At this time last year, I was taking over as editor-in-chief of Food Engineering. One of the most important tasks ahead of me was setting the program for the Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference.

Given that the conference is a big part of what we do and 2019 was going to mark its 20th year, it was no small thing. I’ll admit to wondering part of the time—OK, pretty much all the time—whether we were going to be able to pull off a lineup of speakers that would give people a reason to keep coming back.

Thankfully, we were able to do so. From the first session on Monday morning to the final session on Wednesday, we had speakers who were engaging, insightful and gave attendees a lot to think about. Whether it was sustainability, engineering, automation, food safety or the challenges facing women in the industry, all of the speakers exceeded my expectations.

We’re revisiting those speakers and the information they shared in this month’s cover story, which is our second annual FA&M report. By recapping what the speakers had to say and how they presented their information, we’re giving those of you who weren’t able to attend a chance to see what the show can offer. And for those of you who did attend, the report will give you a handy reference to revisit the key points of all the sessions.

Putting together FA&M was challenging, as any project of that magnitude always is. But it was also incredibly rewarding. As I already mentioned, the speakers were great, but so were the attendees. I met countless people from all areas of the industry, from vendors to engineers to design-build firms to operations professionals, and I learned more in three days of networking and discussion with them than I could have anticipated.

Much of what I and the rest of the editorial staff learned went into our thinking as we put together our coverage plans for the rest of this year and next year. Next year’s FA&M will allow us to do the same for our coverage in the future. We have a pretty good perspective on what’s going on in the industry, but the opportunity to speak freely with those of you who are on the front lines every day is invaluable.

Beyond that, the opportunity for professionals to get a chance to share information and ideas is one of the key elements of FA&M. The show is intended to be an opportunity for processors to meet and learn from each other, both through the speakers we offer and the networking opportunities we provide, and we deliver on that.

But don’t just take my word for it. Check out our FA&M coverage in this month’s cover story and stay tuned for registration information for next year’s FA&M. We have big plans for next year’s conference, and I hope to see you there.