Controlled Environment Agriculture Center

Research, Instruction & Extension for Producing Crops
With Sustainability, Efficiency & Eco-Friendliness

Covering Environments – The CEAC Monthly Seminar Series

Watch the lectures online! Click on the lecture title to view the seminar in its entirety.

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Past Events

Dr. Barry Pryor (Professor of Plant Sciences, the BIO5 Institute & CEAC Faculty atThe University of Arizona) - PDF 

“Optimizing Specialty Mushroom Production: Impacts of Substrate and Temperature on Bioefficiency”. 

Dr. Chieri Kubota (Professor The School of Plant Sciences, ABE, Bio-5, & CEAC Faculty at The University of Arizona) PDF 

 “CEA Technology Development & Outreach – Responding to Our Stakeholder’s Needs”. 

Dr. Pedro Andrade-Sanchez (Professor ABE & Associate Specialist Maricopa Agricultural Center @ CALS, The University of Arizona) - PDF

"Electronic Eyes in Open Fields: Sensing Technologies in Precision Agriculture" 

Dr. Murat Kacira (Professor ABE, CEAC Faculty, CALS, The University of Arizona) - PDF

"Resource Use Efficient CEA Systems Through Smart Sensing & Monitoring, and Climate Control Technologies"

Dr. Kevin Fitzsimmons - (Professor ABE, SWES and CEAC Faculty) PDF

“Technological Advances, Trends and Challenges in Aquaculture”

Dr. Joel Cuello - (Professor ABE, CEAC Faculty)  PDF

“Minimally Structured, Modular, Prefabricated Vertical Farm Designs 2.0”

Dr. Gene Giacomelli - Director of CEAC & Professor ABE [PDF]

"CEAC Leading Activities for the New Age of Arizona Agriculture" 

Dr. Stacy Tollefson - Assistant Professor ABE, CEAC Faculty [PDF]

"My CEAC Experiences with Organic Hydroponics"

Dr. Nadia Sabeh - Founder and President of Dr. Greenhouse.  [PDF]

Engineering The Indoor Crop Production Facility To Increase Productivity & Profitability" 

Dr. Ramin Yadegari - Professor, School of Plant Sciences Genetics Graduate Interdisciplinary Program, Bio 5 Faculty College of Agriculture & Life Sciences The University of Arizona [PDF]

"Understanding Seed Development: Biochemical & Molecular Control Mechanisms"

Andrew Weil, MD, Founder & Director, Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, Professor-Public Health, Clinical Professor, Holder-the Jones & Lovell Integrative Rheumatology Endowed Chair

"Growing Crops for Healthy Living"

In this CEAC Covering Environments Seminar, Dr Weil discussed the complexity of medicinal plants and how their use offers the possibility of a different and better pharmacotherapeutic model than the use of isolated compounds.  His current thoughts on cultivation of medicinal plants for use in clinical settings were also be discussed.

Dr. Stacy Tollefson, Jose Edgardo Torres, and Lee Frankel

"Organic Hydroponics" - Access the presentation slides here

For background information and framing of the topic, please listen to the interview with Dr. Stacy Tollefson here:

This special panel discussion was held in response to the recently distributed “National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) Hydroponic and Aquaponic Task Force Report”.  This report provides technical information about organic-based hydroponic and aquaponic systems and whether or not non-soil systems should continue to be eligible for organic certification. It also provides clarification of the previous 2010 NOSB recommendations. This report can be viewed at:

On this panel was Dr. Stacy Tollefson of the CEAC and Jose Edgardo Torres of Wholesum Family Farms, both members of the USDA Hydroponic Taskforce, as well as Executive Director of the Coalition for Sustainable Organics, Dr. Lee Frankel. In addition, Dr. Dennis T. Ray, Professor of The University of Arizona School of Plant Sciences, facilitated the event.

Dr. Leslie Gunatilaka - Director of the Natural Products Center & Professor in the School of Natural Resources & the Environment at the University of Arizona


About the speaker: Leslie Gunatilaka, the Director of this Center, is known internationally as a superb organic chemist who is focused on purifying, characterizing and synthesizing compounds which are produced by plants and by micro-organisms living symbiotically with them. He has published more than 250 peer-reviewed papers bringing accolades to the UA and AZ across the country and internationally. Gunatilaka has made seminal and highly valued contributions in this area of research including pioneering work on metabolites of desert plant rhizosphere-associated fungi and fungi found inside lichens. This work has led to the discovery that symbiotic fungi confer on their plant partners heat-tolerance through such molecules as Monocillin I, and more recently he has made major contributions to the discovery that withanolides, plant compounds known to be effective against various forms of cancer, can be produced in large quantities.

