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Controlled Environment Agriculture – The Industry is Growing Up

Thursday 25th February 2021 @ 9:50 am - 4:20 pm

Controlled Environment Agriculture

Agri-TechE has seen the Controlled Environment Agriculture 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.



£50 + VAT members

£85 + VAT non members


09.30 – 10.00      Event platform opens

A chance to explore the exhibition and to network with other attendees


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, Wageningen University and Research

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

An opportunity to use the Speed Networking to ‘bump’ into other attendees to network as well as schedule 1:1 meetings


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.  

Featuring a showcase of some of the UKs most innovative vertical farming SMEs.


12.30 – 14.00     Lunch

A chance to browse the exhibition and network. Don’t miss your chance to listen to an exclusive podcast with Max MacGillivray (Redfox Executive) and Barry Robterson (Airponix) discussing recruitment and skills in Controlled Environment Agriculture.


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 – 15.15     Break


15.15 – 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  

John Oswald, CEO, Method Europe

Mira Merme, CEO, OneFarm


16.15 – 16.20    Closing Comments


16.20 – 17.00    Networking

Final opportunity to visit exhibition stands as well as network with other attendees and speakers.

17.00                    Event platform closes

Speakers include

Founder and Director, Green Lab

Ande Gregson

Founder and Director, Green Lab

Ande has 25+ years of experience working in high growth industries including Apple, Yahoo, UK Telecoms, Media, TV and early stage start-ups. He has an active interest in developing projects that have sustainable and positive ecological impact on the planet. Founder of Green Lab (www.greenlab.org) as well as Fab Lab London (www.fablablondon.org), he is currently developing new Green Lab propositions for early stage sustainable business incubation, innovative agriculture and new materials development. East London Innovators Winner in 2019, Ande is a thought leader at the forefront of innovation when it comes to tackling waste, sustainable materials research and improving our food systems.

Marketing Director, G’s Fresh

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.

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

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.

CEO, Vertical Future

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.

John Oswald, Method

John Oswald

CEO, Method Europe

One of the disparate founders of the ‘Business Design’ concept of human-centred innovation, John now leads Method, a design agency which doesn’t just design and build digital products but also tries to think ahead about the future, and how what we eat plays a role in that.

John moved to Essex just before lockdown and has been enjoying having a bit more space to run and grow things in, although gets too distracted by sourdough baking and the history of jazz music to seriously take to growing vegetables.


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.

Executive Chairman, Eider Vertical Farming

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.

Head of Industrial & Energy, Cambridge Consultants

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.


Exhibition spaces are available for member organisations wishing to showcase new innovations, technologies or equipment in the area of Vertical Farming and Controlled Environment Agriculture. These exhibition spaces are free for our members with the purchase of a ticket to attend (£50+VAT).

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

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

Exhibitors include



As the agri-food space becomes increasingly technology driven, organisations in this sector are suddenly faced with the challenge of recruiting specialists from other domains to drive their visions forward – Software Developers, Data Magicians, AI Specialists, Engineers, Scientists, Commercial staff with specific knowledge areas and more.

Combining a background in tech recruitment with in-depth knowledge of the agri world, AgRecruit specialises in supporting such companies when it comes to finding and attracting these hard-to-find technical and commercial professionals, permanent and contract.

Whether you’re an innovator in the vertical farming space seeking specialists to join your organisation, or an individual looking for your next career move in this arena, talk to AgRecruit on their stand.

Member profileagrecruit-ltd.com  |  @AgRecruiterSam

Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing - CEA Growing Up Exhibitor

Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing

Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing is a leading publisher of the latest research in agricultural science and technology. Its editors and authors are some of the world’s leading experts in their field. It has published 75 books and 1000 chapters which provide authoritative literature reviews of key topics in achieving climate-smart agriculture.

Member profile  |  bdspublishing.com  |  @bdspublishing

Cambridge Consultants

Cambridge Consultants

Cambridge Consultants is a partner to the ambitious. It is the secret ingredient, applying market insight and technical expertise to transform clients’ businesses, through development of world-changing products and services.

The company delivers innovative firsts in global markets including agri-tech, where it works with clients to improve yields, reduce costs and advance harvesting efficiencies. With advanced capabilities in AI, robotics, sensor development, fluid mechanics and wireless communications, Cambridge Consultants helps companies to deliver on the promise of precision agriculture through intelligent closed loop control systems.

With a team of more than 900 staff, including engineers, scientists, mathematicians and designers, offices in San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Cambridge (UK), Tokyo and Singapore, Cambridge Consultants offers solutions across a diverse range of industries. Come and talk to us to find out how we can assist your business.

Member profile  |  cambridgeconsultants.com  |  @CambConsultants

Food Enterprise Park - CEA Growing Up Exhibitor

Food Enterprise Park

The Food Enterprise Park is part of the Norwich Food Enterprise Zone a few miles from the Norwich Research Park. It provides “Room to Grow”, the regional food and drink cluster of innovation, production and distribution, so business can access modern roads infrastructure and nurture new opportunities to add value into the food supply chain.

With full planning permission and site infrastructure in place it is the place and space to re-locate your business or site your new facility.

foodenterprisepark.co.uk  |  @enterprise_food

Innovation Agri-Tech Group

Innovation Agri-Tech Group

Step inside the IAG facility in Berkshire and you will be able to experience our pioneering, unique, aeroponic vertical farming technology.

10,000sq feet of scalable, food secure, indoor farming space which allows us to grow commercially in a controlled environment.  We offer a proven solution to enhance crop productivity and yield, alongside R & D trial space.  IAG promote Vertical Farming as an additional solution to the current challenges facing our British agriculture industry in 2021 and beyond.

