New Ohio State leaders dedicate cutting edge ATI greenhouse

The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI) officially dedicated its newest greenhouse addition this past week, noting the top-of-the-line features and opportunities it looks to offer students and researchers.

New and returning administrators, faculty, and all-around supporters of the Wooster campus turned out to welcome the long-awaited structure. Officials said it replaces hoop structures from a bygone era with features that keep ATI competitive in nursery management and other related majors.

“It’s so important for us to provide these experiences to our students because then they go into industry so they need to be working with these state-of-the-art facilities,” said newly installed ATI Director Kristina Boone. “In addition, we have a new landscape construction building as well. One of the other things we’ve launched is we have a new greenhouse engineering technologies program. We have also just recently launched a bio-based, bioenergy program that’s also a two-year program and that will be accepting students this fall.

Dean Cathann Kress, alongside students, cuts the ribbon at ATI greenhouse dedication ceremony.

Dean Cathann Kress, alongside students, cuts the ribbon at ATI greenhouse dedication ceremony.

“I hope to grow even more. I think we have so many great opportunities, as we progress with our facilities, to look at more engineering, health and safety, environmental programs, as well as these wonderful hands-on opportunities.”

The new greenhouse unit is made up of three chambers connected by a hallway with each having a unique focus. The first zone is known as a blackout house, having unique shading mechanisms that allow further custom control of the growth environment. Light regulation is important for certain plants, such as Poinsettias, which require a specific amount of sun to bring them into bloom.

The second zone is a propagation house and the third area is mainly focused on hydroponics.

Greenhouse manager Nathan Donley is particularly excited about the new mist system being employed.

“Our environmental control system, Wadsworth Seeds, has settings that allow me to run my mist based on solar radiation,” Donley said. “So I can go in there and I can tell it that I want it to run a mist event every tenth of a mole. And then that will go in and it will cumulate it from the weather station we have on the corner of the greenhouse. Every time we hit that tenth of a mole, it will go through and create a mist event out in the greenhouse. Where that benefits me is that in Ohio, we can be sunny one minute, we can be cloudy the next minute, we could have snow the next minute, and then it could rain. With that running off of solar and not just solely time-based, it will make those adjustments automatically and I don’t have to be standing at the computer all the time putting in new time intervals.”

Listen to the full interview with Donley.

Donley and Boone weren’t the only Buckeyes singing the praises of the greenhouse. The new Dean of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, Cathann Kress, also spoke on the event. It’s been a busy couple of weeks to the start of Kress’ involvement at Ohio State, having officially started the job on May 1 and since then, attended two graduations and numerous other college activities.

“The research being done both here at Wooster and down in Columbus are incredibly important to not only agriculture, but the peripheral and related industries,” Kress said. “So we really need to stay at the forefront of that work.

“This greenhouse is very important. One because of the state-of-the-art technology that it brings. And in our portfolio of offerings that we have for our students, we always want to be at the forefront making sure that students are going to get the cutting edge and that when they leave us, they’re going to be able to step into the workplace and really be able to bring to that workplace the most technological savviness that is possible. So having a greenhouse like this is very important so that those students will have had hands-on experience getting to use this type of greenhouse, getting able to participate in the types of propagation that are and other things that are happening here.

“We want to make sure our students have the hands-on experiences with that so when they walk out the door, they really are going to be able to bring to the workplace that level.”

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