Aglanta 2017, the first ever Urban Agriculture Conference held in Atlanta, was truly exceptional. As members of Engineers for a Sustainable World’s Hydroponics research team, we thought attending this conference would be a great way to network with the controlled environment agriculture (CEA) community, as well as with sustainability professionals in Atlanta. Thanks to a subsidized tickets from Serve-Learn-Sustain and student discounts from Blue Planet Consulting, who put on this event on with the City of Atlanta’s Office of Sustainability, 10 members from our organization were able to attend. The conference hosted a vast array of attendees from all different walks of life and skill sets, and there was something to be learned from every person. Through the networking events, we were able to meet and talk with current entrepreneurs promoting various products related to the field along with prospective entrepreneurs looking to learn more and build their knowledge-base. We were able to start many collaborations with the people we met, including receiving a Plus+ Farm donation that we hope to set up in a building on campus to educate students about hydroponics and local food.
There were several morning workshops that kicked off the conference, beginning with some that explained the basics of various hydroponic systems, leading all the way to characteristics of light that is most beneficial for gardens. Not only were these morning sessions interesting and full of insight, it was a great avenue to meet and talk with this friendly community.
What we found to be most informative, however, was the structured panel about Shuttered Urban Farms. With the former CEOs of PodPonics and FarmedHere along with a former employee of Local Garden, invaluable advice was provided during the entire session. The panelists were prompted about the successes, failures, and struggles of their respective companies and chose to give additional advice they saw fit for prospective urban farmers. As current urban farmers with hopes of starting our own farm one day, hearing this advice was priceless.
The keynote speech given by Stephen Ritz, founder of the Green Bronx Machine, really was an eye opener for many. The benefits of growing local produce is beneficial for the environment and our health, but Stephen Ritz’s caring approach has allowed him to change an entire community. An area that had formerly been crime-ridden, with an underperforming school, has been revamped to be the opposite. The streets are cleaner, children are better educated, and there is fresh produce available. All of this was made possible by Stephen Ritz introducing hydroponics and urban agriculture into the lives of children. I encourage you to watch his TED Talk, as he is highly inspirational with what he has achieved.
The closing portion of the conference was a youth pitch competition, in which our own Engineers for Sustainable World leaders were selected. Both Nicole Kennard and Jamie Curtis presented their innovative ideas in their prepared 5 minute slots. Both gave excellent pitches that were innovative and captivating. It was great to close out this event with Jamie Curtis selected as the winner of the pitch competition!
Overall, the conference was a great success. The entire event was well organized, and accomplished many missions. we truly look forward for the future of this event, as there was a lot of great information shared.
Darryl Oswald, a 1st year Civil Engineering Major, and Siva Movva, a 4th year Aerospace Major are active members of Engineers for a Sustainable World and work on the ESW Hydroponics Project.