Tom Zoellner and Penny McBride, two out of the three members of the Board of Directors for the Association for Vertical Farming (AVF), have resigned with immediate effect. This leaves Christine Zimmermann-Loessl the single remaining member of the Board of Directors.
The decision to step down has not been taken lightly and is based on irreconcilable differences within the AVF Board regarding financial management, accountability and managing conflicts of interest. After a long and intense period of internal discussion and concerted attempts to resolve the differences in a constructive manner, no meaningful progress has been achieved. As a consequence, Zoellner and McBride cannot fulfil their duties and responsibilities as members of the Board of Directors anymore.
“It is unfortunate, in an organization like the AVF that could be the choice for the growing indoor farming industry, that conflicts of interests and inadequate transparency risks important partnership with the business community and public funding agencies”, Zoellner says. In 2017, the newly elected Board of Directors was tasked to professionalize the organization. Among other steps, Zoellner and McBride attempted to implement an improved financial reporting and control system, to obtain basic insight into the association’s financials and to resolve concerns over allocation of membership fees. Despite their efforts and being in the majority, no agreement could be reached by the Board. Zoellner reports, “Regrettably, it has not been possible to implement simple yet important improvements required to professionalize the association. We would like to apologize to all AVF members for this, as this was the agenda that members had been defined for the Board to execute.”
Concerns about the way of working within the AVF have not gone unnoticed. The organization has suffered from a steady erosion of membership over the past years and many more AVF members have terminated their membership recently. McBride adds: “We have done everything we could think of, but could not achieve the progress that is needed within the current organizational structure. Sadly, making it impossible for us to do our jobs according to the statutes.”
Zoellner and McBride see that the indoor farming industry has moved on already and are now considering different venues to serve the industry going forward. They look forward to engage in the continuing value proposition with constructive and transparent ways of working.