Dutch greenhouse

Ag-tech leaders Autogrow and Agritecture Consulting have launched their second Annual Global CEA Census, focused on understanding the impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic on controlled environment agriculture (CEA).

“We’re all operating in a unique situation right now and what’s required is a reality check,” said Autogrow chief executive Darryn Keiller. “All of us, including growers, suppliers, distributors, government and financial institutions, need a clear view of what should be implemented, ensuring farm operators address a raft of challenges to continue to feed communities.”

The 2019 census reported on several areas including growth plans, agricultural experience, and profitability. This year, the census will focus specifically on Covid-19 and whether decisions indicated last year have been affected.

“In 2019, we found 90 per cent of respondents planned to increase their production area. We’re curious as to whether that is still the case, and if not, what other business changes are being implemented due to Covid-19,” says Agritecture founder and chief executive, Henry Gordon-Smith.

“The future is going to be about maintaining the health of workers, alongside the health of the business. Consumers will be looking for transparency around food sourcing, sustainable and local producers, and this is an opportunity for the CEA industry to take a lead in what will be our new normal.”

Pointing to recent figures released by the World Health Organization and media coverage from around the world, Keiller said there had been a high Covid-19 infection rate amongst farm workers, coupled with major challenges in getting traditional seasonal labour across closed international and domestic borders.

“It will take accelerated engagement between industry stakeholders to get us through the next 12 months and on into the future,” Keiller explained.

“Some farm operators have adapted well, whereas others will require additional financial intervention and modernize their approach to farming. We hope this Census will highlight the true impact of what’s happening and where the priorities lie.”

The 2020 Annual Global CEA Census will run from 7 July–10 August 10 (2020).