Facilities & Technology

Convening industry, academia and producers, the Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center is housed primarily within a modern greenhouse complex on the campus of the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) in Danville, Va. Features include various hydroponic and soilless systems/production systems, which grow plants in a soilless root medium with optimal amounts of water and nutrients. Vertical growing racks maximize space, and high-tech engineering and technology are integrated and on display throughout the center. High-value demonstration crops will include lettuce, herbs, strawberry, blackberry, hemp and more.

Faculty and staff involved in the center will also research and educate on raising fish in controlled environments using aquaponics, or recirculating aquaculture systems that integrate plant and fish production. While traditionally viewed as separate fields, plant and fish production share many similar technologies, issues and needs.

IALR lab support includes a state-of-the-art analytical chemistry facility featuring three liquid chromatographs, a gas chromatograph, and an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer for heavy metal analysis. Just some of the biological capabilities span microbiology, molecular biology, including next generation sequencing, and plant tissue culture capabilities.

INNOVATION CENTER TEAM

The Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center leverages the talents and expertise of professional scientists from both IALR as well as Virginia Tech.

SCOTT LOWMAN, PHD

Director, Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center
Director, Applied Research, Institute for Advanced Learning and Research

Scott.Lowman@ialr.org
OFFICE: 434.766.6628

Dr. Scott Lowman is Director of Applied Research at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) in Danville, Virginia. Prior to joining IALR, Dr. Lowman co-founded Lynchburg Grows, a 7-acre urban farm and job training facility in Lynchburg, Virginia. In his current position, he leads a research program focused on integrating biological solutions and technology into agriculture while also supporting industry and producers by providing testing services for new and existing industry. 

Dr. Scott Lowman

MICHAEL EVANS, PHD

Associate Director, Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center
Director, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Mrevans1@vt.edu
OFFICE: 540.231.8653

Dr. Michael Evans is the Director of the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech and the Associate Director of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center. He specializes in the production of greens, herbs, strawberries and micro-tomatoes in controlled environments such as greenhouses and indoor vertical farms. Dr. Evans’ research is focused on techniques to maximize economic returns by reducing cropping time and maximizing yields as well as on pest management.

MICHAEL SCHWARZ, PHD

Associate Director, Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center
Director, Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Virginia Tech

mschwarz@vt.edu
OFFICE: 757.727.4861

Dr. Michael Schwarz is Director of the Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Associate Director of the Virginia Tech Center for Coastal Studies, and Associate Director for the Controlled Environmental Agriculture Innovation Center, among other leadership roles. Dr. Schwarz has gubernatorial appointments in both the Virginia Marine Products Board, as well as the Virginia Aquaculture Advisory Board. His aquaculture activities work towards sustainable socioeconomic and environmental aquaculture development within geopolitical contexts. 

Michael Schwarz, Virginia Seafood AREC

Dongfang “EMILY” ZHOU, PHD

Research Associate, Virginia Tech

dfezhou@vt.edu
OFFICE: 434.766.6637

Dr. Dongfang “Emily” Zhou is a postdoctoral associate of Virginia Tech based at IALR as a member of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center. Dr. Zhou is in charge of the indoor vertical hydroponics component which includes conducting various research projects related to indoor agriculture. She has experience in hydroponics leafy greens, greenhouse and nursery ornamental productions, plant growth regulators, seed germination and seed biology.

AMY TURNER

Laboratory Research Associate, Institute for Advanced Learning and Research

Amy.Turner@ialr.org
OFFICE: 434.766.6788

With over 15 years of experience in agriculture research, Amy Turner has focused on acquisition of plant material for isolation of plant endophytic bacteria and assisting with IALR’s endophytic bacteria screening process. She has also conducted greenhouse and growth chamber trials utilizing IALR’s plant endophyte library resources on industrial hemp. In addition to research, Turner plans and implements hemp-related education and research events and serves as Program Manager of the Southern Virginia Vineyard Development and Expansion Cost-Share Program.

Amy Turner