Cultivate’16 brought together growers, retailers, suppliers, landscapers and other industry members to learn, network, experience and propel their businesses into a successful future this past July in Columbus, Ohio. The GIE Media Horticulture Group shares what stood out this year.

1. Design sophistication

Proven Winners’ booth displayed not only floral inspiration with its new varieties, but décor elements like modern furniture, shelving, wall hangings and more. The new arrangement shows that incorporating plants into a lifestyle, rather than selling them on their own, may be a gateway to reaching an untapped market. McConkey offered a new way for gardeners, especially in small spaces, to display plants — in a wreath-like planter that flushes against doors, walls and other flat surfaces. (Pictured on next page.) Bold, bright colors have been swapped for a muted, sophisticated hue.

2. Virtual Reality

Technology is enabling people to more easily envision a different world, one with even more green space. At the Plants Nouveau booth, attendees had the chance to try out virtual reality technology and see what the world would look like “if we planted more plants and brought nature into the city,” according to the company’s Facebook page. Here, Nursery Management editor Kelli Rodda tries it out.

3. New varieties

Not only were breeders highlighting their latest introductions on the trade show floor — like the Golf Beauty Craspedia from Danziger pictured here — but many also displayed these brand new varieties in the “New Varieties Zone,” a special section that passersby could peruse for upcoming seasons. See more in our Cultivate’16 video coverage on our website: bit.ly/2anDWNQ

4. Young people and plants

The GrowIt! app session (more on the app at bit.ly/2aDJakR) helped reinforce an important truth that sometimes gets lost: Young people are indeed interested in plants. In fact, 35 percent of GrowIt! users are younger than 35. Additionally, those in attendance learned that consumers don’t necessarily know specific plant names and want simplicity (See takeaway No. 5).

5. SHIFT-ing your thinking

The SHIFT research and educational sessions presented at Cultivate’16 offered insights for retailers to not only attract new customers, but keep loyal ones. Simplicity is key. The industry needs to talk about plants in a way that inexperienced gardeners can understand, as well as offer workshops and other educational opportunities to encourage beginners to give it a shot.

6. Greenhouse Learning Tour: Millcreek Gardens

At Millcreek Gardens, there was buzz around their new software system, which allows section growers to be out in the production area and still update the office about what is and what is not ready to ship from the greenhouse via mobile tablets. Back at the shipping dock, all employees, whether administrative, growing or logistical, can refer to the flatscreen TV display to get immediate updates.

7. Greenhouse Learning Tour: Foertmeyer & Sons

Also on the greenhouse tour, we got a firsthand glimpse at how Foertmeyer & Sons’ irrigation boom in the new greenhouse is automated in an innovative way. The climate control system relays info directly to the irrigation boom, which will turn on if sensors detect that the plants need watering.

8. New markets are finding Cultivate useful

At Cultivate’16, we saw a larger presence from the cannabis industry than ever before. As the industry expands with legalization legislation, cannabis growers are hitting the show floor, looking to make connections with everyone from shelving companies to greenhouse manufacturers to biocontrols producers. See our on-site interview with Cannabis Business Times editor Noelle Skodzinski here: bit.ly/2artiBm

9. Craig Regelbrugge on the election

Craig Regelbrugge, AmericanHort’s senior vice president, hosted a session about politics and how it impacts the green industry. His message was simple: People need to work together in order for everyone to succeed. And most importantly, Regelbrugge says the industry can’t just ignore what’s going on — it has to be part of the solution.

10. Charlie Hall on the state of the industry

In his state of the industry speech, Dr. Charlie Hall touched on everything from Brexit to Trump and Clinton. And despite all of the hype, Hall says it doesn’t ultimately matter. He says what’s important is that the green industry is poised to thrive when the younger generation begins spending money like the Baby Boomers did in years prior. In his mind, it’s just a matter of time.

11. Bright opportunities

Greenhouse Management editor Karen Varga presented some of the research from the 2016 State of Lighting Report from our sister publication’s July 2016 issue, including that 82 percent of respondents would choose LED lighting for their next installation. During the panel discussion with Dr. Steven Newman of Colorado State University and three prominent growers, the takeaway was to conduct a lighting trial before you invest in a full system to determine which will work best for you.

12. How to find success

Jeremy Kingsley gave the first keynote speech, highlighting the seven principles of successful people: passion, loyalty, patience, ability to communicate, integrity, humility and going the extra mile. Be confident in your abilities, humble in your attitude and lead by example, Kingsley said.

13. Running meets Networking

The inaugural Cultivate’16 Flower Run 5k, sponsored by Luxflora, GIE Media and AmericanHort, kicked off with more than 140 participants on Sunday, July 10. Runners and walkers alike were showered with colorful flower petals as they crossed the finish line. The takeaway? Don’t be afraid to try new ways of connecting with longtime industry members and friends.

14. It’s the little things in life

Keynote speaker Scott Steinberg talked about how to lead with innovation to prepare your company for the future. He emphasized the importance of “thinking small” and striving to plant tiny seeds of change today; it’s not always about making big changes all at once. Another key takeaway was that innovation and success aren’t cultivated simply by having the most time, money or resources. It’s all about the way you use what you’ve got.

15. HortScholars class of 2016

The HortScholars are ready to take the industry by storm. Sayde Heckman, a student from the University of Missouri, wants to improve the reputation of native plants in the landscape. Lindsay Daschner, a recent University of Michigan grad, dreams of her own cut flower farm. And Nathan Jahnke’s sights are set on the education field, where he can find more people like him — with a passion for horticulture.

16. Looking forward to Cultivate’17

This year marked the end of Cultivate as we knew it. By next year, the convention center will have finished its 30,000-square-foot floor plan expansion. Additionally, a new “fast-pitch stage” will allow brands to showcase their products in a way that wasn’t possible before. Even for longtime attendees, Cultivate’17 will offer a brand new experience.