December 5-6, 2017
UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center
14625 CR 672, Wimauma, FL 33598
The 2017 Florida Protected Agriculture and Hydroponics Conference is being held to bring together growers, educators, researchers, and allied industry for businesses using some form of protected ag to produce vegetables and fruit crops. Protected ag, for this conference, is intended to include production in a greenhouse, high tunnel, low tunnel, shade houses, or screened structures. This conference is hosted by UF IFAS Extension and is supported by a Specialty Crop Block Grant from Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The conference will feature: a tour of the protected ag research projects at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast REC, a discussion and proposal to create a Florida Protected Agriculture Association, an industry trade show, and evening social, and a full day educational program including a grower speaker panel.
This conference, including a proposal to form a new association, is being offered in response to the increasing interest in protected agriculture in Florida. A recent survey shows the industry has expanded 4-5 times from what it was 10 years ago. The survey reveals a very diverse industry in terms of sizes of operations, crops being grown, as well as types of structures being used and crops being grown. Crops include: leafy greens, tomato, pepper, cucumber, herbs, strawberry, and blueberry to mention just a few. Much of the industry sells the product locally or at least inside the state of Florida to serve the consumer demands for specialty crops of the nearly 20 million consumers here in the state.
The educational program will include: presentations on the latest protected ag and hydroponic research being conducted at the University of Florida IFAS facilities across the state to include variety trials, integrated pest management and crop culture; an overview of the economics of protected ag; opportunities in Farm to School sales; and a panel discussion with experienced growers looking at the challenges and opportunities of this industry in Florida.
Over the past few years, there has been interest and discussions among leaders in the industry regarding the formation of a new association to best meet the specific and unique needs of this industry. The conference planning committee and key industry leaders have been working on a set of proposed by laws to present to the attendees at this conference and to gauge the level of interest in forming such an association. The association could serve as a conduit for educational information, guide research priorities, stay on top of regulatory issues affecting the industry, serve as a voice on political issues, and encourage the improvement of the industry in other ways.
We look forward to seeing you on December 5th and 6th at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center near Balm, FL. For additional questions, you may call Bob Hochmuth at 386-362-1725 ext 103 or by email at email@example.com; or contact Christine Cooley at 813-419-6670 or firstname.lastname@example.org