The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) has partnered with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech to launch a Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center on IALR’s campus. The Center will leverage technology and research to accelerate advancements, economic development and regional participation in the developing industry of indoor farming, which is expected to exceed $4 billion this year.
“We are delighted that IALR and Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences have combined their expertise to create a top program in controlled environment agriculture. This collaborative effort is creating tremendous energy and excitement because of its potential to provide innovative solutions to the agricultural community,” said Alan Grant, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Convening industry, academia and producers, the Center will be housed primarily within a modern greenhouse complex. Controlled environmental agriculture helps protect plants from disease and stress while providing ideal growing conditions for high-quality, quick-to-harvest food products. Demonstration crops will include lettuce, herbs, strawberries, blackberries, hemp and more.
Features will include various hydroponic systems, which grow plants in a soilless root medium with optimal amounts of water and nutrients. Vertical growing racks, high-tech engineering and technology will be integrated. The Center will also research and educate on raising fish in controlled environments using aquaponics, or recirculating aquaculture systems that integrate plant and fish production.
“While agriculture is a longtime industry of Southern Virginia, economic factors have demanded a new identity. We believe controlled environment agriculture is one of the defining solutions, and we are proud to work with Virginia Tech to introduce the concept to our region’s growers and attract more industry like the award-winning indoor growing company AeroFarms,” said Mark Gignac, Executive Director of IALR.
AeroFarms Managing Director Sam Schatz, who recently announced the location of the world’s largest vertical growing facility in Danville-Pittsylvania County, said, “AeroFarms is excited about the opportunities presented by the new IALR research facility. We are eager to work with IALR and Virginia Tech on future research endeavors.”