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Monsanto opens high-tech greenhouses in midst of acquisition

MonsantoCarolina.jpg
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Daniel Warnock, a controlled environmental system improvement scientist, demonstrates the process used to pollinate corn at the Monsanto Chesterfield Research Center.

Monsanto held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday to open 36 new greenhouses at its Chesterfield Research Center.

The celebration of the state-of-the-art greenhouses was held against the backdrop of last month's announcement that Bayer will buy Monsanto in a $66 billion deal.

Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant told the crowd, made up of mostly employees and a few members of the media, that Bayer's acquisition is an opportunity.

“It’s one that will accelerate innovation in agriculture," Grant said, "and when we combine the technology horsepower of the two companies, I have a feeling that these greenhouses are going to be, they’re going to be really, really busy."

Bayer officials have said the Chesterfield Research Center will house the merged companies' global seeds and traits division, and Monsanto's headquarters in Creve Coeur will become the new North American headquarters.

Monsanto's Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley demonstrated how high-tech the greenhouses are, turning on the lights and fans with a laptop. 

"I just want you to know what this means is we’re going to be able to grow more crops faster, we’re going to be able to deliver those products to farmers even faster, and that’s what this is all about," he said.

The greenhouse structure is 105,000 square feet, with 13 open greenhouses and 23 bench-format greenhouses. They allow for a very controlled research, with better air-control over both temperature and humidity. 

The greenhouses are part of a $400 million expansion announced in 2013. A new research building is expected to be completed in June. About 1,100 employees work at the facility currently. When the new building is done, there will be room for about 2,000.

St. Louis Public Radio's Carolina Hidalgo toured the Chesterfield facilities on Friday:

Bees, newly introduced to the Bee Free-Flight Greenhouse, get acclimated to their new environment on Oct. 28, 2016 at Monsanto.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Bees, newly introduced to the Bee Free-Flight Greenhouse, get acclimated to their new environment.

Visitors and employees listen as Monsanto officials introduce the new 36-greenhouse structure on Oct. 28, 2016.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Visitors and employees listen as Monsanto officials introduce the new 36-greenhouse structure.
A controlled environment allows scientists to change lighting and room temperature remotely.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
A controlled environment allows scientists to change lighting and room temperature remotely.
Corn stalks sit in a new greenhouse structure, which features 160,000 feet of glass at Monsanto on Oct. 28, 2016.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Corn stalks sit in a new greenhouse structure, which features 160,000 feet of glass.
Black curtains unfold to control night-time light escape.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Black curtains unfold to control night-time light escape.
Hugh Grant, Monsanto CEO, describes the work that went into the new greenhouses on Oct. 28, 2016.There are only a handful of air-controlled greenhouses in the world, according to Monsanto.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Hugh Grant, Monsanto CEO, describes the work that went into the new greenhouses.There are only a handful of air-controlled greenhouses in the world, according to Monsanto.
Robb Farley, chief technology officer for Monsanto, switches on the lights in the company's new greenhouses on Oct. 28, 2016.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Robb Farley, chief technology officer for Monsanto, switches on the lights in the company's new greenhouses.
A new research building will connect to the greenhouses through a walkway that will allow scientists to easily move projects.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
A new research building will connect to the greenhouses through a walkway that will allow scientists to easily move projects.
A visitor walks through a new 105,000-square-foot greenhouse structure at the Monsanto Chesterfield Research Center on Oct. 28, 2016.
Credit Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
A visitor walks through a new 105,000-square-foot greenhouse structure at the Monsanto Chesterfield Research Center.

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