Complex Systems

Every scientific element of the Advanced Crop Lab is the result of intense design and planning. Architects of the facility worked with Syngenta to pull together unique systems in a way that has never been done before:

Under-Glass Environments
Sunlight is crucial to all the plants located in the main growth environment, which encompasses 30 rooms housed under an acre of glass. The low-iron glass allows for more light transmission compared to classic greenhouses. Roughly 92 percent of the sun's rays penetrate through the argon-filled glass, which has a hazed outer finish to permit maximum light transmission. A robotic roof washing system keeps the glass clean.

Environmental Controls
In the under-glass environments, scientists can precisely control temperature, humidity, and gases, such as oxygen and carbon dioxide. Using a robust air-handling system in the basement, individual temperature controls only vary by 4 degrees Fahrenheit (+/- 2 degrees) in each growth environment.

Fertilizer + Irrigation = Fertigation
Researchers feed and water the plants in the Advanced Crop Lab simultaneously, using a computer-controlled fertigation system, which delivers food and water directly into each pot. Everything is automated, so scientists can focus their efforts on the research, which is what matters most when working to stay ahead of the many environmental pressures growers face. Researchers can program an infinite number of recipes for individual rows of crops grown in each room.

Precision Growth Chambers
In addition to the under-glass environments, Syngenta is using precision growth chambers in its research. University of Guelph researchers originally developed these chambers for NASA to grow crops in space. The chambers monitor plants around the clock without human interaction, providing researchers precise data on plant responses to environmental conditions.

Climate-Controlled Growth Chambers
Twelve climate-controlled growth chambers round out the inventory of rooms at the Advanced Crop Lab. Built with reflective walls and special lighting units, the rooms are large enough to grow full-size sugar cane. In these chambers, researchers have the ability to vary the temperature and lighting to a degree they can't do in the greenhouse. Scientists can extend daytime or nighttime hours to test the effects of light on individual plants or create colder or warmer environments - something that's not possible in the under-glass rooms.