Niagara College announced that they are constructing an innovative state-of-the-art greenhouse. The 1,258-square-metre facility will be part of the Horticultural & Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre (HESIC), providing space for further industry innovation and student growth.

With a focus on fostering innovation within the vital greenhouse industry and enhancing learning opportunities for students, Dr. Marc Nantel, the vice president of research, innovation & strategic enterprises, expressed his enthusiasm about the project, emphasizing its potential as a game-changer for HESIC.

Designed with five individually contained bays, the greenhouse will enable HESIC researchers to conduct applied research projects in various configurations, along with integrated pest management and growth trials. The precise control of temperature, humidity, and lighting within each bay will empower researchers to carry out experiments with accuracy and efficiency.

Over the years, HESIC has been actively supporting the horticulture and agriculture industry by undertaking nearly 90 industry projects. However, with the growing demand for greenhouse expertise from businesses of all sizes, the need for expansion became apparent. The new cutting-edge facility is projected to open doors for HESIC to assist even more companies, with 53 potential projects already identified for the upcoming years.

Realizing the scale and significance of the next-generation greenhouse, the total cost of the project is estimated at $9.4 million. To fund this visionary initiative, the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario has pledged $1,566,500 million, while Niagara Region Economic Development has committed $800,000. Moreover, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Research Fund will contribute a combined $1.8 million for state-of-the-art equipment. Additionally, the college is welcoming contributions from community members and other supporters who wish to be part of this groundbreaking endeavour.

A primary focus for this project is on nurturing student growth and providing unmatched opportunities for experiential learning. With more than 125 students expected to participate in applied research and course-based projects annually, the facility will serve as an incubator for knowledge and hands-on experience. These initiatives will equip students with invaluable skills and a competitive advantage as they step into the workforce.

Evan DiValentino, associate dean of the school of environment & horticulture, expressed the tremendous potential the greenhouse holds for students. He highlighted the facility’s role in providing access to cutting-edge greenhouse technologies and plant science innovations. Moreover, students will have the opportunity to engage in paid research projects and collaborate closely with industry employers, bridging the gap between academia and real-world applications.

The greenhouse industry in Ontario stands as one of the most crucial and rapidly expanding economic sectors in Canada. Boasting 1,000 greenhouses and 14.4 million square meters of harvested area, the province employs over 16,000 people in this sector. Generating impressive revenues, the industry’s sales surpass $1.7 billion, with exports amounting to $79 million.

As Niagara College commences the construction of this game-changing greenhouse, it marks a significant milestone in the journey of horticulture and agriculture in the region. The future looks promising with the promise of cutting-edge research, innovation, and unparalleled learning opportunities for students. The anticipation builds as the college progresses towards the realization of this visionary project, cultivating a new era of growth and prosperity in the greenhouse industry.

Featured image credit: unsplash

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