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Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center

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This is a newly established joint initiative between Virginia Tech School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Virginia Seafood AREC, and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR). By developing strategic partnerships with both industry and academia, the goal of the CEA-IC is to conduct research and educational programing to develop, promote, grow and improve the controlled environment agriculture sector in Virginia, the U.S. and internationally.

This modern greenhouse features a variety of technologies to enhance hydroponic systems in a vertical growing system to maximize space, as supported by high-tech engineering and computerized systems. Aquaponics, which is recirculating aquaculture integrated with hydroponic systems, will create a complete system for providing nourishing plants and fish and managing water and food safety for high-value specialty vegetables, herbs, small fruits, and hemp.

This testbed attracts domestic and international partnership industries, including controlled environment agriculture producers, energy, materials, cyberbiosecurity, and others. So far, 8 private/public companies have signed on to be partners in the CEA-IC. Machine learning, artificial intelligence, data analytics, sensors, digital and automated technologies will be used in various research strategies to study plant and fish health and to ensure controls for water, energy, capital and labor. In addition to research, CEA-IC scientists design and provide educational activities to train employees, farmers and companies on controlled environment technologies and crop production. Educational programming includes hands-on workshops, conferences, webinars, and instructional videos to support entities interested in entering CEA production and research. 

meet the platform leader

Michael Evans

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Dr. Evans serves as the Director of the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences and the Associate Director of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center . He conducts research in controlled environment agriculture, with a focus on the production of crops such as lettuce, herbs, medicinal plants and strawberry in soilless and hydroponic systems in greenhouse, factories and vertical farms.