These industry challenges can only be countered by collaboration with memberships like Agri-TechE , its excellent team and network.

Member profile  |  iagri-tech.com |  @iAgriTech

JP Trett - CEA Growing Up Exhibitor

JP Trett

JP Trett Ltd specialises in Board and C level professional sectors of Agricultural Consultancy to include various industries: Agriculture, Agri-Business, Horticulture, Machinery, Agro-Chemical, Crop Science, Equine, Veterinary, Livestock, Fresh Produce and Overseas Recruitment. Our Executive Recruitment Experts have first-hand experience and knowledge in their sector with qualifications and training enabling them to be Executive Recruitment experts.

With multi-office locations within the UK and Associates based overseas, we are able to reach out to all industries and talent within. We are also co-founders of the International Agribusiness Recruitment Alliance. Experienced recruiters in the UK, Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa as well as Australia and New Zealand.

Member profile  |  jptrett.com@JPTrett

LettUs Grow

LettUs Grow

By 2050 we’ll have 2 billion more mouths to feed. This will need to be done with less farmland, degraded soil and in an unstable climate. Indoor farming offers a climate-resilient solution to grow fresh produce consistently and sustainably.

LettUs Grow’s patent-pending technology represents a step-change in efficiency for the indoor farming sector. It can grow fresh produce without soil, all-year-round and in any environment – from cities to deserts – with minimal impact on the planet. The technology has shown growth rate increases of 70% over hydroponics and uses up to 95% less water than traditional agriculture. An easy-to-use software platform, Ostara®, provides data automation, optimisation and business planning tools to farmers, helping to maximise yields and minimise labour and resource use.

There are many applications for the technology including urban and traditional farms, food corporations and research centres. For example, farms could be located in food distribution centres to minimise food miles, keep food fresher for longer and reduce protective packaging. This would reduce the carbon footprint of fresh produce while simultaneously slashing both food and packaging waste.

Member profile  |  lettusgrow.com  |  @LettUsGrow

Light Science Technologies

Light Science Technologies

Light Science Technologies are passionate about delivering lighting, science and research-proven plant monitoring solutions that helps growers grow more with less.

Since 2019, we have partnered with world-leading university research teams, to create the perfect crop recipe no matter what environment – including vertical farming, containers, polytunnels, greenhouses and medicinal plants.

Our patent pending nurturGROW luminaire  and sensor products provide growers with long term sustainable solutions helping them control cost, improve efficiency and increase yield.


Member profilelightsciencetech.com@LightScienceTec



MMP helps companies to maximise the potential of their innovations.

SMEs, start-ups and established large businesses can all benefit from their Intellectual property (IP) through IP planning. MMP’s experts will be waiting on the stand to discuss how they take a wider view of IP, grants and technology-based incentives and the positive impact they can have on your business.

MMP combine specialist knowledge of IP planning, grants and technology tax incentives with practical experience in engineering and scientific disciplines. It applies these skills in a client-centric way to ensure clients meet their goals. MMP works with companies of all sizes with a particular interest and knowledge of the agri-tech sector.

mmp-tax.co.uk  |  @MMPTax



NIAB is the UK’s fastest growing crop-science research centre. Founded in 1919, NIAB has a long-standing reputation for excellence in plant varieties and seeds. Today, NIAB’s scientific capabilities span crop improvement pipelines from improving plant genetics for yield and resilience through to using its extensive trials data to underpin agronomy inputs and advice transferred onto farm.

Improving soil health/resilience is another key capability and builds on waste prevention/valorisation at NIAB’s Eastern Agritech Innovation Hub (EAIH). NIAB is at the forefront of plant physiology, genetics, pathology, breeding, soil science, precision agronomy and data science; applied across arable, forage and horticulture sectors, with renowned experts in each of these fields.

NIAB developed the EAIH near Soham and is now building ‘Barn4’, an agritech incubator on its Cambridge campus.  Both EAIH and Barn4 allow start-ups to benefit from excellent facilities and a close relationship with the NIAB team and it is actively seeking new licensees.

Member profile  |  niab.com  |  @niabgroup



REDFOX is an executive recruitment consultancy operating in the Fresh Produce, Agri-Business, Horticulture & Food Retail Sectors both in the UK & Internationally. We have a track record of working with a number of the leading Vertical Farming and protected cropping success stories to source them key individuals to further accelerate their growth. Come and see us to find out how we can assist your business.

Member profile  |  redfoxexecutive.com  |  @redfoxexec

University of Essex REAP

University of Essex

The University of Essex has one of the UK’s leading plant productivity research groups, and impressive credentials in the area of plant research. Some potential applications of its research include: monitoring techniques to determine crop physiology, performance and plant health; technologies and know-how to manipulate plant growth and post-harvest performance; and genome-wide methods for discovering and exploiting productivity traits for molecular breeding programmes.  At the event the Plant Productivity Group will be showcasing “Hy4Dense- Developing hydroponic systems for vegetables sown at high density” – this is a partnership with NIAB (UK), Howest (Belgium), Inagro (Belgium) and Proeftuin Zwaagdijk (The Netherlands) to deliver an Interreg 2Seas project funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

The Hy4Dense project showcases how the University fosters flexibility and innovation in proposing ideas and working with clients to find solutions to problems, aiming to foster a professional relationship around R&D projects focused on solving specific problems and/or creating new commercial opportunities.

Member profile  |  www.essex.ac.uk  |  @UoE_Business @EPIC_Essex

Articles about Controlled Environment Agriculture


Thursday 25th February 2021
9:50 am - 4:20 pm
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