NC State is already at the vanguard of the plant sciences, but a new $45 million grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation will bolster the university’s stature by making the Plant Sciences Initiative a reality. This grant positions North Carolina as a global leader for education, research and innovation in the plant sciences.
The initiative is a partnership of NC State and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Its centerpiece is the $160.2 million Plant Sciences Research Complex — an interdisciplinary center to be built on Centennial Campus that will house academic, government and industry experts working together to solve some of agriculture’s most pressing challenges.
The Golden LEAF grant is the largest single investment ever made in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences — and among the largest in the university’s history.
“This investment further establishes North Carolina and NC State as international leaders in agricultural research and innovation, which will yield significant economic opportunities for our rural communities while providing food solutions to people across the globe,” said Chancellor Randy Woodson.
Boosting state agriculture and creating prosperity have always been core elements of NC State’s land-grant mission. And for Dan Gerlach, president of Golden LEAF, the investment is consistent with his nonprofit organization’s mission of improving rural North Carolina’s economic well-being.
“It is our hope, and indeed our expectation, that the Plant Sciences Initiative will catalyze transformational advances in North Carolina agriculture that will benefit the rural economy,” said Gerlach. “Agriculture is North Carolina’s top industry at $84 billion annually, with well over 80 percent of total farm gate receipts grown in the state’s 80 rural counties. Our farmers recognize the importance of innovation to the future of agriculture.”
With the Golden LEAF’s latest grant, more than $9 million additionally contributed to the project by 42 agricultural groups across the state and $85 million approved by voters through the Connect NC Bond, the project can now move forward.
“More important,” he said, “it gives rural North Carolina a competitive market advantage in feeding, fueling and clothing a growing global population.”
Golden LEAF’s investment means NC State has now secured $144.2 million of the $160.2 million needed for the complex — and the university is on track to complete construction of the world-class plant research facilities by 2021.
For College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Richard Linton, this investment — and the wide-ranging support the Plant Sciences Initiative has received — is a strong endorsement of NC State’s agricultural research and extension, which already has an annual economic impact of more than $1 billion in rural North Carolina.
“Our college helps rural N.C. farmers grow more than 90 different commodities across varying climates and soil types, making North Carolina the third most agriculturally diverse state in the nation,” said Linton. “As we start building out the Plant Sciences Initiative, this will further position our college and our state among the premier plant science programs in the world — establishing us as a powerhouse for agricultural innovation and education.”
Linton shared that most importantly “with this grant we have the green light to move forward. We can now make the dream a reality, starting today.”