HCS Alumni Spotlight: Gabe Bertke

July 3, 2024
Gabe walking through tomato plants in a greenhouse

Meet Gabe Bertke | OSU HCS Alumnus Class of 2022

Gabe Bertke is a Research Greenhouse Technician based at the Controlled Environment Agricultural Research Complex (CEARC) here at The Ohio State University. He received his BS (2022) from our department in Sustainable Plant Systems with a Horticulture specialization.

Thankfully, Gabe had time to share a bit about his experiences at Ohio State + some advice for students considering studying horticulture...

How’d you initially become interested in horticulture?

My extended family has always been involved in agriculture with corn, soy, and peanuts, but growing up in Upper Arlington I never had considered that to be a career path for myself. I enrolled at OSU under a different major, and when I realized it wasn’t a good fit, I explored a few other options before taking a chance on horticulture. Once I enrolled in Dr. Kubota’s “HCS 3521: Greenhouse Systems and Management” class I knew that I had made the correct decision and found the direction I wanted to take my career in.

I was especially drawn into CEA by high-tech greenhouses and tech integration to enhance agriculture. It is exciting to me to be involved in an industry that is constantly evolving with so much still left to be researched, refined, and created.  

How did your time in HCS help prepare you for your career?

HCS gave me the tools I need to succeed in my position every day. From greenhouse operational management to pest scouting & ID, to disease management and the development of treatment plans I credit the foundation of everything I know about this industry to the CFAES and HCS faculty and staff. I especially benefitted from my time in Howlett greenhouse where I gained hands-on experiences and routinely had the opportunity to learn something in the classroom then immediately turn around and apply that knowledge in a lab setting. 

What’s a normal day look like for you as a Research Greenhouse Technician?

One of my favorite parts about my position is that there is no normal day. I always arrive to the greenhouse early in the morning to get a head start on my day and check Priva, our environmental monitoring and control program. The rest of my day can be a mix of pest scouting, assisting a lab with their plants, monitoring the fertigation equipment, configuring environmental settings, and enjoying some of the fresh produce grown at CEARC.

My tasks are dependent on the needs of the labs working within the facility and can change at a very fast pace! As a part of the greenhouse operations team I also assist with the upkeep of the Ohio State Ross Heart Hospital Community Garden located beside the Kunz-Brundige building at Waterman.  

What do you most look forward to each day on the job?

Every day at CEARC I look forward to the chance to be challenged and to learn new things about greenhouse production and operation. CEARC is unique to other facilities I’ve worked at because of the broad and constantly changing array of plant species being grown and studied here. I have had the opportunity to work with standard greenhouse crops, ornamentals, and more exotic plants like coffee trees. Occasionally I will lead tours throughout our facility as well, which I especially enjoy because it gives me the opportunity to share my excitement for CEA with others. 

Any advice for students considering studying horticulture?

Be open to exploring all the different aspects of horticulture before locking in on something you think you’d like to do as a career. I looked into landscaping, conventional field agriculture, hemp, and plant breeding before landing on greenhouse production and knowing that that is where I’m meant to be. I curated my coursework to help me explore the topics I was interested in as much as possible, and pushed myself to take many credits to capitalize on my time as an OSU student. 

Today, we have a wide variety of academic paths for you to choose from to help you grow your career…