The SVAEC has become known in the University of Florida system for the work in the area of greenhouse and hydroponic crops. The greenhouse vegetable program is also recognized nationally. Extensive effort has been put forth in areas such as: hydroponic production systems, vegetable and herb cultivars, evaluation of new specialty crops, selection of protected agriculture structures, environmental control systems, nutrient and effluent management, and insect and disease management. The center was instrumental in the discovery of a new whitefly vectored virus of tomato (tomato chlorosis virus) and the first to report a new strain of powdery mildew in greenhouse tomato.
The greenhouses and other protected structures at SVAEC are a popular component to the diverse types of agricultural production systems implemented here. Structures range in complexity from a basic hoop house to fully automated fan and pad greenhouses with environmental controls. Hydroponic systems are employed year round to grow any number of specialty crops, offering interest to the backyard gardener as well as the commercial producer. Hydroponic systems at SVAEC present many options for growers; including nutrient film technique (NFT), floating pools, vertical tower systems, dutch or Bato buckets, lay-flat bags, container or upright bag systems, Earthboxes, troughs (in- or above-ground), aeroponic “Tower Gardens”, and even microgreen production systems.
Traditional greenhouse crops such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and lettuce are demonstrated seasonally, while other niche crops can be found at all times of the year, such as: cut flowers, herbs, microgreens, leafy greens (i.e. kale, spinach, swiss chard), root crops (carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, ginger) and cole crops (broccoli, Asian greens, mustards).
In 2009 the Center developed and implemented a hydroponic short course, “Starting a Successful Hydroponic Business,”. This educational effort has been implemented as a means of a revenue enhancement strategy rather than being forced to reducing the program due to lack of traditional UF/IFAS funding support.