SLIIT into High-Tech Horticulture – Vertical Farming

SLIIT being a pioneer in Non-State Higher Education sector in Sri Lanka, it is ensured that SLIIT constantly produce skill-full graduates with hands-on experience in all programmes that are delivered. Identifying the current trends and demand for science and biotechnology in the world, Faculty of Humanities and Sciences, of SLIIT launched the degree BSc. (Hons)in Biotechnology in 2019.

Faculty of Humanities and Sciences with its own state of art laboratories which facilitates to carryout cutting edge technologies were developed by Prof. Sriyani Peiris, Head, School of Science and Education with the guidance and support given by the SLIIT. Dr. Malitha Wijesundara, Dean of Faculty of Humanities and Sciences, emphasized student’s interest and the significant increase of the student numbers for the degree in Biotechnology with a great pleasure.

The main objective of the BSc Honours in Biotechnology is to give a practical experience to graduates. Thereby we expect students to go to the leaps in Biotechnology education while being sensible about the eco-systems, as that was one of the major concerns of the degree. The theories are being taught in the lecture rooms and we give them the hands-on experience to explore the subject by themselves engaging in laboratory activities’ Prof. Sriyani stated.  Prof. Sriyani is one of the pioneers in biotechnology having 35 years of experience in academia and industry.

SLIIT has initiated a greenhouse project with vertical farming to facilitate the research in biotechnology and automation which will be handled by students for their research. This venture is also a part of the research project funded by AHEAD Operations, World Bank. Establishment of the greenhouse is one of the expected outcomes of the research commercialization endeavours as planned in the project. ‘Commercialization of Low Cost (CSUP) Micropropagation for Export and Production of Improved Ornamental Plants through Genetic Modifications’ is the research grant received by Prof. Sriyani Peiris and which has a high value to the society.

SLIIT greenhouse and the plant house are closely monitored through-out by Prof. Colin Peiris, who serves as the Director – Academic Development and Quality Assurance whilst continuing his service to educate the young generation in Biotechnology. This is one of the best achievements of the School of Science and Education of SLIIT.  Maintaining a greenhouse for an educational institute is not an easy task.

Every element should be well monitored to streamline the activities in a plant house, as we are creating a new environment for the plants to grow. Best quality seeds from leading Agriculture companies and all operations are used for the hydroponic cultivation to ensure that to produce organic vegetables.

Furthermore, he mentioned that currently they are cultivating tomato, high quality lettuce species, capsicum species etc. The external factors are being automated through a specialized system developed by the lecturers of the Faculty of Computing. This enables to monitor temperature, humidity, light, and other critical factors inside the plant house.

Prof. Lalith Gamage, Vice-Chancellor of SLIIT and Prof. Lakshman Rathnayake, Chairman SLIIT recently visited the greenhouse to witness the vertical farming and how even a limited space could be well utilized for cultivation. Prof. Gamage emphasized the importance of regulating the systems of greenhouse through an automated process as this has a vital importance specially during this period with Covid-19 pandemic. The best approach is less human work which results a low level of labour cost and it can reduce the contaminations that can occur in such an environment.

Prof. Sriyani Peiris and Prof. Colin Peris presented the first harvest of the Greenhouse to Prof. Lalith Gamage and Prof. Lakshman Rathnayake to symbolise the success story of the project. As many agriculturists predict world will be facing huge issues in the future as a result of this pandemic. The only way out is producing our own food in the space available. SLIIT being the role model for this tremendous step, would like to invite interested students to visit the greenhouse hopefully after the country gets back to normalcy. ‘Everything else can wait, agriculture can’t’ Prof. Colin concluded his valuable insights with this famous saying by Dr. Norman Borlaug who pioneered green revolution.