Controlled Environment Agriculture in the News

First launched in 2020, the Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Innovation Center, a joint project between Virginia Tech and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR), is facilitating the growth of the CEA industry across the Commonwealth. This project, which combines cutting-edge technology with professional and innovative research, is supporting both economic development efforts in the Commonwealth and the future of sustainable agriculture production. 

Check out some press coverage regarding IALR’s role in the CEA industry in Virginia and beyond. 

In-Depth Stories about the CEA Industry in Southern Virginia

Research, Workforce & Policy

“The main thing is we’re not just scientists down here coming up with projects we believe are important. We are actually responding to the industry challenges. We are directly trying to answer industry questions. We try to do what they need.” – Dr. Scott Lowman, IALR Vice President, Applied Research 

Full Story from Inside Grower


“We’re really a one-stop shop for indoor ag. We want to position ourselves to be on the leading edge. We’re doing things no one else is doing.” – Dr. Scott Lowman, Vice President, Applied Research at IALR 

Cardinal News Story

‘A lot of promise’: Vertical farming takes root in Virginia

Hopes are high, particularly in the historic tobacco region of Southside, where state officials have been working for several decades to encourage farmers who once depended on the golden leaf to diversify their enterprises. It’s no accident that the Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center was sited in a region with a rich agricultural history and an abundance of old warehouses once devoted to tobacco and now empty. 

Virginia Mercury Story

Agricultural Innovation Helps Controlled-Environment Farms Scale Up (and Up, and Up)

David Rosenberg, founder and CEO of New Jersey-based AeroFarms, cited IALR as a major reason why his company chose to build its largest indoor vertical farm to date in Cane Creek Centre, an industrial park jointly owned by the city of Danville and Pittsylvania County in Southern Virginia. The facility will help AeroFarms fulfill its production partnerships with major retailers like Amazon Fresh, Ahold Delhaize, Walmart, and Whole Foods Market, while the location continues to reinforce its commercial proven history to grow large crop volumes in small, urban footprints.

Virginia Economic Development Partnership Story

2023 CEA Headlines

Alliances and innovation headline 2nd annual edition of cea summit east in Virginia 

Building alliances, sharing information, and forging new connections were key themes that drove the September 19-20, 2023, edition of the Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Summit East held at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) in Danville, Virginia.

Full Vertical Farm Daily Story

Virginia Researchers Develop Tomorrow’s Ag Breakthroughs

“You can set certain conditions to ensure you can get the prime sweetness conditions every single time. It’s almost like cheating.” Dr. Scott Lowman, vice president of applied research at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) in Danville and co-director of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center (CEAIC), a partnership between IALR and Virginia Tech.

Beyond taste, his team is researching ways to grow crops with higher levels of essential nutrients and biological compounds that can reduce disease or lessen the effects of preexisting conditions. Key demonstration crops at the CEAIC include strawberries, blackberries, lettuce, herbs, and hemp.


Growers, Schools Create Novel Solutions to Build Tech-Savvy CEA Workforce

“Modern farming, especially indoors, requires a workforce with training similar to high-tech manufacturing.” -Dr. Scott Lowman, vice president of applied research at IALR and co-director of the organization’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center.

He added, “Tech support, robotics, and data analysis are just some examples of the skills needed to run a modern CEA facility. To successfully develop an industry heavily laden with technology, engineers, plant scientists, and computer scientists have to be trained to work together. This is happening at Virginia Tech and other universities across the state.”

Virginia Economic Development Partnership Story 

Controlled Environment Agriculture Takes Root in Virginia

Virginia also offers access to plentiful natural resources, competitively priced electricity, a skilled talent pipeline, and exceptional partners like the Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center (CEA-IC), a joint project between Virginia Tech and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) focused on diversifying agribusiness in southern Virginia and increasing net farm income and profitability for both existing and new farmers.

Area Development Story

US (VA): CEA Summit East to come back in September 2023

“We are excited to build on the momentum of our first event and continue to bring together leaders in the CEA industry.” – Dr. Scott Lowman, Vice President, Applied Research 

MMJ Daily Story

CEA Summit East returns in September 2023

“The enthusiasm and engagement we saw at our inaugural event were truly inspiring and we’re thrilled to continue our partnership with the CEA Innovation Center to bring the CEA Summit East back in 2023.” – Brian Sullivan, CEO, Indoor Ag-Con

Hortibiz Daily World News Story

Gov. Youngkin declares March as Virginia Controlled Environment Agriculture Month

“The increasing number of indoor farming operations locating in Virginia is proving to be a catalyst for capital investment and a source of jobs in urban, suburban, and rural communities across the Commonwealth.” – Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr

WSET13 Story

2022 CEA Headlines

Danville hosts summit to bring business, academic audiences together for new wave of agriculture

Among the attendees were growers, educators, scientists, extension specialists, suppliers, engineers, tech specialists and architect/developers.

“This event really crystalized our vision of bringing our research and education program together to help move the CEA industry forward.” – Dr. Scott Lowman, Vice President, Applied Research 

Danville Register & Bee Story

Virginia is well-suited for controlled environment agriculture, summit says

“Virginia is flexible. It’s the South reinventing itself. Agriculture has always been a part of Virginia, and now we have the modern version of it.” – Carl Gupton, president of Greenswell Growers 

Cardinal News Story

Agriculture conference headed for Danville

One goal behind the event, dubbed CEA Summit East, is “highlighting some of the CEA growth that’s happening in Virginia — and particularly in Southern Virginia,”


New Event for the CEA Market Set to Launch in October

“We’re excited to bring our event experience and industry resources together with the expertise of IALR and Virginia Tech to create a showplace of innovation and educational opportunities for growers and other CEA industry members throughout the Eastern U.S.” – Brian Sullivan, CEO of Indoor Ag-Con


CEA Summit East features the latest in indoor, greenhouse growing

“This conference offers an exciting opportunity to bring people together for exchanging new and diverse ideas to help move the industry forward and into exciting directions.” Dr. Kaylee South, Virginia Tech Assistant Professor of Controlled Environment Agriculture


2021 CEA Headlines

Research to feed growing population underway at the Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center

“This center is unique in the United States, in part because of the support system at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, where we have analytical chemistry, molecular biology, microbiology equipment, and researchers with expertise in each.” – Dr. Scott Lowman, Vice President, Applied Research