WSU Regents to consider 2 projects at Prosser research station

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldNovember 19, 2013 

Washington State University's Prosser research station could see more construction in its future.

The WSU Regents will consider two projects worth a combined $4.89 million for the station during a Thursday meeting in Spokane, a release said.

Two other buildings are under construction at the Prosser station.

The rapid growth of the wine grape industry and pace of technological changes in the tree fruit industry have pushed the station's expansion, said director Gary Grove.

"It's all about building new research capacity to meet the needs of the 21st century," he told the Herald.

Design and construction of an addition to the station's Agricultural Technology Building is listed at $2.1 million. It would add offices, a shop and several labs to a building that opened in 2008. It would provide more space for the Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems, which works on automation for the tree fruit industry.

An addition to the Viticulture Building at the station would cost $2.79 million. The enology program in the current building will eventually move to the Wine Science Center being built near WSU Tri-Cities. However, the Viticulture Building and its addition will go to the automated agriculture program, as well as projects in viticulture, fruit tree hardiness and crop protection and AgWeatherNet, a weather data system developed and operated by the university for the agriculture industry.

The research station had only a handful of graduate students working with faculty five years ago, Grove said. That number has boomed to between 30 and 40, and researchers are working on several critical projects.

"Many of these graduate students, post docs, senior researchers and technicians associated with these programs are working in buildings away from their research faculty adviser or supervisor and are in crowded areas designed for other purchases," university documents said. "Coordination of activities becomes more challenging and inefficient, leading to less productivity."

The Prosser projects are among more than $22.5 million in capital spending the regents are considering. .

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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