School of Trades, Advanced Technologies and Sustainability

Listen to Lead Faculty Charlie Shultz discuss the Controlled Environment Agriculture program with KSWV’s Estevan Gonzales


About the Program

Sustainable agriculture practices affect the ecological health of New Mexico and the world. In this program, you will learn how Controlled-Environment Agriculture assists in efforts to revitalize agriculture production and to support local food systems. Specifically you will learn greenhouse operations and management techniques; Aquaponic and Hydroponic production systems; and a variety of sustainable methods to enhance all crop production efforts.

A large part of the program involves a variety of hands-on experiential tasks in one of several operating systems. Students will gain experience with crop production from seed to harvest in a variety of culture methods and locations. Operations in the existing geodesic dome greenhouse will involve crop rotation, pest management and pollination/pruning.

Aquaponics is a facet of Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA), which joins the science of hydroponics (growing plants in water without soil) with the science of aquaculture (raising fish).

Fish waste produces a high amount of nitrogen that is typically wasted by aquaculture farms. In this recirculating system, these wastes are combined with a select few mineral supplements (like chelated iron) to fuel the exceptional growth of a wide variety of crops. While vegetative crops, like herbs, lettuce, cabbage and kale, will grow the fastest, it is also a highly effective method for growing Fruiting/Flowering crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, melons and ornamental flowers.

AAS in Controlled Environment Agriculture: The purpose of this program is to revitalize agricultural traditions in order to build local food security in a way that is ecologically, economically and culturally viable; socially just; and organic and regenerative for current and future generations. Students will receive detailed hands-on and classroom training in a wide range of skills associated with Controlled-Environment Agriculture, such as greenhouse management, hydroponics and aquaponics. Through various program concentrations, completion of this degree prepares students for careers in sustainable agriculture.

Certificate in Controlled Environment Agriculture: Successful completion of this certificate prepares students to become greenhouse management technicians or operators with the essential knowledge and skills to design, build, operate, and manage both hydroponic and aquaponics greenhouse enterprises for home/farm and commercial scale operations. Students will learn about greenhouse operations; hydroponic and aquaponic systems; techniques to grow plants from propagation to harvest; and integrated pest management.

Topics of Instruction

  • Technological hands on studies of the three most commonly used hydroponic and aquaponic systems in commercial use today
  • Techniques and skills involved with greenhouse management and operations, including accounting, marketing, sales, and culinary arts
  • Plant, fish, seed and crop production, product use and commercial distribution
  • Health, societal and planetary benefits of hydroponic growing

Graduates have a full spectrum understanding of Controlled-Environment Agriculture businesses; the ecological and sustainable qualities, the operational ‘why’ and ‘how’ as well as accounting, sales, marketing and distribution.