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US (KY): University of Kentucky breaks ground on Agricultural Research Building

The University of Kentucky Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment (CAFE), joined by members of the Kentucky General Assembly, UK Board of Trustees and university administration, celebrates the groundbreaking of the $285 million Agricultural Research Building.

Set to be completed in November 2026, the 263,000-square-foot building will be the college's central research hub, aligned with its teaching and extension missions, which serve the entire Commonwealth.

The project represents a significant investment in the college's research enterprise, and a partnership between the state and its flagship land-grant university. A significant outcome from the 2024 legislative session, the project is funded with $200 million in state bonds and restricted funds from the university.

"This groundbreaking marks a transformative step in supporting the discovery that will help protect and grow the Commonwealth's multi-billion-dollar agriculture industry, present in communities throughout Kentucky's 120 counties," said UK President Eli Capilouto. "We are deeply grateful to the Kentucky General Assembly for investing in the work we do to benefit Kentucky agriculture and ensuring a safe, resilient and abundant food supply."

Designed by BHDP Architecture and FLAD Architects, the building will house state-of-the-art wet and dry research and teaching laboratories, and a complex of greenhouses on its roof to facilitate research in animal science, entomology, horticulture, plant sciences, plant pathology and soil science.

"This college carries a great responsibility," said Nancy Cox, vice president of Land-grant Engagement and dean of Martin-Gatton CAFE. "With new high-tech research labs, we are able to conduct relevant research and educate graduate students who are the future scientific workforce that will serve Kentucky and beyond."

The building will also host a dynamic 250-seat auditorium, accommodating larger classes such as Introduction to the Horse and the Horse Industry, Domestic Animal Biology, and Bees and People. This scalable space will be used for educational lectures, community outreach and large events.

The building will house the following academic departments:

  • Department of Animal and Food Sciences
  • Department of Entomology
  • Department of Horticulture
  • Department of Plant and Soil Sciences

The Kentucky Office of the State Entomologist and Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory will also be housed in the building, providing key services to Kentucky's diverse communities.

"The impact of these new facilities on our research is multi-fold," said James Matthews, associate dean for research in Martin-Gatton CAFE. "They enable our current faculty to continue excelling in their research endeavors, aid in the recruitment of top-tier research leaders for the future and accelerate our capacity to share the results of this work with the people we serve across the state."

The new building will feature state-of-the-art laboratories, enabling researchers in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences to perform a wide range of analyses, from nutrient assessments of feeds and foods to gene and protein expression studies. Additionally, advanced teaching laboratories will offer students enhanced hands-on learning opportunities, significantly enriching their experiential learning experiences

"Having new facilities will greatly enhance our equine, companion and food animal research programs that strive to optimize animal production, health and management, reduce environmental impacts, and enhance the quality of food products and their safety," said Scott Radcliffe, chair of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences.

Additionally, a separate teaching greenhouse will provide interior and exterior teaching spaces. This greenhouse will accommodate courses like Introduction to Floral Design, Introduction to Plant Identification and Plant Propagation. The UK Horticulture Club will also use this greenhouse for community engagement through plant sales.

The building will be located on the south side of UK's main campus, near the planned Martin-Gatton Agricultural Sciences Building, the Barnhart Building and the Plant Science Building, creating a dynamic agricultural campus.

The college recently held a groundbreaking for the Martin-Gatton Agricultural Sciences building, which will become the primary teaching facility, center for student success and home to new programs made possible by the generosity of The Bill Gatton Foundation. Together, these two facilities are part of the more than $500 million transformation of the college's infrastructure.


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