University of Kentucky advances the state’s agricultural industries with groundbreaking on new Agricultural Research Building

By Lilli Dubler, Building Kentucky

The new Agricultural Research Building will serve as the central research hub at Martin-Gatton CAFE. From left: Suzanne Miles, Nancy Cox, Eli Capilouto, Rocky Adkins, Rebecca McCulley and Amanda Mays Bledsoe. Photo by Matt Barton. 

The University of Kentucky Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment (CAFE) was joined by members of the Kentucky General Assembly, UK Board of Trustees and university administration to celebrate the groundbreaking of the $285 million Agricultural Research Building on June 14.

The new building is designed by BHDP Architecture and Flad Architects. Renderings provided by BHDP Architecture and Flad Architects.

Set to be completed in November 2026, the 263,000-square-foot building will be CAFE’s central research hub. Aligned with the college’s teaching and extension missions, the new facility will advance agricultural industries across the Commonwealth.

The project represents a significant investment in CAFE’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,” UK President Eli Capilouto said. “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.”

The new Agricultural Research Building will house state-of-the-art research and teaching labs, and a complex of greenhouses on its roof to facilitate research in animal science, entomology, horticulture, plant sciences, plant pathology and soil science. Renderings provided by BHDP Architecture and Flad Architects.

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, Ph.D., 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 house the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, the Department of Entomology, the Department of Horticulture and the 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, Ph.D., 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 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.

CAFE recently held a groundbreaking for the Martin-Gatton Agricultural Sciences Building, which will become the primary teaching facility and 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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