Universities meet to discuss future of AI and data science in agriculture

Signaling its ongoing commitment to collaboration in the areas of artificial intelligence and data science, the University of Florida is participating in an academic conference to address the potential of artificial intelligence, robotics and automation in agriculture.

The conference, titled Envisioning 2050 in the Southeast: AI-driven Innovations in Agriculture, is hosted March 9-11 by the Auburn University College of Agriculture and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Conference speakers include Hendrik Hamann, a distinguished research staff member and chief scientist for the future of climate in IBM Research; Mark Chaney, engineering manager of the automation delivery teams at Intelligent Solutions Group at John Deere; Steven Thomson, a national program leader with the USDA National Institute Food and Agriculture; and dozens more.

Speakers from academia, the federal government and industry will share their work in areas such as crop production, plant and animal breeding, climate, agricultural extension, pedagogy, food processing and supply chain, livestock management and more.

“The Envisioning 2050 in the Southeast: AI-Driven Innovations in Agriculture conference will bring together academics, industry and stakeholders to share their expertise and develop a vision for the future,” said Arthur Appel, interim associate dean of research for the Auburn College of Agriculture. “Attendees will be able to learn about the depth and breadth of AI in agriculture from the experts who are making the promise of AI a reality.”

Kati Migliaccio, co-organizer of the conference and chair of the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at the University of Florida, said the timing of the conference is perfect.

“This is an opportune time to host this conference focusing on AI in agriculture in the Southeast because of the resources invested in AI, the state of innovation of AI in agriculture and the critical need to adapt agriculture for current world challenges, including labor, nutrition, energy and climate,” she said.

In November, the chief academic officers of the 14 member universities in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) announced formation of an artificial intelligence and data science consortium for workforce development, designed to grow opportunities in the fast-changing fields of AI and data science.

Believed to be the first athletics conference collaboration to have such a focus, the SEC Artificial Intelligence Consortium enables SEC universities to share educational resources, such as curricular materials, certificate and degree program structures, and online presentations of seminars and courses; promote faculty, staff, and student workshops and academic conferences – such as today’s event at Auburn; and seek joint partnerships with industry.

Joe Glover, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Florida, which is leading the SEC-wide effort, said, “AI is changing nearly every sector of society, and the SEC is uniquely positioned to engage students, faculty, and staff in one of the most transformational opportunities of our time. The combined strength of our institutions gives us the opportunity to advance in how we process the future of teaching and learning, research and economic development and how we can provide leadership at this critical moment when AI and data science are changing the way we think about small tasks and big questions.”

The Auburn University office of communications and marketing and the SEC communications office contributed to this story.

UF News March 7, 2022