CEA Workforce Development Study: What Makes a Successful Indoor Farmer Operations Manager?

The National Science Foundation-funded research project entitled “Strategic FEW (food, energy, water) and Workforce Investments to Enhance Viability of Controlled Environment Agriculture in Metropolitan Areas” (CEA Viability in Metro Areas) seeks to help the CEA industry develop a skilled workforce that will allow it to scale. As part of this project, Anu Rangarajan’s team has conducted research to understand the workforce/labor needs of the broader hydroponics industry (greenhouse and indoor vertical farms). The project has surveyed dozens of stakeholders. In 2019, twelve industry members were brought together in an intensive Designing a Curriculum (DACUM) workshop whereby participants reflected on the skills sets required to be an Indoor Farm Operations Manager. The chart is currently being reviewed by peer growers worldwide, who are being asked to respond to how important each skill set is and how frequently it is conducted. Based on stakeholder input the chart will be used as a starting point for prioritizing training modules. Next, a deeper analysis of each skill will be conducted in order to translate this research into a teachable vocational curriculum. In this presentation, we will share preliminary research findings, outline our ongoing efforts to develop a solid empirical basis for CEA workforce development training programs, and invite GLASE webinar audience members to participate in this important study.

Anu Rangarajan (Director, Cornell Small Farm Program) in the School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University, conducts research on vegetable production and oversees a portfolio of online courses (24) and in-person training that build business and production skills of over 3,500 farmers per year. Dr. Rangarajan is a co-principal investigator of the CEA Viability in Metro Areas study. Wythe Marschall (research associate, Cornell University, and Ph.D. candidate, Department of the History of Science, Harvard University) is a final-year Ph.D. candidate in the anthropology of technology and agriculture. His dissertation examines the rise of vertical farming in New York City. Mr. Marschall is also a research associate on the INFEWS project and serves as a board member of FarmTech Society.

The GLASE Consortium Webinar Series is a selection of live recorded online presentations that cover a broad range of topics at varying technical levels and scale. The webinars are hosted by GLASE director Erico Mattos and a guest speaker: an industry or research expert. These webinars feature the latest technological innovations and best practices in the CEA field providing the audience the opportunity to discover new solutions and to connect with field experts.