Celina Gómez grew up hearing stories from her father about the lifelong friendships he developed while attending Zamorano University in Honduras. Naturally, after choosing Agriculture as a major, she too decided to attend Zamorano University. In 2005, she packed her bags, left her hometown, and moved to Honduras, where she was joined by fellow students from all over Latin America and the Caribbean. She then developed an interest in hydroponic plant production, which later matured into one of her professional areas of specialization.
After completing her undergraduate degree, Celina moved to Fayetteville, AR to start a MS in horticulture focused on nursery management. Her work demonstrated the potential to use parboiled rice hulls as a substrate amendment for long-term containerized crop production. She then moved to West Lafayette, IN to start a PhD in horticulture focused on controlled environment agriculture. Celina worked with a group of researchers who were just beginning to assess the opportunities of using light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for commercial plant production in the US. Many studies about LEDs have been published ever since, and the opportunities to manipulate plant growth and development with light continue to grow.
Celina joined the Department of Environmental Horticulture at the University of Florida (IFAS) in late 2016, with research and teaching responsibilities aiming at expanding knowledge about controlled-environment plant production. With help from her students and often in collaboration with IFAS colleagues, Celina leads several projects that typically belong to one of three main research areas: 1) indoor propagation of high-value crops, which focuses on leveraging indoor farming technologies to grow young plants; 2) urban gardening, which focuses on supporting the increasing consumer interest in growing edible crops in residential environments; and 3) lighting for indoor plant production, which primarily focuses on evaluating plant responses to light spectrum or quantity. She is also involved in other projects that are of interest to Florida growers, such as those evaluating propagation and production methods to help establish a local ginger and turmeric industry in the state.
Celina is the state representative for two multi-state groups that translate research outcomes to stakeholders: NCERA-101 (Committee on Controlled Environment Technology and Use) and NE-1835 (Resource Optimization in Controlled Environment Agriculture).
In collaboration with industry partners at PanAmerican Seed, Syngenta Flowers, Scotts Miracle-Gro, and BioWorks, she recently helped establish the ‘Research on Urban Gardening’ (RUG) consortium to help develop research-based solutions for the horticulture industry and for consumers in the edible gardening sector. She hopes that this new consortium will bring novel collaborative opportunities to help promote gardening as a decentralized and secure source of food that can support individuals’ nutrition, health, and well-being.
Funded by the National Horticulture Foundation (NHF), Celina will be starting new research projects aiming to evaluate methods of using LEDs to improve longevity of living green walls. Agri-Starts (Apopka, FL) and Oglesby Plants International, Inc. (Altha, FL) kindly donated plant material for this study, which is set to begin in mid-April. By evaluating the effect of LED intensity and quality, she expects to identify adequate light conditions for indoor green-wall plant maintenance. With help from NHF, her ultimate goal is to develop a “Lighting Handbook for Green Walls” that can help ensure successful interiorscape applications by improving post-production plant quality and longevity indoors.