Mission of the Center of Excellence
Our mission is to accelerate the global transition to indoor farming production methods that are safe and sustainable and to empower indoor and vertical farmers with the knowledge, tools and resources to build profitable businesses.
We accomplish this goal by becoming the trusted source of information on indoor and vertical farming and the go-to place for farmers, suppliers, investors, community leaders, students and all interested in indoor farming.
We invite our stakeholders to participate in our communities of practice designed to promote knowledge sharing, take advantage of programs and services for member partners, utilize our multi-vendor platform for procurement and sales, and to benefit from our soon-to-be announced online workforce training curriculum.
I believe that the Center can serve to forge mutually beneficial ties between … the existing $500 million a year mushroom industry and the rapidly developing industry of growing green indoor crops such as lettuces, herbs, and other leafy greens.
Eric W. Stein, Ph.D.
Founder and Executive Director
Dr. Stein is the Executive Director of the Center. He has a Ph.D. in business from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. in Physics from Amherst College. He is tenured faculty at Penn State and has run an small R&D indoor farm. Eric authored a year-long study of the feasibility of setting a Center of Excellence for Indoor Agriculture.
Anne H. Stein, PMP
Director of Marketing
Ms. Stein is the Director of Marketing for the Center. A graduate of Duke University, Anne has supported and lead large scale initiatives in marketing, product development and operations in the life sciences and healthcare industries. She is fully certified in project management and digital marketing, and proficient in SEO.
Staff and Contributors
Director of Special Projects
Michael Guttman is the Director of Special Projects and a blogger for the Center of Excellence. He played a pivotal role in the founding of the Center with Dr. Stein when he was Director of Sustainable Development for Kennett Township (PA). The Kennett area is the historic epicenter of the 100+ year-old US mushroom industry, today generating over $500M in yearly sales and supplying about 50% of the US fresh mushroom market, all grown in indoor vertical farms. This is Pennsylvania’s largest agricultural industry with an economic footprint of about $3B/year, and also makes Kennett the largest single concentration of vertical farming in the world. Mr. Guttman leverages his working knowledge of Kennett’s highly developed infrastructure for growing, packing, cold-storage, logistics, financing and shipping of indoor-grown produce at commodity levels to encourage the growth of all forms in indoor agriculture. Previously, Mr. Guttman was a software innovator and serial entrepreneur specializing in the architecture of large-scale distributed systems.
Social Media Specialist and PR
Ms. Wenrich helps to manage social media content and communications for the Center of Excellence. Heather has a BFA from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a year of Horticultural Studies at Texas A&M University. She has a strong interest in and love for the natural world, science, and art. She has had the good fortune to have done horticultural study trips to Costa Rica, worked at Fairchild Tropical Garden in Miami in the nursery and scientific seed collections, and volunteered at the botanical garden Roseto della Villa Reale di Monza in Italy. She enjoys the seasonal beauty of Southeastern Pennsylvania and working with plants and fungi, both indoors and out.
We appreciate the support of our Advisory Board, which is currently being reconstituted. We value the insights of growers, investors, retailers, technologists, researchers at academic institutions, and community leaders. Our board includes industry leaders with expertise in indoor farming, grow systems, lighting, packaging, plant science, law, real estate, and all areas related to indoor farming. Thank you!
Paul Brentlinger is President of CropKing Inc., based out of Lodi, OH. He has extensive knowledge of growing high-quality food products and is a controlled environmental agriculture expert who has spoken at the University of Florida, Indoor-Ag Con, Cultivate and a variety of other conferences. Having been in business for over 35 years, CropKing is the leader in commercial hydroponics and growing systems, with many techniques and practices applicable to a wide variety of crops. Under Paul’s leadership, CropKing consults for new operations, manufactures greenhouses and hydroponic systems, and distributes a variety of products in supports of both cannabis and produce growers around the globe.
Erick Bandala, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Professor, DRI
Dr. Bandala is Assistant Research Professor for Advanced Water Technologies at Desert Research Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering; MSc in Organic Chemistry, and BEng in Chemical Engineering. His research interests in Environmental Engineering include A) The Water-Energy-Food NEXUS; B) Water Security; C) International Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (IWASH); D) Advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) for environmental restoration; E) Synthesis, characterization and application of nanomaterials for environmental restoration; G) Development of Climate Change adaptation methodologies for water security. Dr. Bandala is author or co-author of 99 peer-reviewed papers in international journals (average impact factor 2.7, >3,040 citations, h-index 27); 5 books, 27 book chapters and 65 works published in proceedings of international conferences.
Matt Taylor, Ph.D.
Director of Research and Conservation, Longwood Gardens
Matt Taylor is Director of Research and Conservation in the Horticulture Department at Longwood Gardens. He provides leadership for Longwood’s Research, Land Stewardship and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Programs. These programs encompass horticultural, conservation and restoration research; plant breeding, curation, exploration, and trials; management of 600 acres of woodlands, meadows, wetlands, agricultural lands; a soil and composting facility; and soils, tissue culture, research and IPM laboratories. Matt teaches plant propagation in Longwood’s Professional Horticulturist and Continuing Education programs. He has a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture from Penn State, Master of Science in Horticulture from the University of Florida and PhD in Horticulture from North Carolina State University with minors in Soil Science and Plant Pathology. Matt was also the Head Grower for Wooding’s Greenhouses in Central, PA and is a two-time winner of the Alex Laurie Award for horticulture research.
Robert Ty Howard
Managing Partner, Zeus
Ty Howard is currently the Managing Partner of Zeus. He previously served as the CEO of Wembley, Inc. a gaming and real estate company until its sale for $540 million. He also was Executive Vice President of AIMCO a large apartment REIT responsible for its value add improvements and founder of Reading Australia a publicly traded theater and retail developer. He started his career with Trammell Crow in Silicon Valley. Graduate of Stanford Graduate School of Business and Harvard Law School.
