CSU professors speaking on agriculture innovation at the Food and Ag Summit

Ashley Haberman

Boulder-based BizWest Media is hosting the first Food & Ag Summit, a convention bringing together Colorado’s ag and natural food organizations and companies for the latest on what is affecting the future of agriculture.

Four of Colorado State University’s top professors in the field are speaking in panels specific to their backgrounds.


“There are so many things happening with ag (agriculture): additives, pesticides, GMOs, new technologies, etc., so this is a huge opportunity,” director of events at BizWest Kimberly Willard said. “Instead of ‘we versus they,’ we are bringing the groups together and discussing what’s going on out there, what are the trends and where are the areas we have cross-overs.”

The event is happening Wednesday, March 30 from 7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. at the Ranch Events Complex in Loveland. Tickets are $49 in advance and $59 at the door and include breakfast and lunch. There are eight panels happening throughout the day and CSU agriculture professionals are going to be addressing some of the needs of the agricultural industry.

“I am on a panel to discuss GMO crops,” CSU professor of plant breeding and genetics Patrick Byrn said. “And, as you know, there is some controversy surrounding them. I think what’s interesting about this event is it’s being pitched both to the conventional ag community as well as the natural foods and organic ag community, so typically the meetings I go to are either mainstream agriculture or their organic ag, but this is going to be both, so I really don’t know what to expect.”

Professor of ecosystem studies Rich Conant will also be speaking on regenerative agricultural and agriculture innovation.

“My research here at CSU focuses on a few different things: increase the efficiency of ag production, reduced waste of ag production and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ag productions,” Conant said. “It would be great if one of the outcomes of the convention is recognition of the Front Range of Colorado as really a hub for agricultural innovation. For the panel that I am on, I hope there is some clarity for the audience members for the role that CSU and CSU researchers play in helping addressing some of the problems and constraints on agriculture.”

The six CSU professors participating in the event are speaking in the generative ag, technology trends and GMO debate panels. Along with these, the convention is presenting panels on the Food Safety Modernization Act, the challenge of finding the right people to work in this area, immigration challenges, financing and global trade.

“We live here in Fort Collins, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that there is a lot of cutting-edge stuff going on and it’s exciting,” Willard said.

According to Conant, for CSU students studying agriculture and natural resources, this convention could have a lot to offer in furthering innovation and knowledge in the Front Range community.

“We’ve become much better at agriculture,” Conant said. “But I think we need to continue to improve and I think that innovation in agriculture needs to accelerate and the fact that we have this opportunity here in the collective wisdom and knowledge and mass of producers in this kind of innovation culture — I think it could be very beneficial to CSU students in that we can increase the perspective of students who are studying agriculture and natural resources in particular and get them to think about innovation and ways to change the common practice.”

Collegian Reporter Ashley Haberman can be reached at news@collegian.com.