Green(house) scene: Cutting-edge CFAES facility nears completion

CFAES’ new Controlled Environment Agriculture Research Complex (CEARC) is 75% complete. It’s expected to open in fall. And while that’s good news for CFAES and the scientists who’ll be working there, it’s even better news for Ohio’s big-and-getting-bigger greenhouse industry.

New tech, new research, new partnerships

Inside the complex, research will take place in settings similar to those of the most advanced commercial greenhouses, says CFAES’ Chieri Kubota. That means findings from the studies will be relevant to, and can be put to use directly by, industry growers.

Kubota is professor of controlled environment agriculture in the CFAES Department of Horticulture and Crop Science. She’s also director of CFAES’ Ohio Controlled Environment Agriculture Center.

The state-of-the-art complex will “eliminate the technological gap between academia and industry” when it comes to performing greenhouse research, Kubota says. It will support new partnerships among CFAES, greenhouse growers, and other colleges and universities, she notes, and will give CFAES students the most up-to-date training possible for jobs in a growing industry.

Unlike that of any other university

“No other universities that we know of in North America have this level of technology in their research greenhouse facilities,” Kubota says.

That technology will include, for instance, the most advanced type of roofing system—one that transmits the full spectrum of sunlight—energy-efficient LED lighting, carbon dioxide enrichment, microclimate heating “grow pipes,” and precision nutrient management.

The design of the complex’s two greenhouses follows the industry standard, the Venlo type, with 23-foot-high sidewalls to ensure good light transmission and effective natural ventilation.

Tall, short, grown in water

Research compartments within the greenhouses will be able to support experiments on tall crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and hemp; short-stature crops, such as strawberries, bedding plants, and potted ornamental plants; and crops grown by hydroponics, or water culture, such as leafy greens.

The facility owes much of its cutting edge to greenhouse-related companies including GE Current, Priva, the Hawthorne Gardening Company, and Ludvig Svensson, which gifted equipment and technology to the project. Support from these partners made the “installation of modern technologies possible,” Kubota says.

Located at CFAES’ 261-acre Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory on the Ohio State Columbus campus, the complex is part of a major revamping of the lab that also includes the Kunz-Brundige Franklin County Extension Building, which opened in 2019, and the Multispecies Animal Learning Center, now in planning and fundraising stages.

Learn more at go.osu.edu/cearc.

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