The CEA Food Safety Coalition, founded in 2019 to develop industry-wide food safety standards for indoor leafy greens growers, is expanding its mission to address the wider needs of all controlled environment food growers. Alongside that effort, the association is rebranding.
“With a new name and mission, the new Controlled Environment Agriculture Alliance – ‘CEA Alliance’ – will expand its membership to serve growers delivering the freshest, best-tasting and most nutritious fruits and vegetables to consumers, with the least environmental impact; reducing use of water, land and other scarce resources; and employing the most rigorous practices to ensure the safety of our products,” said Tom Stenzel, executive director of the Alexandria, Va.-based association.
Members include a wide variety of both indoor vertical farms and greenhouse growers. The alliance’s board of directors consists of Marc Oshima, co-founder and chief marketing officer, AeroFarms; Katie Seawell, chief commercial Officer, Bowery Farming; Tim Cunniff, co-founder and EVP-sales, Little Leaf Farms; Todd Linsky, Superior Fresh/TLC; Dinesh Babu, VP of food safety and compliance, Revol Greens; Matt Lingard, VP for agriculture and science, Bright Farms; and Dan Malech, SVP, strategy and general counsel, Plenty.
In addition to continuing its support of food safety standards for indoor-grown produce, the CEA Alliance will grow its portfolio of services to include public policy advocacy, support for sustainability and climate-smart agriculture, and support of retail and foodservice companies in delivering differentiated produce to consumers.
Controlled-environment growers employ a variety of agricultural production methods and technology, among them indoor vertical farms and glass greenhouses with environmental controls. Growers use such innovative technologies as hydroponics, aeroponics, aquaponics and soil-based systems to grow a wide variety of specialty crops.
The alliance will work to establish consistent metrics for measuring and communicating that controlled-environment agriculture is good for consumers, the environment, communities and the food system, in collaboration with its stakeholders and in compliance with existing recognized global standards. These metrics will be measurable, transparent and verifiable, enabling companies to communicate credibly with consumers and other stakeholders about their operations.
“Transparency with our customers and end consumers is an important part of our culture,” observed Stenzel. “Consumers can count on CEA growers to seek continuous improvement in growing the most sustainable, nutritious, and freshest produce possible, using the very highest standards for food safety and quality.”
Stenzel also noted that CEA grocers would work with traditional outdoor growers to boost fruit and vegetable consumption.
The alliance previously worked with a retail advisory committee, but will now add a new membership category for retail and foodservice companies, joining with CEA growers, their business service providers, and government and academic researchers as key participants in the association.
Having recently supported the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture in adopting a policy position in support of investment in CEA agriculture, the CEA Alliance will hold its first federal public policy meeting in February 2023 in Washington, D.C. to brief policymakers on opportunities in the 2023 Farm Bill and future legislation.