Review: FarmTek’s First-Ever CEA School
Last month, we hosted our very first three-day CEA School. This event combined hydroponics, fodder production and aquaponics into a hands-on learning experience for growers of all experience levels. The CEA School was held at our Technology Center in Dyersville, IA, and hosted by our greenhouse team, Sam Shroyer and Brittany Orris. Participants traveled from 13 states, making it a great networking event and learning experience.
Attendees were able to work with industry professionals from companies we do business with, as well as growing specialists from Iowa State Extension offices. Representatives came from LumiGrow, HANNA, Link 4 and Johnson Gas to share their product knowledge and tips for hydroponic growing. Specialists from Iowa State included members from the local food, marketing, aquaculture, dairy, horticulture and value-added agriculture divisions. Many of the attendees were growers who shared their stories and ideas with the group. FarmTek staff members also joined in on the activities so customers will be able to put faces with names next time they call in.
Each day, attendees were able to get hands-on experience with hydroponic growing systems. From the construction of the system to planting and harvesting, attendees worked with every facet of the systems. Day one focused on hydroponic growing. Presentations were given by LumiGrow and HANNA Instruments. Attendees planted and harvested the NFT Lettuce System, set up Dutch buckets and irrigation systems. We also covered pH meter calibration and water test analysis to round out the day.
On day two, the focus was fodder production. Presentations were made by three members of the ISU team on marketing tools and resources, economic analysis of fodder and insect and pest control. We were also able to set up a video conference with the fodder team members in our CT office for a question and answer session. A great highlight of the day was tasting wheatgrass juice produced by the Fodder-Pro 2.0 Feed System.
On the final day of the CEA School, we covered aquaponics. Two more ISU members presented on aquaponics research and marketing consideration and business planning. We were able to take a look at the aquaponics system construction going on in our greenhouse and discuss harvesting tips and food safety concerns.
Overall, we would consider the first CEA School a huge success. It was so successful, in fact, that we added an additional event to this year’s calendar. We will be hosting another CEA School this June! Registration is currently open, so call 800.327.6835 ext. 795 to reserve your spot now. This event was a great meeting of the minds, and we hope that the future CEA Schools bring up as many great ideas as this one did!