Top business and industry leaders from Florida, New York, and Israel convened this week in West Palm Beach for the inaugural Palm Beach International Agricultural Summit, an event designed to raise awareness about the county’s $1.41 billion ag industry, address modern farming and its role in advancing Florida’s economy and quality of life. The Summit was presented by the Economic Council of Palm Beach County (ECPBC) and co-hosted by the Florida Chamber Foundation and Palm Beach County. More than 1000 people were in attendance.
ECPBC Chair Wendy S. Link, and Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam both gave speeches to open the event, and a series of sessions featuring an impressive roster of speakers followed immediately. Speakers included Temperince Morgan of The Nature Conservancy; Cory Reed of John Deere; Wells Fargo Chief Agricultural Economist Michael Swanson; and Shabtai Cohen, Ph.D., from the Volcani Center, who shared some of Israel’s farming innovations.
“Our key objectives were to educate the public about the county’s agriculture industry, which ranks among the top ten highest counties for agricultural revenue in the nation, and help foster a network of agricultural and non-agricultural businesses to advance the economy,” said Link. “Through this sold-out event we accomplished our goal and hopefully inspired the next gen of farmers through our engaging educational component.”
More than 300 elementary and high school students from throughout Palm Beach County were also in attendance and engaged in several different hands-on activities and breakout sessions with industry leaders. Younger students learned about the importance of agriculture through eight interactive stations on topics including hydroponics, advanced robotics, and the importance of pollinator health, and Justin Timineri, Chef for the Florida Department of Agriculture’s “Fresh from Florida” program, helped students create their own personal parfaits. A teen program called Growing our Futures addressed certification and degree requirements for various positions in the agriculture industry, including a rising demand for drone pilots.
Fabiola Brumley, chair of the summit and Palm Beach County market president for Bank of America, closed out the day with exciting news on how the bank is investing in green bonds and agtech.
“Farming is such a critically important industry for the state,” Brumley said. “It’s prudent and responsible to address the opportunities, challenges and changing technologies inherent in farming today so we can set the stage for agriculture to thrive and meet the demand for food around the world.”