The University of Maine at Presque Isle celebrated the forthcoming construction of its four-season teaching and research greenhouse with a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday, April 25. The greenhouse—a $935,000, 2,400-square-foot structure to be located in a spot adjacent to Gentile Hall and close to the campus’s year-round composting site—will include two climate-controlled research labs, a teaching classroom, and a faculty office for the Dr. Robert Vinton Akeley, chair of Agricultural Science and Agribusiness.
“We are so pleased to be breaking ground on this high-quality, high tech facility to provide our students with incredible hands-on learning experiences as well as research opportunities that help address real issues our region’s agricultural industry is facing,” UMPI president Ray Rice said. “Our Ag Science Bachelor’s degree program, in the heart of Maine’s premier agricultural region, has been 100 years in the making, and we couldn’t be happier to see it gaining so much ground—so to speak—this soon after its establishment.”
Key features of the greenhouse include double layer polycarbonate transparent panels for the roof and walls, LED grow light systems, watering and ventilation systems — including destratification, exhaust, and circulation fans, and an advanced climate control system and sensor capacity. The technology will help support UMPI’s current research efforts such as disease management, soil fertility and economic opportunities for Maine growers and agricultural producers.
In attendance at the groundbreaking were Dr. Don and Linda Zillman, donors who provided the first gift for the greenhouse.
“This is a facility that has long belonged on the UMPI campus, so we are delighted to see it established now and to be a part of making it happen,” the Zillmans said. “We look forward to it being a highly utilized space for education, community connections, and, of course, a highly sought after spot to enjoy, especially during the deep of winter.”
The greenhouse will be used for various educational and research activities, including courses on plant biology, soil science, plant and crop science, and integrated pest management. Students will receive training in greenhouse crop production, sensor utilization, and analyzing remote monitoring, production, and energy cost data in order to develop a deeper understanding of greenhouse economics that they can bring into the workforce. Faculty will utilize the new facility to host professional development workshops for training in techniques such as seedling production and grafting, and collaborate with community and state partners such as the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Maine Farm Bureau, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Future Farmers of America, Maine Farmland Trust, the Maine Potato Board, McCain Foods, and the Maine Sustainable Agriculture Association.