In February 2020, the Resource Innovation Institute (RII) and D+R International co-hosted the inaugural Indoor Agriculture Energy Solutions Conference (IAES Conference) held in La Jolla, California. The conference brought together market actors to shape the future of energy policies and utility programs for controlled environment agriculture (CEA) and provided a unique opportunity for attendees to influence the future of efficient indoor agriculture. This first of its kind event bridged the gap between utilities, cultivators, regulators, and equipment suppliers.
D+R and RII recognized the opportunity to connect cultivators, equipment manufacturers, utilities, and regulators to focus on energy policies and programs. CEA is rapidly intensifying electricity demand, driven by the growth of legalized cannabis and an emerging indoor agriculture industry seeking to address food deserts in urban communities. Meanwhile, states and utilities need to navigate the challenges of this fast-growing market in the absence of a federal statute for legalized cannabis. Over the past 10 years, the industry has evolved and adapted without uniformity and limited cross-collaboration, leaving regulators, utilities, and cultivators to operate in silos. Despite the clear need and desire, other CEA industry events have not focused specifically on energy efficiency policy.
To address the paramount need to connect these stakeholder groups, RII and D+R International set off to plan the inaugural IAES Conference. D+R took the lead on event management, beginning with a nationwide search for potential conference locations. Deciding among over 40 sites that responded to D+R’s Request for Proposal (RFP), we selected the San Diego Marriott in La Jolla, California. Southern California was an optimal location to discuss the impacts of energy use in CEA, as local cultivators felt alienated by municipal and state regulations, increasing the already high-operational barriers for urban and indoor horticulturalists.
D+R lead the development of conference content and managed marketing for the event. Through active collaboration, D+R and RII developed a compelling agenda for the conference by recruiting well-regarded speakers that are experienced in their fields and by curating sessions to spark meaningful discussion at the conference. Keynote Speakers included Kay Doyle, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, and Mark Lefsrud, Associate Professor at McGill University’s Biomass Production Laboratory.
The D+R team also marketed the event by:
During the event in February, D+R planned and coordinated logistics with venue staff, organized networking events for attendees, facilitated off-site tours (at Solatube International, an innovative lighting manufacturer, and Outco Cannabis Cultivation Facility, a fully operational grow operation and dispensary), supervised the conference schedule, and managed registration and check-in. Throughout the duration of the conference, D+R worked to ensure that attendees, speakers, and exhibitors’ needs were met.
The first ever IAES conference was a great success. The conference attracted nearly 200 attendees consisting of consultants, educators, policymakers, growers, manufacturers, students, utilities, and more and boasted 17 sponsors from a variety of industries.
A post attendee survey revealed attendees’ overall positive response to the conference. When asked “How likely are you to recommend this conference to a friend or colleague?” given a scale of 1-5 (1 being unlikely and 5 being very likely), 100% of respondents responded with a 3 or higher. In terms of site selection, participants were very happy with the accommodations, conference rooms and food, and overall location of the conference. Survey results also showed that attendees were happy with the balance struck between scheduled technical content and networking opportunities at the conference. Overall, IAES 2020 ran smoothly and provided a unique opportunity to connect market actors and to discuss the future of energy policy and utility programs for controlled environment agriculture. Discussions held at IAES 2020 propelled the industry to continue making strides and cross-collaborate regarding industry best practices.