The German chemicals and life science giant Bayer has opened its new automated greenhouse facility in Marana, Arizona.
The facility is the first of its kind for the company and the most technically advanced, the company says in a press release sent to AFN. Costing roughly $100 million for a company that has had a rough ride on its share price valuation over the last few years, the facility will serve as a global product design center for corn, the only crop to be grown there. Additionally, the Marana facility will work on proprietary seed chipping, advanced marker technology, automation and data science.
“With our new Marana greenhouses, Bayer is reimagining the way plant breeding is done and setting the standard for environmental sustainability,” said Bob Reiter, Head of Research and Development for Crop Science at Bayer, in the release. “Meeting the unique challenges that farmers face requires different ways of thinking and working, and this new innovative facility is one of the many ways Bayer will deliver on its commitments to farmers.”
The Marana greenhouses occupy 300,000 square feet of growing space. They are designed “for the sustainable use of inputs throughout the research process. Water used for crops will be recycled, which helps preserve precious desert water supplies, 100 percent of harvested materials will be used for compost and beneficial insects will be used to reduce pesticide applications.”
Operation desert corn
What is all this doing out in the arid landscapes of Arizona, rather than back in America’s midwest breadbasket? By locating the Marana Greenhouse facility in the Arizona desert instead of the midwestern section of the United States where corn is traditionally grown, more days of warmth and sunlight “will allow researchers to maintain plants year-round, enabling three to four corn crop cycles annually. Also, by utilizing the controlled environment of the greenhouses, the breeding process comes indoors which eliminates crop exposure to adverse weather conditions and prevents delays in new seed development.” Growing conditions, according to Bayer, can be customized to simulate various climate conditions around the world.
“Every investment in innovation is an investment in more sustainable agriculture for the next generation, and the effects travel far beyond one site,” added Reiter. “The corn hybrids developed here, under diverse growing environments and weather scenarios, will bring innovation to growers in every part of the world.”
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