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Innovation and Design in Vertical Agriculture and Sustainable Urban Ecosystems

A workshop sponsored by The U.S. Department of Agriculture & The U.S. Department of Energy

June 27 – 28, 2018

Washington D.C.


An Opportunity for Innovation

As the global population grows, so too does food demand as well as constraints on land and natural resources. By the year 2050, the world’s population will approach 10 billion people, and at least 2 out of 3 people will live in urban centers.

With this increased urbanization comes the unique opportunity to develop engineering and agricultural innovations within urban systems that sustainably stimulate growth to help meet future needs.

Vertical agriculture operations could augment production while offering lower emissions, higher-nutrient produce, and reduced water usage and runoff. And placing vertical farms in the context of a renewable urban ecosystem - where one industry’s waste is another’s raw material - could stimulate sustainable economic growth.

At this free workshop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy, representatives from the public and private sectors will identify and discuss challenges, opportunities and possibilities associated with vertical agriculture and sustainable urban ecosystems. Information on featured speakers can be found on the back page of this brochure.

The morning sessions are open to members of the public who registered by June 17. On each day of the event, they should enter USDA’s South Building through the Wing 5 entrance. Security guards there will ask for a photo ID to check against the names of registrants, and will also scan any belongings or equipment before directing registrants to the Jefferson Auditorium.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Wing 5 entrance will be open from 8 a.m.-9 a.m. on June 27, and from 8:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m. on June 28. Attendees are encouraged to arrive between those time periods, after which the Wing 5 entrance will be closed. At that point, registered attendees must go to the Wing 3 entrance to be admitted and then assigned an escort to the event.

 For additional information, please contact Sarah Federman at or David Babson at


(Agenda and Federal Registration links below)


Featured Speakers Include:

Featured Speakers, left to right: Dr. Sabine O’Hara, Dr. Dickson Despommier,Dr. Raymond Wheeler, Dr. Weslynne Ashton, Nate Storey,  Nick Starling.

Dr. Sabine O’Hara, Dean of the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES) of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC). As Dean of CAUSES, she is responsible for academic, research and community outreach programs, and is leading the UDC’s efforts to build a cutting-edge model for Urban Agriculture and Urban Sustainability that improves the quality of life and economic opportunity for urban populations. Sabine is a respected author, researcher and higher education executive, and is well known for her expertise in sustainable economic development, global education and executive leadership.

Dr. Dickson Despommier is Emeritus Professor of Public Health and Microbiology. He was born in New Orleans in 1940, and grew up in California before moving to the New York area, where he now lives and works. Dickson earned his Ph.D. degree in microbiology from the University of Notre Dame, and for 28 years conducted laboratory-based biomedical research with NIH-sponsored support at Columbia University. He has always been interested in the environment and the damages caused by our encroachment into natural systems (mostly destruction of hardwood forests to make room for agriculture).

At present, Dickson is engaged in a project whose mission is to produce significant amounts of food crops in tall buildings and situated in densely populated urban centers (see: and The Vertical Farm: feeding the world in the 21st century, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2010; paperback, Picadore Pubs. 2011). This initiative has grown in acceptance over the last five years to the point of stimulating planners and developers around the world to incorporate them into their visions for the future city. There are now hundreds of vertical farms located throughout in Europe, Korea, Japan, China, Singapore, Panama, Canada, and the United States.

Dr. Raymond Wheeler, Plant Physiologist, NASAAs the lead for Advanced Life Support Research activities at the Kennedy Space Center, Wheeler has been studying ways to grow safe, fresh food crops efficiently off the Earth. Astronauts on the International Space Station recently harvested and ate a variety of red romane lettuce that they activated and grew in a plant growth system called “Veggie.”

Dr. Weslynne Ashton, Associate Professor of Environmental Management and Sustainability, Illinois Institute of Technology Stuart School of Business. Ashton’s research focuses on industrial ecology, optimizing resource flows in socio-ecological systems, and developing entrepreneurial solutions to social and environmental challenges. She currently leads projects examining urban food system sustainability with Plant Chicago and the Chicago Food Policy Action Council.

Nate Storey, Chief Science Officer, Plenty, Inc. - Plenty is building a global network of field-scale indoor farms to transform produce from a boring commodity to a delicious movement for all. Located near communities around the world, Plenty farms will utilize cutting-edge growing technologies and proven plant science to deliver industry-leading yields of locally-grown, backyard-fresh produce. By shaving thousands of miles and weeks off the journey from farm to table, Plenty will transition agriculture to a reliable, predictable, and resource-efficient model.

Nick Starling, Chairman, Skyscraper Farm, LLC. Nick is the world’s foremost vertical farming economist.  While researching vertical farming since 2011, he has discovered a variety of improvements needed to feed the world while dramatically reducing water usage and eliminating agricultural runoff.

See the Agenda


Register Now: