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Program Overview

Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), one of the fastest growing areas of agriculture, is an advanced and intensive form of hydroponically-based agriculture. This innovative method of growing plants focuses on key production benefits, such as:

  • High plant quality
  • Predictable crop timing
  • Consistently available quantity
  • Limited environmental impact

CEA techniques demand sound knowledge of chemistry, horticulture, engineering, plant physiology, plant pathology, computers and entomology. A wide range of skills as well as a natural inclination to attend to details are necessary for a person to operate a successful CEA production.

Offered through the field of Horticulture, the CEA specialization for the MPS degree program is focused on the development of specific skills to understand lighting, hydroponic production, pest control, and horticultural aspects of production.

Careers in CEA

Two students in controlled environment laboratory working with plant vines

With the world population estimated to be at 9 billion by 2050, and estimated annual growth of 31% for the global vertical farming market, there is demand for highly educated and skilled employees who have a deep understanding of the latest technologies in controlled environment agriculture. On a global scale, major investments are being made by start-ups and established corporations in hydroponics, vertical farming, urban agriculture, and technology to optimize plant yield in controlled environments.

Careers in the controlled environment agriculture sector include: Commercial Grower, Production Specialist, Inventory Controller, Operations Management, Research Support Specialist, and Pest Management Specialist.

The MPS is an accredited, one-year, course-based master’s degree program that prepares individuals for the 21st-century workplace through knowledge development and career skillset refinement. The specialized, course-based instruction led by world-class faculty broadens expertise and expands versatility.

The CALS MPS degree program in SIPS has two main components:

  1. Coursework: The suggested SIPS MPS curriculum includes a balance of courses to build both professional and disciplinary competencies. Students work with a faculty advisor to customize their course of study based on their area(s) of interest.  While the majority of the courses (20 of the required 30 credits) will be in CALS, students have the flexibility to take electives across Cornell.
  2. Capstone project: With the guidance of a faculty advisor, students work on solving a real-world problem, building project management and team leadership skills sought by employers.

MPS students are part of a cohort of CALS professional master’s students specializing in diverse fields of study. The program is fast-paced and rigorous. Professional master’s students have a dedicated support organization, offering career guidance and professional skill development.

Lettuce grows in controlled environment lab with red LED lights

Read the MPS degree requirements

CEA Sample Curriculum


course title
BTRY 6010 Statistical Methods I                                                                                                        
ALS 5211 Career Readiness for CALS Professional Master's Students
LEAD 5100 Leadership Skills for Graduate Students
PLSCI 5940 Skills for Public Engagement
PLSCI 5900 MPS Project

CEA Core

PLSCS 4130 Physiology and Ecology of Yield 
PLSCS 3800 Principles and Practices in Certified Organic Agriculture                                        
PLSCS 6100 Plant Responses to Environmental Stresses and Global Climate Change                 

Plant Production

course title
PLHRT 5025 Hydroponic Food Production and Management                                                           
PLHRT 5100 Production and Marketing of Greenhouse Crops 

Pest/Nutrient Management

course title
PLHRT 4551 Principles of Nutrition and Nutrient Management in Crops and Landscape Plants
PLSCS 4440 Integrated Pest Management
PLPPM 3010 Biology and Management of Plant Diseases


course title
BEE 4890 Entrepreneurial Management for Engineers
BEE 4010  Renewable Energy Systems                                                                                                   
BEE 4350 Principles of Aquaculture

Faculty Spotlight

Neil Mattson, Standing in Front of Controlled Environment Agriculture System

Neil Mattson is one of the nation’s leaders in area of controlled environment agriculture.  The central theme of Neil’s research program is to understand the influence of environmental factors and cultural practices on the physiology, development, and biochemical characteristics of greenhouse crops. Of particular focus is the influence of water quality and nutrient availability, temperature, light, and abiotic stress conditions on the physiology of herbaceous plants. This fits well with Neil’s goal of providing producers with relevant, research-based information for the production of high quality floriculture crops using nutrients, water, and energy efficiently.

Admissions Requirements

The ideal candidate will demonstrate a passion for the importance of plants in securing a sustainable future for the world’s population, competency in undergraduate science coursework, and interest in applying knowledge gained in a professional career. Admission requirements include:

  • Common undergraduate courses taken: Biology, Botany, Physics, Math, Chemistry, Ecology
  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores are not required but may be submitted to strengthen candidacy
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • TOEFL for non-native English speakers

Connect with us to discuss the admissions process.

Learn more about all the Masters of Professional Studies specializations offered in the School of Integrative Plant Science