‘A new era’ of growth

Brooke Casipit leads a tour of one of the greenhouses at the Cabrillo College Horticulture and Agriculture Technology Center. The greenhouse held numerous proliferous tomato plants grown in a hydroponic system. A series of red and blue lights gave the room a purple tinge. Photo by Todd Guild

Cabrillo College kicks off new ag tech center

In an era where agriculture meshes with technology — and environmental sustainability is a rule — Cabrillo College has created a major that combines all three.

Headquartered in several newly revamped buildings at the top of the Aptos campus, the Horticulture and Agriculture Technology Center offers the brand-new sustainable agriculture technology degree, eight classes that include irrigation, greenhouse design, engineering and learning how technology ties it all together. Classes began in January.

“Cabrillo horticulture has expanded to include agriculture and technology to meet the needs of our community and students,” said Agriculture Technology Specialist Sarah Hulick.

Students can also major in environmental science or environmental studies.

Several hundred people attended a grand opening celebration for the new center on March 20, inside the expansive new 2,000-square-foot greenhouse.

The Horticulture and Agriculture Technology Center was funded by a $5 million grant by the U.S. Department of Education.

The major covers topics such as hydroponics, aquaponics, organic substrate production, Global Information Systems and water and energy conservation.

The program was created for students who want to go directly to work in the agriculture industry, said Cabrillo College spokeswoman Kristin Fabos.

Possible careers include hydroponic growers, farmers, ranch or operations managers and biological technicians, Fabos said.

Cabrillo Ag Tech Club President Ashley Shields said the program was created to help the agriculture industry adapt to a world at risk of rising global temperatures due to human activity.

“This is going to be our way to feed people in climate change,” she said.

Cabrillo College President Matt Wetstein said the center and new major are the result of “many months of planning, learning and building.”

“We’re kicking off a new era in horticulture and ag tech here at Cabrillo tonight,” Wetstein said.

The center, Wetstein said, “aims to be a conduit for students in our region and the greater agricultural community that we have on this Central Coast here.”

“We want to be innovators in the convergence of agriculture and technology, and we hope to supply the local ag industry with skilled talent and bring new ideas into fruition with what we do here,” he said.

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For information, visit www.cabrillo.edu/academics/horticulture/agtech.html.


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