown that the effectiveness of Controlled Environment (CE) agriculture depends on a complex interaction of production method, systems engineering, and the yield and costs of energy, water and CO2.

WUR and TU Delft have joined forces to calculate the feasibility of vertical farms in 5 steps. The first step investigates how plants process energy in a closed cultivation system. The second step concerns the total energy demand: how much energy does vertical farming need? Step 3 focuses on optimising this energy consumption and step 4 on the integration of the vertical farm into the city. Ultimately, this information is used in step 5 to calculate the true feasibility of (urban) vertical farming.

Jack Farmer, LettUs Grow - Agri-TechE CEA speaker

Jack Farmer

Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, LettUs Grow

Jack Farmer is the Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of LettUs Grow, a start-up using innovative aeroponic technology to design the next-generation of indoor farms.
Their mission is to reduce the waste and carbon footprint of fresh produce by empowering anyone to grow delicious food near its point of consumption.

He’s a passionate advocate for the use of social enterprise, policy and the circular economy to bring about a more sustainable future. Jack specialises in controlled environment agriculture and its use as a means to reduce agricultural pressures upon natural ecosystems.

Jamie Burrows

CEO, Vertical Future

Jamie Burrows is Founder and CEO and Vertical Future, a London-based technology company specialised in controlled-environment-agriculture (CEA).
Established in 2016, Vertical Future design, build, and license advanced hardware and software technologies, with an emphasis on R&D level control, full automation, and software integration. The company have build activities across three continents, a promising research and development pipeline with numerous international collaborators, and years of growing experience building a consumer-facing brand, MiniCrops, across London.

Prior to setting up Vertical Future, Jamie spent almost a decade working in health and life sciences, including managerial and senior managerial roles at EY, Deloitte, and IMS Health. He was also seconded to the Department of Health and worked for a number of years in economic regeneration, including with the NHS. Jamie holds a BSc in Economics from the University of Buckingham, a MSc in Energy, Trade, and Finance from Cass Business School, and a Diploma in Investment Banking and Capital Markets from the Swiss Finance Academy. He is also a year away from completing a part-time PhD in Health Economics, specialising in Utility Theory.

Kate Hofman, GrowUp Farms

Kate Hofman

CEO, GrowUp Farms

GrowUp Farms is a Controlled Environment Production (CEP) business that specialises in high-care and highly automated production facilities to grow that is safer, more sustainable and tastier than traditional produce. Kate Hofman is responsible for the commercial aspects of GrowUp, having founded the company six years ago with CTO Tom Webster. In her spare time she runs around after her toddler and dog.

Mike Davies

Executive Chairman, Eider Vertical Farming

Eider Vertical Farming is reimagining farming, creating perfect environments for plants to thrive. It produces fresh, nutritious and affordable food, supplying wholesalers with a consistent, high-quality and locally grown source of supply 365 days a year.

Mike has a background in project and corporate finance and a proven track record investing in and developing energy infrastructure projects. He co-founded EVF in December 2019 as a business committed to growing differently and addressing concerns about food security, safety and sustainability. He sees CEA as a game changer in the search for innovative and more efficient ways to meet the world’s food requirements, and part of how agriculture must be reengineered to tackle climate change and soil health.

Mira Merme Agri-TechE CEA speaker

Mira Merme

Co-founder and CEO, OneFarm

Mira is co-founder and CEO of OneFarm. She is an agricultural entrepreneur having started indoor farming enterprise in the early 1980s. As CEO of London stock exchange listed company, her understanding and experience in the food sector expanded with the creation of a group of catering companies.

Understanding the impact of changing weather patterns on food production she decided that controlled environment agricultural production was an efficient way for creating additional food supply. To that purpose OneFarm has derisked a piece of the sustainable agriculture revolution and will be deploying large-scale fully circular vertical farms to provide safe, affordable, nutritious and environmentally sound food to local populations.

OneFarm is creating a ‘new category’ of affordable fresh healthy nutritious food and plant pharmaceuticals for local communities – on a global scale.

Niall Mottram

Head of Industrial & Energy, Cambridge Consultants

Niall leads Cambridge Consultants’ activities in the Agri-Tech sector. An engineer by training, Niall has led breakthrough innovation projects in multiple industry sectors, involving novel robotic, wireless and dispense technologies. He is particularly interested in the potential for technologies in adjacent sectors to make the leap into Agri-Tech, delivering the next round of yield increases while reducing environmental impact.


A limited number of exhibition spaces are available for organisations wishing to showcase new innovations, technologies or equipment in the area of Vertical Farming and Controlled Environment Agriculture.

The audience will include: farmers and growers, agronomists, retailers, estate managers, property managers,  investors, and technical providers to this exciting industry.

We are particularly keen to feature innovations with a practical and visual element so that delegates can see how they currently operate (or are expected to work) in the real world, such as growing units, medium and fertiliser samples, imaging technologies, robotics.

For more details about how to exhibit please get in contact.


Agri-Tech Explore: Controlled Environment Agriculture - The Industry is Growing Up

It’s back! Our 2019 CEA event attracted the key players in the vertical farming industry from the UK and beyond, as well as interested growers, technologists and researchers. In 2020, the world was paused, but developments continued to happen in the CEA space with progress discussed in our CEA Lite event. So we’re back and doing it again in 2021! With talks, panel sessions, discussion and exhibition opportunities, as well as an update on the progress of the global vertical farming industry, we’ll be celebrating the success so far and exploring the bottlenecks still to be busted.


This event is £50 for members of Agri-TechE, and £85 for non-members. Please note the fee is non-refundable for cancellation within 5 working days of the event. Use the link on the top right of the event listing to book; members will need to login or register for an account in order to access the member discount.

To find out more about becoming a member of Agri-TechE, please click here.

4 Basis CPD points will be available for attendees this event.

Agri-Tech Explore events are Agri-TechE’s monthly network meetings, including our Pollinator events as well as REAP and Innovation Hub. We want to ignite discussions following a topic deep dive with multiple specialists offering varied perspectives and expertise. Individuals from all sectors and disciplines welcome—whether you’re a grower, a researcher, a technical, professional service provider, an entrepreneur or completely new to the sector, come along and join in!


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February 25th, 2021 9:50 AM through  4:20 PM
Virtual Event
United Kingdom
Event Fee(s)
Event fees £85(excl VAT) Non-member £ 85.00

Articles about Controlled Environment Agriculture


Thursday 25th February
9:50 am - 4:20 pm
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