A new plant science building is under construction on Centennial Campus, to be completed in 2021, which representatives from NC State say will upgrade its agriculture program, affecting the future of the farm industry across the state.

The building is nontraditional in that there will not be a department located in the building, according to Steven Lommel, associate dean for research at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. It will be reserved for team projects that will expose students to a multitude of agriculture experiences and will encourage interdisciplinary work.

“This is a different kind of project, where the student will work with all kinds of people in an interdisciplinary team, going for a big moonshot type of project, as opposed to working with just one gene,” Lommel said.

According to Stephen Briggs, launch director, the building will be complete sometime in 2021. According to Briggs, the project took three years to fund and two years to design.

“Construction should be completed by the end of 2021 if we do not have any weather delays,” Briggs said. “We will start moving faculty teams into the building at the end of 2021 or very beginning of 2022.” 

NC State raised $160 million to fund the plant science building, thanks to the advocacy of agriculture groups, according to Lommel. NC State has not built an agriculture building since the 1960s.

“We got $85 million in the bond package two or three years ago,” Lommel said. “We also wrote a proposal to the Golden Leaf Foundation: That is a very important foundation in the state for supporting agriculture and economic development, and they gave us $45 million. The rest we raised from economic groups. Altogether, we raised around $160 million to build this building, so it’s pretty impressive.” 

Lommel said the state of North Carolina is unique in the farming industry because of the variety of crops produced. The wide variety of groups for these crops were main supporters in fueling an initiative to update agriculture technology. 

“North Carolina is a very dynamic state agriculturally,” Lommel said. “A lot of the states in the west have 3 or 4 important crops, and we have 92 of them, from sweet potatoes to peanuts to tobacco to blueberries and strawberries, you name it, and all of those folks rallied to help us get a building. They donated money and talked to the state legislature.” 

Briggs also explained how the upgraded building will change the coursework for agriculture students. 

“There will be a lot of open labs, so a lot of space will be shared,” Briggs said. “There are few permanent offices in this building, so the students and professors will work in team settings. It will force some collisions among professors and students who might not have run into each other otherwise.”

The building is already under construction, but there will be a groundbreaking celebration at the building location on Sept. 6 at 10 a.m., the same weekend as the Ag Day football game.