The CEA program at CAES has established two sizable vertical farms on campus, in part because of a new partnership between the Ferrarezi Lab in UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) and Agrify who donated 26 4-by-4-foot light fixtures thanks to Agrify, increasing research capacity. The approximate total project cost of $120,000 included the $26,000 donation.
“Only artificial lighting is used by indoor vertical farms. According to Rhuanito Ferrarezi, an associate professor of controlled environment agriculture at the University of Georgia CAES Department of Horticulture, “These farms grow crops totally indoors in a warehouse or shipping container. “Crops are grown in some of these farms in rows that are piled horizontally, resembling the stories of a skyscraper, and in others along vertical columns. Using LED lighting has the benefit of allowing plants to develop regularly and dependably every day of the year, regardless of the weather or the seasons.
The ability to precisely manipulate light spectrum, intensity and duration using CEA has the added benefit of enabling the alteration of a wide range of parameters, including flavor characteristics. For instance, Ferrarezi mentioned growing mustard greens or arugula that had a pepperier flavor. The next generation of horticulturists will be taught how to manipulate the environment in order to operate a vertical farm, according to Ferrarezi. The LED light gift is special because it enables us to do studies with very high light intensities. The 120-degree beam angle adjustable-spectrum lights have an average lifespan of about 50,000 hours, or 5.7 years if they are used continuously.
According to David Kessler, chief science officer at Agrify, “this cooperation provides a great chance for Agrify to give back to the agricultural and academic communities who have given so much to Agrify.” “One of Agrify’s production and research sites, located in Covington, Georgia, has allowed this cooperation to go beyond the equipment and also offers prospects for cooperative Ph.D. research and internship programs. We are eager to contribute to the CEA community’s growing understanding of how photobiology and environmental control systems interact.
University of Georgia’s Researchers will be able to conduct duplicate experiments in the two UGA growth rooms, examining two to three distinct parameters on each plant. The performance of various hydroponic growing systems for lettuce and strawberries is currently being compared, as well as plant response and resource use to various fertilizer management techniques and light intensities, plant sap analysis to optimize fertilizer in CEA crops, the effect of airflow on calcium uptake on lettuce and spinach in vertical farming, and other projects.
Marc van Iersel, the Vincent J. Dooley Professor in the Department of Horticulture, described how the cutting-edge research facility was once a run-down structure full of abandoned equipment, including a cooler that they transformed into the first vertical farm in the county, at a ribbon-cutting in October. It’s incredibly amazing to watch how our department, the college, and controlled environment agriculture are all developing, he added. This field is actually expanding. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, CAES Dean and Director Nick T. Place expressed his delight at seeing students working on CEA projects at all academic levels, including undergraduate, master’s, doctoral, and postdoctoral students. He emphasized how the projects are essential to the college’s effort to make CAES the top college for agriculture and environmental sciences in the country.
“We are doing that by making sure that we are having an extraordinary influence all across the state of Georgia and beyond,” Place said. “We are doing that by placing ourselves on the map with our research programs, our teaching programs, and our Extension programs.”
Place, Ferrarezi, Leo Lombardini, the head of the horticulture department, and other CAES academics and staff recently toured the state to engage with business executives who frequently referred to the expanding CEA industry and the requirement for research to support it.
Place declared, “There is a huge possibility; I see it as a crucial component of the work we are doing to enhance the college. “That involves working in conjunction with business, thus I value Agrify’s support of this initiative. To develop our entire use of technology, I see this as the first of many projects we must carry out with Agrify and other business partners.
Image provided by University of Georgia