According to reports by USDA  53.6 million people, or 17.4 percent of the U.S. population, live in low-income, low-access regions. Regions with limited access to fresh and nourishing food supply. 

Vertical farming is an innovative approach to tackling this problem and bringing fresh produce to urban areas. While there are several companies innovating in this area, there is much to be done. Long before the vertical farms we know today started. NASA and other space agencies have been interested in and investigating how to grow a wide range of crops in controlled environment conditions.

These experts are coming together to discuss how to leverage some of their learnings to tackle some of food security challenges that face our communities today.

In this panel conversation chaired by Dr. Anabelle Broadbent NASA Scientists Dr. Ray Wheeler and Dr. Gioia Massa are joined by Industry leader Nosa Yehia to discuss CEA strategies to ensure nutritional security for years to come . 

Dr. Anabelle Broadbent, is an internationally renowned pathogenic food microbiologist, food/nutrition research scientist, biochemist, and food safety expert with over 35 years of experience working in government, private industry, and academia. Dr. Broadbent is the CEO & Founder of Verde Ops providing food science operational services and delivering food safety risk reduction strategies to plant-based and alternative protein food and beverage companies. 

 Prior to her current role, she was the President and Chief Science Officer for Fusion Farms, a hurricane-protected indoor vertical aquaponic farm she is leading the path to creating food security and food sovereignty for Puerto Rico. Fusion Farms builds and manages modern farming solutions using sustainable, controlled aquaponic environments for communities that face environmental, climatic and economic challenges. 

Dr. Broadbent’s association with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has spanned over 30 years. She began as a NASA Spaceflight & Life Sciences Training Program undergraduate researcher. Her NASA-funded graduate work examined the survival of potentially pathogenic human-associated bacteria in the rhizosphere of hydroponically-grown wheat, a NASA candidate crop for life support in long-duration space missions. Dr. Broadbent is a member of the NASA Spaceflight & Life Sciences Training Program Alumni Association, the University of South Florida Alumni Association, the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) and the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA).

Raymond Wheeler

Dr. Ray Wheeler is a plant physiologist and senior scientist at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center where he has led the advanced life support and plant research groups. 

He received a BS in astronomy from Penn State University, and an MS and Ph.D. in plant physiology from Utah State University. Ray’s research has focused on controlled environment crop production, including the use of recirculating hydroponics, crop responses to light, CO2, and measurements of canopy photosynthesis and respiration. 

Ray has been co-investigator or collaborator for experiments in the Astroculture plant unit for Shuttle, the Russian Lada plant chamber, and NASA’s Veggie and Advanced Plant Habitat growth chambers to grow fresh vegetables for the astronauts on the International Space Station. He is the author or co-author of more than 275 scientific research papers and has presented 65 domestic and 30 international invited talks.

 He has received NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, the USDA/ARS B.Y. Morrison Distinguished Lecturer Award, the American
Society for Gravitation and Space Research Founder’s Award, the AIAA Jeffries Award for Aerospace Medicine and Life Science Research, and served as Vice Chair for the Life Sciences Commission of COSPAR, the International Committee on Space Research. Ray currently serves as Chief Scientist at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Nona Yehia

An accomplished architect by training, Nona built Vertical Harvest from the ground up as North America’s first vertical hydroponic greenhouse. She also pioneered the company to focus on inclusive, customized employment for people with physical and/or intellectual disabilities alongside her co-founder Caroline Croft-Estay.  She conceived the company based on her experiences growing up with a brother with developmental disabilities, love of fresh and local food, obsession with great design and long-standing community involvement.  And her organic connection to all aspects of the enterprise continues to fuel Nona’s insight into the business and her dynamic leadership style.

Gioia Massa is a NASA scientist at Kennedy Space Center working on space crop production for the International Space Station and future exploration endeavors.  She led the science team for the Veggie validation and she heads an interdisciplinary team to study nutrition, flavor, and food safety of space-grown crops.  She has a BS in Plant Science from Cornell, a PhD in Plant Biology from Penn State, and postdoctoral research from Purdue and Kennedy Space Center.  She has worked in the areas of plant space biology and bioregenerative life support.

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