National Account Manager - Horticulture
Kyle currently serves as National Account Manager at WestRock focusing on helping growers create superior packaging, labels and merchandising solutions. Kyle started his career as a grower in both aquaponic and hydroponic operations focusing on leafy greens and lettuce production. He later created PonicJobs.com as a recruitment resource for the CEA industry. After joining BrightFarms in 2015, he worked his way up to Key Account Manager for the company, focusing on the sale of produce to supermarket chains and distribution channels. After 2 years, Kyle took a position with Hort Americas as a Sales Manager focusing on substrates, fertilizers, and LED lighting sales to CEA growers. Kyle also partnered with the CropTalk Media podcasts to create #KyleTalksAgTech, a new segment that focuses on CEA, vertical farms, and greenhouse technology as well as CEA leaders.
President, Green Sense Farms
Mr. Colangelo is a scientist, author and entrepreneur focused on the environmental industry. He has developed a market-based philosophy to solve environmental challenges. He has been at the forefront of several emerging markets including: groundwater and soil remediation, environmental due diligence, commercialization of Soviet defense technologies, brownfield redevelopment, Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) and propagation of hemp plantlets.
Currently he serves as the host for the national syndicated radio show Green Sense, CEO of Green Sense Farms Holdings, Inc., and founder of Hemplet Farms, LLC. He has appeared on TV, radio and been quoted in numerous newspapers and B2B magazines. He has spoken at numerous conferences on brownfield redevelopment, sustainability and CEA and testified to Congress in support of brownfield legislation. He has worked extensively in the Former Soviet Union, China, Europe and North America.
Director, Manufacturing & Advanced Industries | City of Philadelphia
Altoro Hall is the Director of Manufacturing & Advanced Industries for the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Commerce. He is often on the front line leading strategy for both attracting new companies to the city, as well as helping to grow, expand and retain businesses within Philadelphia’s manufacturing sector. Altoro has been considered a keystone person throughout his career for the impact he has had.
Victoria is a junior at Cornell University studying Plant Science and Business. She became interested in indoor farming first through the sustainability aspect and is now looking to analyze the business and economics of it. At Cornell, she works in a Controlled Environment Agriculture lab with a focus on lighting and its effect on various crop yields. She looks forward to giving outreach support to the Center of Excellence and learning through experience.
This web site and the online marketplace are just the beginning. We envision the Center to include online events and training, an administrative home, and production facilities for design, workforce development and business model testing.
We are currently raising capital for an indoor farm to demonstrate effective production design paired with a training facility. We are also working on the creation of curriculum to support workforce development.
How We Got Started
The Center is the outgrowth of a year-long study of the feasibility of setting up a Center of Excellence for Indoor Agriculture.
More than 200 stakeholders from industry, local and state governments, mushroom farmers and vertical farmers, universities, and economic development groups contributed to the study. The study concluded that a Center had the potential to accelerate the growth of all forms of indoor farming.
An Executive Summary of the report can be found here.
The Center of Excellence for Indoor Agriculture (TM) was founded in 2019 in the greater Philadelphia area. The Center is proximate to downtown Philadelphia, the mushroom industry in Chester County, PA, the Ports of Philadelphia and Delaware, and the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market.
The feasibility study and the start of the Center is due to the efforts and support of several people and organizations. Many thanks to the boards of Kennett township, New Garden township, and Kennett Square for supporting the study. We also express our thanks to Tony Scheivert, manager of New Garden, and Joe Scalise, Borough manager of Kennett Square for their efforts.
We also express our deep gratitude to Michael Guttman, the former Director of the Office of Sustainable Development of Kennett Township for his insights and efforts. Without him, the project would never have gotten off the ground. Special appreciation for Chris Alonzo of Pietro Industries for his tireless efforts on behalf of the mushroom farming community and in support of the project.
Leaders at several organizations wrote letters on our behalf, which was most appreciated and who are listed below. Finally, several organizations contributed their time and ideas to the feasibility study. We are grateful for all of these contributions.
Letters of Support
- Paul Redman, CEO, Longwood Gardens
- Dean Mark Rieger, University of Delaware
- P. Timothy Phelps, Executive Director, TMACC
- Mary Hutchins, Executive Director, Kennett Square
- Russell Redding, Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture
- Tom Killion, Pennsylvania Senate
- Stephen Barrar, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
- Paul Brentlinger, CEO, Cropking
- Vincent Kimura, CEO, Smartyields
- Maarten Vandecruz, CEO, Urban Crop Solutions
- Eric Eisele, CEO, Growflux
- Ian Kanski, President, Intag
- Kyle Barnett, Hort Americas
- Lincoln University
- University of Delaware
- Penn State
- DelVal University
- University of Arizona
- Longwood Gardens
- Southmill Farms
- Pietro Industries
- Phillips Mushrooms
- Organic Mushrooms
- Oakshire Mushrooms
- Vertical Harvest
- Urban Crop Solutions
- Pegasus Agriculture
- Independence LED
- Bright Agrotech
- Cultivated Power
- Agritecture Consulting
- Overbrook Center
- Economy League
- Hort Americas
- Fluence Bioengineering
- Buona Foods
- Solar Cities
- BoxCar Central
- Envirotech Cultivation
- Intag Systems
- Chester County Economic Development Council
- Senate of PA
- PA House of Reps
- Chester Water Authority
- Route 1 Economic Development Initiative
- City of Philadelphia
- PA Dept of Ag
- Historic Kennett Square