Brock showcases world-class research greenhouse
25 Jul 2012

Brock University will soon host a greenhouse that could play a big role in developing materials for bio-manufacturing and valuable drugs for pain relief and cancer treatment.

When it opens in the $111.4 million Cairns Family Health and Bioscience Research Complex, it will join an elite roster of world-class research greenhouses.

The five-cubicle containment greenhouse facility was showcased in a tour Wednesday by the Association of Education and Research Greenhouse Curators, which is holding its annual conference in Toronto this week.

The 100-plus visitors were keepers and designers of research greenhouses in places like the University of Toronto, Cornell and UCLA.

“It has more sophisticated controls than regular greenhouses,” said Brock scientist Prof. Vincenzo De Luca, who helped lead the Brock tour.

“There are very good temperature and humidity controls. You can actually have a drier environment or a more humid one (located side-by-side), depending on what you’re cultivating.”

The greenhouse will meet stringent government regulations for the highly specialized work with plants to be done at the centre.

“We’re talking about producing new drugs and doing it in more reproducible and quantitative fashion,” he said. “We’d like to work on crops that would be valuable for southern Ontario — medicinal-producing crops.”

He said the greenhouse is undergoing testing and has yet to receive its full certification, but will likely open when the Cairns complex does in mid-September.

A number of tour-goers spoke enthusiastically about the advanced facility.

“It is state of the art,” said Alex Turkewitsch, an engineer with Toronto’s Greenhouse Engineering. “It definitely does represent the extent of technology available now. There are only a handful of facilities as sophisticated as this at the moment in North America.”

Bruce Hall, a chief horticulturalist with the University of Toronto, was also wowed.

“This is fantastic … there are very few places like this, probably in the world,” he said. “It’s a treat for this group to come here before the plants are in.”