USDA grant to support CALS’ indoor ag training programs

Cornell Chronicle: 2020-07-08:

mattson and grad student allred masked and working collecting data in greenhouse
Neil Mattson, left, associate professor of horticulture, works with Ph.D. student Jonathan Allred to collect data from strawberries growing in the Guterman Bioclimatic Laboratory Greenhouse.

Fueled by year-round market demand for local food and by advancements in greenhouse technology, controlled environment agriculture (CEA) is a rapidly growing field. In this intensive form of agriculture, plants are grown in a controlled environment, such as a greenhouse, to efficiently produce fresh, high-quality fruits and vegetables.

However, commercial CEA requires an advanced knowledge of both plant biology and complex infrastructure. And while New York state ranks fourth in the nation for CEA production value, the workforce hasn’t been able to keep pace with industry growth.

Now, thanks to a $496,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), two horticulture experts in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ School of Integrative Plant Science will help design new CEA training programs to build a skilled workforce pipeline for the industry.

“Growers consistently state that finding well-trained personnel to operate their facilities is among the largest barriers to expansion,” said Neil Mattson, associate professor of horticulture. “This project uses a targeted approach to determine what skill sets are most critical, and it develops several pathways for training – both for traditional college students and for the professional development of existing employees.”

Read the whole article.