Dr. Chieri Kubtoa - Professor in the School of Plant Sciences at the University of Arizona

"Controlled Environments for Production of Value-Added Food Crops and Transplants" 

Rod A. Wing, Director of the Arizona Genomics Institute, Bud Antle Endowed Chair Professor School of Plant Sciences, and Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, UofA

"USING PLANT GENOMICS TO SOLVE THE 10BPQ: Feeding the Burgeoning World Population Using Agro Technology"

About the Speaker: As a scientist, Wing and his laboratory are intensely involved in puzzling out the genetic identity of crop plants.  And, as a humanitarian Rod Wing is directly focused on one essential, global problem:  Developing superior varieties of food crops for farmers everywhere.  Such crops are urgently needed to feed the projected increase of earth's population to 10 billion around 2050.  As Rod Wing explains:  "The 10BPQ predicts that while currently rice feeds half the world, the rice dependent population will double by 2050.  New rice, and other crop varieties are needed to feed this population boom.  In this lecture, Dr. Wing will discuss the exploitation of natural variation that exists in gene bank repositories around the world to help identify genes and traits that will drive the next green revolution to produce higher yields, while requiring less water, fertilizers, pesticides, and permitting growth on marginal lands.

John Adams - Deputy Director of Biosphere 2, UofA


About the Speaker: So, whether you are interested in geology, water conservation, carbon dioxide (greenhouse gases) production and sequestration, global climate change, or whether your interests lie in a "place far far away", you will find this lecture, to be presented by John Adams, Deputy Director of Biosphere 2, most interesting, enlightening and impactful. As the administrative and research overseer of B2, Adams  is involved with many of the research projects and educational initiatives of this unique unit of the University of Arizona. In this lecture, Adams will discuss some of these project, and how they impact our understanding of our own biosphere—Earth.

Dr. Dragos Zaharescu - Research Fellow Biosphere 2, UofA


About the Speaker: Dragos Zaharescu who established, at the University of Arizona's Biosphere 2, a unique laboratory designed to determine how rocks become soil which then is capable of becoming a prolific supporter of plant life. With funding from the National Science Foundation, and in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team from Soil, Water & Environmental Science (SWES) and Biosphere 2, the Rockubator was born. As the name suggests, it is an incubator for rocks which are subjected to various treatments with the final outcome being their transformation to soil. The objective of this study is to learn how plants (with the assistance of bacteria and fungi) transform rocky terrains into a living ecosystem*.

Zaharescu is truly an interdisciplinary and exuberant scientist. He describes his research as sitting "at the interface between biology, ecology, geochemistry and climate science". When asked, he shares his approach to research as relying on multiple disciplines but focusing on one vision: "I use observational and lab based approaches, from large-scale surveys to setting mezocosm-scale life support systems. I continuously improve and cross-pollinate methods and concepts from different fields including geochemistry, microbiology, anatomy, plant and animal physiological ecology, landscape ecology, limnology, climate science, and material sciences". 

Marc Ferguson - CEO Hungry Planet Farms, Austin TX


January 29, 2016 

About the Speaker: Marc Ferguson, founding CEO of Hungry Planet Farms is accurately described as a serial entrepreneur—a rare breed of a business person who does not shy away from taking risks or confronting controversy, who craves learning, who understands that failure is but a necessary step to success, and one who is passionate about his work. To qualify for the additional title of 'serial', Ferguson has over the past quarter century successfully developed several companies in the banking, software and biotechnology industries.

Today Ferguson is leaving his mark on yet another aspect of Controlled Environment Agriculture through his newest, and possibly most impactful, enterprise dedicated to R&D of foundational technologies and economical considerations needed to make urban, vertical farming (VF) a reality in the production of fresh, safe produce while also reducing the carbon footprint of food production. 

