The North Carolina Biotechnology Center hosted an announcement ceremony May 17 with North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue and Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. 

The partners announced plans to build the Alexandria Ag-Tech Center/North Carolina, which will be a world-class collaborative greenhouse center for innovative agricultural technology research.

Dignitaries attending the ceremony included Gov. Perdue, Norris Tolson, president and CEO of the Biotech Center, and senior management from Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. 

“As complex environmental issues — like the growing world population, limits to world food supply, shrinking natural resources, and the need to develop green technologies — become increasingly urgent, the new Ag-Tech Center along with North Carolina’s commitment to education, innovation and agribusiness will ensure that our state plays a vital role in tackling those challenges,” said Gov. Perdue, in making the announcement at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

Growing agricultural technology companies in North Carolina will soon have a world-class destination to develop innovative products. The Alexandria Ag-Tech Center will be a state-of-the-art greenhouse space for research at the intersection of agricultural, biotechnology, clean technology, and human health. 

Proximate to the intellectual hub, Research Triangle Park, the Alexandria Ag-Tech Center will be a 50,000-square-foot agricultural technology research center, which will include 18,000 square feet of flexible greenhouse space. It will feature cutting-edge individual greenhouse modules and specialized support areas along with innovative shared amenities, providing the ideal environment for emerging ag-tech companies to thrive. 

$74 billion industry

Agriculture is a $74 billion industry in North Carolina. By using the tools of biotechnology, agriculture has the potential to create new solutions to improve food, fuels, and health, and to increase the total value of the agriculture industry to $100 billion by 2020.

Currently, more than 4,000 North Carolinians work at over 70 ag technology companies, which include BASF Group, Bayer CropScience AG, Monsanto Company, Novozymes North America and Syngenta AG.

The Alexandria Ag-Tech Center will accommodate multiple tenants focused on first-class agricultural technology research. Each greenhouse will have separate environmental controls, along with planting, growth chamber, and support spaces.

The concept of a multi-user facility is familiar to Alexandria, which has a 16-year track record of providing high-quality, environmentally sustainable real estate, technical infrastructure, and specialized services to the broad and diverse life-science industry.

The Ag-Tech Center is an extension of Alexandria’s expertise in building sophisticated greenhouse facilities, having completed greenhouses in Research Triangle Park for leading multi-national agricultural biotechnology companies, as well as the current development of Medicago USA’s greenhouse facility for vaccine production. 

“Alexandria is excited to be working with the state of North Carolina on this unique project. Agricultural biotechnology holds great promise for sustainable agriculture, improved human health, and clean energy.

“The Alexandria Ag-Tech Center will provide ag-biotechnology companies with unprecedented access to state-of-the-art greenhouse facilities for research, accelerating their growth, and further strengthening North Carolina’s position as a leader in ag biotechnology,” said Oliver Sherrill, vice president-regional market director at Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc.

“We see a vast potential in ag technology to broaden our economic base and create jobs,” said Norris Tolson, president and CEO of the North Carolina Biotech Center. “When you look at the whole range and breadth of what agriculture can do for us in North Carolina, it is well beyond just food on the table.”