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School of Environmental Sciences Prof. Thomas Graham has been named the PhytoGro Research Chair in Controlled Environment Systems.

Science-driven production and optimization of plant-based medicinal commodities will be a focus of the University of Guelph’s new PhytoGro Research Chair in Controlled Environment Systems.

Prof. Thomas Graham in the School of Environmental Sciences has been appointed to the chair, supported by last year’s $1-million donation by PhytoGro Canada, a PRM Inc. company.

The chair will help U of G researchers apply scientific rigour to the production and standardization of cannabis and other plants with promising medicinal properties.

Graham has served as the research and development manager of U of G’s Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility since 2015. Earlier, he held a prestigious post-doctoral research fellowship at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. His PhD and M.Sc. are from U of G.

The CESRF is home to world-leading systems that create optimal growing conditions mostly for space travel and harsh environments.  Graham will use the plant production systems for plant-based pharmaceutical purposes and will explore applications in urban agriculture and space travel.

“The applications for the exceptional, ground-breaking technology developed at CESRF are expanding into a number of areas that hold great potential to improve life in our world,” said Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research). “We are delighted by the creation of the PhytoGro Research Chair, and excited about the progress in discovery that will emerge in the use of our controlled environment systems. I applaud Professor Graham on this vitally important appointment.”

PhytoGro Canada is a relatively new company that makes and markets plant-based medicines for treating the symptoms of illnesses and conditions, including cancer, epilepsy and insomnia. The company is eager to collaborate with U of G scientists in the most effective cultivation and use of medicinal plants possible, according to company CEO Ken Clement.

“We feel extremely fortunate to be working with Professor Graham and the whole team at CESRF,” said Clement, founder of PRM Inc. “My dream of producing plant-based medicine to pharmaceutical standards would not be possible without the efforts of the entire CESRF team.”

Graham said he is excited by the opportunity to leverage leading-edge technology to tackle some of the pressing issues of our time.

“The University of Guelph is in a truly unique position to make major advances in several areas, including plant-based medicine production and standardization, addressing food insecurity and advancing human space exploration through bioregenerative life-support.”

Graham is also passionate about exploring the potential of controlled environment agricultural production to solve food insecurity issues around the world.

CESRF has globally recognized excellence in controlled environment plant production, having developed advanced horticultural technologies for the consistent production of high-quality medicinal, ornamental and food crop plant species. It has a leading research program in optimizing the medicinal properties of plants such as cannabis.

The new research chair will support an interdisciplinary, advanced horticultural production program. It will also train graduate and undergraduate students to become future industry leaders.