CFAES celebrates opening of one-of-a-kind greenhouse of the future

The Ohio State University President Kristina M. Johnson, the Ohio State Board of Trustees, and several elected officials joined Cathann A. Kress, Ohio State vice president for agricultural administration and dean of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), in celebrating the completion of a new, state-of-the-art greenhouse research complex that will catapult the university, the state of Ohio, and all of North America to the forefront of controlled environment agriculture (CEA), an innovative, technology-based approach to farming that takes place inside a facility equipped to create the most optimal conditions for food production.

The Controlled Environment Agriculture Research Complex (CEARC) uses emerging technology to conduct research and control environmental factors such as light, humidity, temperature, and nutrients, which leads to an extended growing season, reduced waste, and more high-quality crops. The complex also enables CFAES to expand programs to prepare the future workforce and create a pipeline of experienced CEA growers. The greenhouse is part of CFAES’ Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory, a unique facility that serves as a university hub for teaching, research, and community engagement.

“This facility continues our focus on technology-based approaches to agriculture, which are necessary to meet increasing challenges to production and sustainability,” Dean Kress said. “This facility will provide societal benefits beyond food production, including opportunities to more fully explore connections with health, climate, and other critical areas where our food system faces challenges.”

Some of those benefits include:

  • producing food year-round in areas that would not otherwise be suitable for farming.
  • meeting the nutritional needs of a growing global population as the amount of the world’s arable land continues to decrease.
  • raising perishable crops closer to their point of consumption, and reducing food waste and greenhouse gases associated with long-distance transportation.
  • better feeding the increasing number of people moving toward densely populated areas.
  • better quality control over production and plant nutrients, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses, increasing crop yield, and enhancing flavor.
  • sustainably growing vegetables and fruits.

“The CEARC is particularly unique because it serves as both a research facility and a teaching lab,” said Gary Pierzynski, CFAES associate dean for research and graduate education and director of the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station. “This unique model will help us better serve students, the agricultural industry and other stakeholders. The opportunities are endless.”

In fact, CFAES’ commitment to and expertise in CEA led to an opportunity with Voyager Space to create the George Washington Carver Science Park, the first-ever science park devoted to space research. Portions of the research include growing food in zero to low gravity aboard a commercial space station in low-earth orbit, an environment that relies on everything plants need to thrive.

In addition, the CEARC will be home to a research and development project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help greenhouse growers create the most ideal growing environment using real-time data and climate optimization processes.

Members attending the ceremony include university trustees Reginald Wilkinson, Alan Stockmeister, and Elizabeth Harsh; Ohio Senate members Stephanie Kunze, Bob Hackett, Andrew Brenner, and Senate President Matt Huffman; Ohio House members Allison Russo, David Leland, and Speaker Bob Cupp; as well as representatives from Nationwide and JobsOhio.

CFAES News Team
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Gary Pierzynski