Ohio State ATI launches greenhouse program

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WOOSTER, Ohio — The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute recently approved a new greenhouse engineering technology specialization in its greenhouse and nursery management major.

The program is unique in its engineering approach to traditional horticulture technology education and is the only two-year program in the U.S. for greenhouse engineering technology.

Ohio State ATI, located in Wooster in northeast Ohio, is an associate degree-granting unit within the university’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

First of its kind

Ohio State ATI ranks first nationally in the granting of associate degrees in agriculture and related sciences.

According to the college’s Peter Ling, who collaborated with Ohio State ATI to found the new program, a critical need for qualified industry personnel has arisen as more advanced technologies have been incorporated into controlled environment plant production, which is commonly called greenhouse production.

“This new specialization, which merges traditional horticulture technology, engineering technology and new greenhouse engineering technology courses, prepares students to manage modern greenhouses,” said Ling, an associate professor in the college’s Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

Technology

Graduating students’ skills will go beyond just growing plants, Ling said. During their time in the program, students will learn to use sensors, actuators and control strategies in the computerized control of a greenhouse environment.

They’ll work with electromechanical equipment such as fans, pumps and motors. They’ll get experience using automated irrigation systems, pesticide application equipment, and material handling systems including seeding and transplanting equipment.

“Growers who hire graduates of this specialization will be employing modern greenhouse technicians, ” said Uttara Samarakoon, coordinator of Ohio State ATI’s greenhouse degree program

“Greenhouse mechanization and automation can enhance the profitability of a greenhouse operation. But these new technologies can be a problem for untrained individuals.”

Graduates of Ohio State ATI’s greenhouse engineering technology specialization will have the knowledge and skills needed to operate, maintain and diagnose problems of electromechanical equipment to take full advantages of modern greenhouse technologies, Samarakoon said.

Using modern horticultural technology to its full potential, she said, will help solve a labor shortage and will offer technically skilled individuals better opportunities in the greenhouse industry.

The new program grants an associate of applied science degree upon completion of 63 credit hours. Students earn up to 35 credit hours in horticulture and other technical courses, including two newly designed classes focused on engineering technologies.

The courses offer hands-on identification, operation, maintenance and troubleshooting of greenhouse equipment.

Courses will be augmented, too, with video learning modules and invited guest lectures from industry, the result of a collaborative effort to bring together controlled environment plant production expertise and knowledge previously scattered across the U.S.

The modules were developed by faculty at Ohio State, New Jersey’s Rutgers University and the University of Arizona with support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Set for success

Students also will have internship opportunities available to them through commercial production greenhouses, institution research and teaching greenhouses and equipment suppliers.

After completing the program, students are expected to have higher than average earning in the greenhouse industry due to their specialization in horticultural engineering and technology.

For more information on the program, contact Samarakoon at 330-287-1241 or samarakoonbasnagala.1@osu.edu.

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