Today’s farmers, from family farms to large-scale agricultural concerns, are integrating state-of-the art technologies into their operations to increase crop yields and efficiently use water, fertilizer, and pesticides, decreasing negative environmental impacts and increasing worker safety.

One aspect of this, controlled-environment agriculture (CEA), is a technology-based approach toward food production. Some of the goals of MSU’s Future Growers Technology Initiative are to “design next-generation cyber learning approaches through high-risk, high-reward agricultural computing systems and to increase the capacity of agricultural educators to advance student knowledge of production under CEA systems.”

One project, the development of a simulated virtual reality greenhouse funded by a three-year USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant, is nearing completion. “We expect to beta-test the first iteration of the Future Growers Greenhouse in the classroom this fall. After testing and tweaking, we are hopeful the product can get to any market by 2022-23,” said Amelia Fox, clinical professor in Plant and Soil Sciences at MSU.

Richard Harkess, a professor of Plant and Soil Sciences at MSU, plans to use the technology in his greenhouse crops production course this coming fall 2021 semester.

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