Controlled-environment agriculture (CEA) refers to crop production in greenhouses and plant factories, where environmental conditions can be manipulated. Both ornamental plants and vegetables are commonly grown in CEA, while there also is great potential for the production of nutraceutical and pharmaceutical products.
CEA is the fastest-growing agricultural industry both in Georgia and the U.S. CEA also is the most capital-intensive form of agricultural production; environmental control requires the ability to control temperature through heating and cooling, CO2 enrichment, lighting, irrigation and fertilization, as well as pests and diseases. This greatly increases the capital and operating expense of crop production, but also results in much higher yield and quality per unit land area compared to field production. In addition, water requirements are much lower than in field production, while energy use is much higher.
UGA has multiple faculty members who work on CEA. Our overarching goals are to help Georgia and U.S. producers optimize crop production strategies and maximize profitability. This requires novel, innovative approaches to maximize resource use efficiency (space, water, fertilizer, energy for lighting and HVAC systems, labor), as well as effective methods to prevent or mitigate problems with pests and diseases. In addition, we extend science-based information to the CEA industry and train students in CEA to prepare them to work in this growing field.