Research Park plans greenhouse for dynamic agriculture project

By The Daily Illini Staff Report

On Wednesday, a group from the University and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will break ground on a new greenhouse in Research Park. 

The state-of-the-art greenhouse will contribute to a project called, “Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency.”

The well-known project focuses on sustainable increases in crop yield, with Illinois researchers Steve Long and Don Ort leading the team. 

RIPE is funded by the Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and the UK Government’s Department for International Development.

This greenhouse will be uniting various ag-techs and global companies of Research Park, including major seed companies, equipment manufacturers, retailers and bioprocessing groups and leaders. It will serve as a modern plant phenotyping facility.

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The new greenhouse on Fourth Street, south of St. Mary’s Road, will be owned by the University and operated by the College of ACES along with the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology. 

Fox/Atkins Development will be constructing the building with September 2020 as the projected date of completion for the greenhouse. 

“There are a lot of moving parts with this,” said Steven Long, professor in ACES and director of the RIPE project. “We needed this quite quickly because the project has already got a lot of material that needs to be analyzed, so Research Park was really able to put all the pieces together really quickly so that we could get this facility in place.”

The groundbreaking will take place at the construction site on Fourth Street between St. Mary’s Road and Hazelwood Drive on the east side. Guests will be invited to the iHotel Conference Center Quad Room for a celebration lunch. 

Laura Bleill, director of communications and external engagement at Research Park, said the new facility matches a trend towards greater attention and investment in agricultural technology and innovation.

“[Agricultural technology] is the fastest-growing sector of any industry in the Research Park, and that goes both from the perspective of our start-up companies as well as our longtime corporate contributors like John Deere, companies focused on farm management tools and technology,” Bleill said. “We’re really excited about this facility, and we think this maps very well with where we see the Research Park going as a whole.” 

Bleill said a prestigious project like RIPE being supported by the Gates Foundation at the University will only bring more positive attention to the University’s research achievements and goals to solve the scientific problems facing the planet.

“The research is not new, there is a lot of background and legacy behind the RIPE project,” Bleill said. “This research happening on our campus is really going to make a difference in the world when the world’s population is only growing and creating more issues related to sustainability that need to be focused on and solved.”

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