IALR Installs Elite Testing Equipment with Tobacco Commission Funding

(DANVILLE, Va.) – The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) has installed a new, elite research instrument as part of its efforts to establish an ISO-Certified Analytical Testing Facility. A recent grant award from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission (TRRC) included the equipment purchase. With the instrument, IALR will support the marketability and safety testing needs of the agricultural community in the TRRC footprint. The organization also takes another step toward becoming the Commonwealth’s premier agricultural lab with a heavy focus on industrial hemp.

Mark Gignac (left), executive director of the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR), celebrates with Delegate Danny Marshall (center) and Yimeng “Jack” He, IALR analytical chemist, the installation of the new Waters Xevo TQ-XS instrument. The elite testing equipment was purchased as part of a recent grant through the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission to provide accurate testing for safety and marketability of emerging crops.


“As the leading industry sector for the Commonwealth of Virginia, agriculture continues to grow and evolve in exciting new ways, including the introduction of new crops, which require and deserve accurate, reliable testing,” Said Mark Gignac, IALR’s Executive Director. “We appreciate the support of the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission and champions across our state who help IALR serve our agricultural stakeholders.”

The Waters I-Class UPLC with the Xevo TQ-XS detector is the newest Waters Ultra-Performance Liquid Chromatography tandem Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer. Manufactured by the world-renowned Waters Corporation, it uses a chemistry technique that combines the physical separation capabilities of liquid chromatography (separating a chemical mixture into its individual components) with the mass analysis capabilities of mass spectrometry (measuring the molecular masses of the chemical compounds within a sample). The instrument provides the highest levels of reliability, reproducibility and performance in quantitative chemical analysis.

“As a proud leader in agriculture, it is important for Virginia to continue to set the pace with premier technology and support to bring new crops to market,” said Delegate Danny Marshall, who also serves as a commissioner for the TRRC. “I am pleased to help the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research remain a cutting-edge facility with the services to meet and exceed the needs of our area’s hard-working agriculturalists.”

Organic vegetable, tobacco, wine, hops, barley and industrial hemp are just some of the markets requiring testing for safety and marketability. The lab will help new farmers entering these potentially profitable sectors by providing accessible, affordable testing for pesticides, heavy metals, biological contaminants and more. The program aims to diversify the region’s agricultural outputs, promote agribusiness growth and increase agribusiness profitability.

One emerging market, industrial hemp, was recently approved through the 2018 Farm Bill signed into legislation at the federal level in December. The 2019 Virginia General Assembly session also passed legislation introduced by Marshall in the House of Delegates and by Sen. Frank Ruff Jr. in the Senate. According to Marshall, approximately 600 farmers in the Commonwealth have registered as licensed industrial hemp growers with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and plan to grow more than 5,000 acres of the emerging crop. IALR is positioned to serve as a market catalyst for this industry by offering the highest quality testing services at an affordable rate thanks to the funding from TRRC. Both growers and processors may benefit from the ISO-certified testing. Industrial hemp is used to make a variety of commercial and industrial products, including health and natural food products, supplements, skin products, clothing, bioplastics, insulation, biofuel and more.

The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research serves Virginia as a regional catalyst for economic transformation with advanced learning, applied research, advanced manufacturing, conference center services and economic development efforts. IALR’s major footprint focuses within Southern Virginia, including the counties of Patrick, Henry, Franklin, Pittsylvania, Halifax and Mecklenburg along with the cities of Martinsville and Danville.