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Hydroponics: to soil or not to soil?

The continued growth of Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) and the ramifications of hydroponically grown items being eligible for organic certification will be the subject of the first announced educational session at Organic Produce Summit 2022. Hydroponics: To Soil or Not to Soil? will feature industry leaders from opposing sides of the issue discussing the current lawsuit filed against USDA, and what the future of organic hydroponics may look like.

Organic Produce Summit 2022 is a two-day event specifically designed to bring together organic fresh produce growers, shippers, and processors with retailer and buying organizations from across North America. The sixth annual event will be held July 13-14 in Monterey, CA.

In the first of two sessions dealing with CEA, panelists will discuss the “soil vs. soilless” debate from a production, as well as a legal viewpoint. The panel will explore whether hydroponic operations should continue to be exempt from the soil fertility requirement, which some believe will lead to the dilution of organic standards.

Moderated by Todd Linsky, host of Todd-versations, panelists for the session include Lee Frankel, executive director for Coalition for Sustainable Organics; Karen Archipley, co-CEO for Archi’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture; Aaron Brookes, director of sales and marketing for Jacobs Farm del Cabo; and Sylvia Wu, senior and managing attorney for the Center for Food Safety.

“It is apparent that the debate around greenhouses, soil, and where in the ethos organic fits are a few of the hottest and most polarizing topics today. Many people do not realize the ramifications of the pending lawsuit filed against the USDA, or the movement to end already allowed organic container, greenhouse, and new emerging farming technologies,” said Linsky. “We are at a crossroads moment for the industry as it relates to CEA and hydroponic growing. Will we raise the bar on agriculture technology or run from it?”

In addition to the pair of educational sessions focused on CEA, other sessions will deal with regenerative agriculture, sustainability, branded vs. private label organic offerings, and a data dive of organic fresh produce sales analysis. OPS 2022 will also include a keynote presentation, a selection of field tours for retailers and buyers, a gala opening night reception, and a sold-out trade show floor featuring over 150 producers and processors of organic fresh produce from across North America and the globe.

More information will be made available in the coming weeks as the event’s program becomes finalized. Registration to attend OPS 2022 is available at

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