Ohio State University Offering New Greenhouse Engineering Technology Program

OSU ATI Greenhouse
Inside the Ohio State ATI greenhouse complex, student Ryan Schmidt and professor Uttara Samarakoon examine a crop of coleus.

The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute (Ohio State ATI) has approved a new greenhouse engineering technology specialization in its greenhouse and nursery management major. This 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.

As more advanced technologies have been incorporated into controlled environment plant production, a critical need for qualified industry personnel has arisen. This new specialization, which merges traditional horticulture technology, engineering technology, and new greenhouse engineering technology courses, prepares students to manage modern greenhouses equipped with advanced technologies.

Graduating student skills will go beyond growing plants. During their time in the program, students learn to use sensors, control strategies, and actuators to make possible the computerized control of the greenhouse environment. Students will learn about electro-mechanical equipment such as fans, pumps, and motors. In addition, students will experience automated irrigation systems, pesticide application equipment, and material-handling systems such as seeding and transplanting equipment.

Growers who hire graduates of this specialization will be employing modern greenhouse technicians. Greenhouse mechanization and automation can enhance the profitability of a greenhouse operation. However, these new technologies can be underutilized and a maintenance 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 electro-mechanical equipment to take full advantage of modern greenhouse technologies. Using modern horticultural technology to its full potential will help to solve a labor shortage and offer technically skilled individuals better opportunities in the greenhouse industry.

OSU ATI Hydroponic System
Student Michael Salomone checks on lettuce growing in Ohio State ATI’s hydroponic system.

This 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. These courses offer hands-on identification, operation, maintenance, and trouble-shooting of greenhouse equipment. Coursework will be augmented with video learning modules and invited guest lectures from the 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 The Ohio State University, Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey, and The University of Arizona, with support from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Students will have internship opportunities available to them through commercial production greenhouses, institution research/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 about the program, contact Dr. Uttara Samarakoon at 330-287-1241 or via e-mail.

Ohio State ATI, located in Wooster, OH, is an associate degree-granting program within the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

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