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Anticipation Building For Produce Industry’s Largest Gathering

The Global Produce and Floral Show will be the first time for the industry to come together under the new International Fresh Produce Association. 

Scheduled for Oct. 27-29 in Orlando, Florida, it will be the largest gathering of the year for the global produce and floral supply chain to connect and do business, according to IFPA CEO Cathy Burns.

Burns said the show will be a time of celebration – of members coming together again, of the new association providing “a strong and singular voice for the industry” and of showcasing the accomplishments and contributions of IFPA’s volunteer leaders and industry companies.

What’s new

While the October show builds on the success and familiarity of the previous associations – United Fresh and PMA, there will be several new elements this year based on members’ feedback.

When IFPA launched in January, it wasn’t about just bringing United Fresh and PMA together, it was transforming how to approach the business of the association, said Burns, adding that they were applying that same spirit to the show.

“We’re encouraging our members to not only show up but show out in a big, big way. Honestly, that’s part of the magic – igniting innovation,” she said.

In addition to the connections and networking at the show, an important component is “the innovation and creativity that comes to life…and that’s all driven by our volunteer leaders.” 

Burns said IFPA’s first call for volunteer leaders garnered more than 1,100 responses, which led to the creation of working groups, task forces, committees and councils, many of which will be meeting at the show.

One of the new groups launched this year is the Controlled Environment Agriculture Committee. 

“CEA has massive potential for the produce industry,” Burns said. “The vision of a CEA farm is high tech, with advanced automation, AI-driven solutions and more. And the volunteer leaders that will serve on this committee will have the opportunity to really shape the future of farming by serving in this way.”

Also at the show will be the introduction of the new slate of the IFPA Board of Directors and recognizing those who are retiring from the panel.

The show expo is evolving and has been reimagined. Many grower-shippers who attend and exhibit at the show also like to meet with business solutions providers (companies that support growing operations). In the past, however, they have had to schedule time away from their booths to do so.

This year, IFPA is opening the business solutions provider segment of the show for two hours on Oct. 27, the day before the rest of the show opens, and right after the CEO panel discussion.

“The expo is truly where innovation is ignited and the opportunity for grower-shippers, in particular, that exhibit on the expo floor to spend some time with the business solutions providers, based on what we’ve heard from our membership, will be incredibly helpful,” Burns said.

The show will highlight technology in the industry at the Future Tech Pavilion and will include a Food Safety and Tech Exchange. This will boast the newest technology that can be used to solve the industry’s most pressing challenges.

Winners of the IFPA’s Fresh Field Catalyst Program will be on display in the pavilion on the show floor. These are companies that have concepts that have been piloted and are looking to scale.

“They have an existing solution, they’ve spent the past few months getting to know the produce industry, and this is their opportunity, their coming out party…so that will be something new that the industry will be able to experience,” Burns said.

Another new element is the Communications Conclave, which will be focused on consumption and nutrition. The conclave was designed to “galvanize our members around the messages that will ultimately help drive the consumption of produce,” said Burns, adding that IFPA’s No. 1 priority is the consumption of fruits and vegetables and the purchase of floral. 

She also said that it’s time for the produce industry to advocate for the world to invest in health, not just health care.

“Health is at the center of all conversations right now,” she said. “Some of it’s driven by COVID, some of it’s driven by hunger issues, it’s driven by nutrition insecurity. This communications conclave that we’re launching is a program specifically open to executive communication team members and their company leaders.

“This is an opportunity as an industry for us to bring all our leaders and our lead communicators together to create, again, a unified voice, definitely around driving consumption and nutrition. We believe no one company can change the trajectory of our produce consumption, but speaking with a unified voice can certainly help actually move the needle.”

Education, awards featured

Burns also highlighted the educational opportunities and awards presentations at the show.

Awards will include the 2021 and 2022 Produce Manager of the Year, Floral Marketer of the Year, the Frieda Rappaport Kaplan Women’s Catalyst award, Retail Merchant Innovation award and the Jay Pack Cultivating Talent award.

General sessions are scheduled, with Jose Andres – humanitarian and world-renowned chef – as the keynote speaker. The founder of World Central Kitchen will talk about changing the world through food, Burns said. 

Actress Laura Linney will speak at the Women’s Fresh Perspective Breakfast on how she “navigated a male-dominated industry to really expose the disruptions to productivity and business that results from inequity,” Burns said. The breakfast is open to both women and men.

Following Burns’ State of the Industry address, the show will host IFPA’s first education festival. It will be a “fully immersive experience, taking advantage of the entire conference hall space, near the general session rooms.” 

“I would invite you to throw out your ideas of the age-old workshops. From 10:15 a.m. to 1 p.m., you’re going to see a mix of stop-in sessions, passive experiences, a strolling lunch, 30-minute fast paced live sessions, all across a variety of topics,” Burns said.

She described it as an “advocacy boot camp for modern agriculture, sustainability, consumer trends, technology – those type of education topics that our members care deeply about. And it’s an opportunity for us to bring the world to the industry as we’re bringing the industry to the world.” 

Burns said the show is a unique opportunity to bring the industry’s full supply chain and the world together to talk about solutions to its most pressing problems and “set us up as one unified voice to drive consumption of fruits and vegetables and the purchase of floral and remove barriers to do so.”

For more information, visit freshproduce.com.

To read more produce news from The Shelby Report, click here.

About the author

Treva Bennett

Senior Content Creator

After 32 years in the newspaper industry, she is enjoying her new career exploring the world of groceries at The Shelby Report.

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