Will RI’s farmland be replaced by giant greenhouses?

Brian Bouchard, owner of Kingston Turf, says the University of Rhode Island has terminated his lease because of the new greenhouse planned near Peckham Farm.

SOUTH KINGSTOWN — The future of agriculture is as clear as glass, say experts in the field. 

The path there, however, may not be as smooth. 

First, there’s the case of Tim Schartner. His construction of a 25-acre, 1-million-square-foot greenhouse on the family’s Exeter farm to grow tomatoes year-round is yielding more criticism as the enormous project takes shape — all without town regulation, so far. 

More:Farm or factory: Will Schartner’s mall-sized greenhouse change RI town’s rural character?

But Schartner’s colossal greenhouse — equal in size to the Warwick Mall — isn’t the only model of what’s coming in Rhode Island food production. 

Eight miles south in Kingston, on the outskirts of the University of Rhode Island, another gargantuan greenhouse, which would first be of near equal size and eventually much larger, is scheduled to rise next year from 59 acres of prime farm land.

And some controversy is just now poking through. 

Supporters say this other large-scale example of “controlled environment agriculture” (CEA) could someday be an important provider of the state’s vegetable needs — with an adjacent new education center spinning off programs in agricultural research, and jobs.