Dr. Merle Jensen - Professor Emeritus, Plant Sciences Dept., CALS U of A


About the Speaker: Modern Hydroponics, for food production, owes much of its advances, global presence and popularity to Dr Jensen. Twenty five years ago, Merle Jensen was the first to succinctly define it in White Paper to the World Bank: (It) "is a technology for growing plants in a nutrient solution (water and fertilizers) with or without the use of an artificial provide mechanical support..."  Fast forward to 2015, and we can find the impact of Jensen's work globally.  His efforts have brought the concept of controlled environment agriculture to urban food production, hydroponics in the deserts of Egypt, Abu Dhabi and Jordan, and to expansion of food production in China, Mexico, the USA and 120 other countries. A stellar example of Jensen's influence is China where, under his guidance, greenhouses' footprint has grown to 8 million acres providing 31 million jobs. Jensen has also brought the hydroponics and food production conversation to TV, the popular press and to public venues like Epcot's Disneyland. In the academic realm he has published numerous technical papers and authored several books.

With an earned history of CEA of more than half a century, we are truly fortunate to have Merle Jensen tell us about his journey in CEA and his vision of the future.

Dr. Fritz Schroeder - Professor of Agriculture & Landscape Management University of Applied Sciences, Dresden Germany


About the Speaker: Fritz Schroeder is Professor of Vegetable Crops and Greenhouse Management at the University of Applied Science Dresden. He earned his Diploma thesis in Horticulture Science at the Humboldt University, Berlin 1987. In 1994, he accepted a position at the University of Applied Sciences in Dresden. Schroeder spent a sabbatical (2000-2001, 2010) at the University of CA, Davis. Dr. Schroeder's research focuses on plant stress monitoring, supplemental lighting and urban vertical farming.

Dr. Patricia Sparks & Victoria Ligon, MSc; CALS University of Arizona

“Food Waste, Major Problem, Potential Solutions!” 

About the Speakers: Pat Sparks earned her PhD at the University of Arizona. Her research addresses food wastage and hunger issues nationally and locally through her work in organizations such as Produce on Wheels WithOut Waste and Market on the Move. These initiatives distribute fresh produce, from distributors in Nogales AZ, to needy local residents. 

Victoria Ligon believes that "People need to consider shopping more and buying less." (, in order to reduce the serious problem of food wastage in this country. Ligon has been studying the impacts of shopping patterns on discard behavior and will discuss findings from a recent study in this tandem CEAC seminar. Victoria Ligon earned her MSc degree at the University of Arizona. She is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Arizona. Her research encompasses food consumption, food waste and food resource management.

Dr. Roger Kern & Dr. Jacklyn Green - Founders of Agate Biosciences, CA

“The Key to Survival on Mars” 

About the Speakers: Jacklyn Green and Roger Kern are slated to update us on their continued efforts to develop technology and seek innovations to address pressing issues concerning urban, indoor agriculture, with a potential for application on Mars. Having their roots as NASA scientists and engineers, Kern and Green recently turned their attention to earth-bound issues of food production through the creation of Agate Biosciences LLC, ( to provide advanced technologies for plant nutrition, biosecurity, and the undertaking of scientifically based research in greenhouse design and controls systems, and in plant health under controlled environment agriculture.

Ed Horton Jr. President & CEO @ Urban Produce LLC, Irvine, CA            

“16 Acre CEA Organic Vertical Farm”

About the Speaker: Ed Horton is a national leader in CEA vertical farming where he has applied technology and plant science to develop a patented high density vertical growing system (HDVGS) in Irvine, CA. The growing system was developed out of concerns for the long-term sustainability of traditional farming. HDVGS uses the latest technologies combing hydroponics, computerized environmental controls, and energy efficiency while conserving water and space. Urban Produce is a USDA certified organic grower of leafy greens, green beans, strawberries, and an array of microgreens.

Dr. Barry Pryor - Professor of Plant Sciences, University of Arizona

"Mycoculture and Integrated Farming Systems: Closing Food Production Loops"

About the Speaker: Barry Pryor is an international leader in mycological (fungi) research in which he has published extensively on issues of systematics, diversity, lineages, and fungal interactions with higher plants. Pryor has been a researcher pioneer linking the role of fungi to plant and human diseases and, importantly, to their value as medicinal and gourmet food sources. His approach to research and teaching is exemplified by his profound abilities to link the study of fungi to the history of food production, medicine, religion, and famine.