The Finances of #NewHarvest2017
How much does it cost to put on a cellular agriculture conference anyway?
First, some background:
In early 2016 it became all too apparent that there was no singular event for bringing together players in the emerging cellular agriculture landscape. It was a topic that was beginning to receive more attention, but there wasn’t yet a place where a diversity of participants could come together to delve into a deeper public conversation. So, the first New Harvest conference came together to address that need.
Our first iteration, in summer of 2016, was a one day event with panel presentations and exhibitors. Without including the cost of the New Harvest team’s time, and with ticket sales, revenue from merchandise sales, and sponsorship taken into account, that event resulted in a net loss of $16,441.
The feedback from the 2016 conference was overwhelmingly positive, and we took the audience’s suggestions for 2017 to heart. As many attendees requested, we extended the conference to two full days, built in more networking time, hosted the event on the East Coast, and turned up the science.
Overall, the 2017 event cost New Harvest $35,784 (again, excluding the cost of the New Harvest team’s time). This was higher amount than we expected, but we thought that these were funds well spent.
Here’s what contributed to the net cost:
- Low ticket prices. In 2016 our regular ticket price was $250, and $50 for students/biohackers. In 2017 we doubled our venue rental and catering, but kept the ticket prices low, at $350 for regular and $100 for students/biohackers. We wanted to keep the event accessible, so we were happy to keep ticket prices as low as possible.
- Sponsorship challenges. We overestimated sponsorship interest this year. We think part of the challenge is that our event is so focused that sponsors of general “future of food” events may not necessarily want to appear as if they are endorsing cellular agriculture just yet. This is just a theory. We also know that building a reputation for the New Harvest conference will take time.
We are incredibly appreciative of the sponsors who helped us through our second year event: Stray Dog Capital, Soylent, IFF, Thought for Food, PioneerWorks, and the Shuttleworth Foundation, and for the in-kind donations from One Hope Winery, Arctic Apples, Lagunitas, and KIND.
Our largest expenses were related to catering and the two-day venue rental. We tried to keep our costs as low as possible, while keeping the quality of the event high.
- It was crucial that we had an amazing plant-based caterer to accommodate the non-meat eating members of our audience.
- The venue gave us a significant discount because it aligned with their science programming.
- Our Event Producer Morgan Catalina (formerly of SXSW) gave us a very generous rate on her nine months of work.
- We did not pay NY tax on any NY goods/services.
- All speakers volunteered their time and expertise.
While we would have liked to come closer to breaking even, we were very happy with how the conference came together. In these early days of cellular agriculture while we are still building community, we think this event in particular is well worth investing in.
We hope that our subsequent conferences can come closer to a break even point via increased sponsorship — with time we’re confident that the event will have built up a reputation and that cellular agriculture will become more mainstream and appealing for sponsors.