After a two-year hiatus, the Seeley Summit (formerly Seeley Conference) returned this year after a rebranding and a move from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., to Chicago Il.
The theme of this year’s Seeley Summit was “Water: Horticulture’s Next Game Changer.” The summit provided an opportunity for industry members to learn and develop strategies to tackle the issue of water scarcity.
Speakers challenged industry professionals to think differently about water. Globally, water demand is predicted to outstrip availability by 40 percent in 2030. Changes in distribution, use patterns and price will make conventional use of water unsustainable in the long run.
Questions are being raised about how to divide up water rights and how to purify it, but water is no longer a commodity that can be taken for granted. The real challenge is how to manage this change.
For the future of agriculture, growers will have to learn to do more with less as population and demand continue to rise. Seventy percent of water is used by farmers, and global water usage grew at twice the population rate over the last 100 years.
From a business standpoint, water is an input that is rising in cost, and growers need to substitute it or reevaluate their practices. Growers should also engage with policy makers, identify research needs and educate the public about best practices.
In addition, growers should be prepared in the next five years to meet the demands of a changing consumer base. They will need to know their water footprint and have that information ready for consumers.
Featured speakers came from Texas, Florida, Colorado and California to offer their perspectives on how water scarcity affects their regions.