NYC AgTech Week Underway

From by Stacey McFadin
NYC AgTech Week Underway

NYC AgTech Week is taking place in New York City, September 19 to September 24. The conference has more than 18 events highlighting both for-profit and nonprofit urban agricultural innovations across the City’s five boroughs. “If you can grow it here, then you can grow it anywhere,” said NYC AgTech Week organizer Henry Gordon-Smith at the kick-off panel. 

Gordon-Smith’s introduction provided a lead-in to the week’s first event, a diverse panel of experts moderated by Dr. Charles Platkin of Hunter College. The panelists included Katherine Soll of Teens for Food Justice, Jason Green of Edenworks, Robert Laing of Farm.One, Ed Harwood of AeroFarms, and Stephen Ritz of Green Bronx Machine.

Urban agriculture continues to grow, in New York and around the globe. There are at least one billion urban farmers around the globe producing fruits and vegetables and raising livestock in peri-urban and urban areas in rich and poor countries alike.

In New York, legislation has not always kept pace with technological changes in urban agriculture. According to Green, “you have to hold this start-up industry to standards of big farm legislation.” In addition, Harwood acknowledged the need for increased emphasis on food safety as the industry grows to prevent the outbreak of foodborne illnesses, such as listeria. “As an industry, you are always in danger of the worst actors,” said Harwood.

The panel also discussed the increasing interest of big companies, such as Monsanto, in funding agricultural technology projects. While a certain amount of caution prevailed among the panelists, Green expressed optimism that such investment in technologies “was moving toward ecological innovations and data.”

Soll, who leads the nonprofit Teens for Food Justice, reported that youth get excited to prepare and eat food grown through her program. “Parents’ purchasing decisions are driven by what they think their kids will eat,” she said. According to her, parents who see this excitement in growing food from their children are more willing to take a risk with their food dollars on a healthy option. Stephen Ritz has also seen an impact in his community. “When you teach kids about nature, you teach kids to nurture,” he said. When asked whether urban agriculture could solve food security problems, Ritz remarked, “It’s game-changing.”

NYC AgTech Week 2016 runs through September 24.