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Virginia is well-suited for controlled environment agriculture, summit says

Virginia is working to be at the forefront of the fast-growing controlled environment agriculture industry. And based on information shared at this week’s CEA Summit East, it’s in good shape to achieve this goal. The event had around 230 attendees from 28 states, and it featured keynote speeches from AeroFarms CTO Roger Buelow and Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matt Lohr.  

Virginia has seen increased interest and investment in CEA recently. Two CEA companies, New Jersey-based AeroFarms, and California-based Plenty Unlimited, Inc., both located in Virginia this year. 

More examples are listed on the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s website, which calls Virginia “a top state in the CEA industry” due to access to international markets and supply chains, access to natural resources, and access to talent from the state’s many community colleges and universities.

Virginia’s deep history of agriculture also makes it well-positioned to succeed in CEA, said Kaylee South, assistant professor at Virginia Tech and member of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center in Danville. South helped organize the inaugural CEA Summit East, an event that brought together industry experts to share information and network on October 25 and 26. 

Stephen Versen, with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said the state has made “recruiting and supporting CEA a core focus of our work” during a panel at the event. 

“Agriculture is Virginia’s largest private industry by far, with nothing else coming a close second,” the VDACS website says. “Every job in agriculture and forestry supports 1.7 jobs elsewhere in Virginia’s economy.”

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