USDA Issues $3.0 Million Grant To U Of Illinois To Create “Farm Of The Future”

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Source: University of Illinois news release

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that it is funding a new collaboration between two institutes and a research center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign that will create an integrated farm of the future in the U.S. Midwest.

Titled “I-FARM: Illinois Farming and Regenerative Management,” this $3.9 million, three-year project is funded through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The Illinois-led study will develop an 80-acre agricultural testbed, where commodity crops (corn and soybean) and livestock are farmed using synergistic and sustainable practices.

“We will accelerate creation, maturation, and adoption of new management technologies that are fundamentally more sustainable, profitable, affordable, and scale-neutral. The new practices will be enabled by maturing digital agriculture technologies developed in wide-ranging research efforts at the University of Illinois,” said Primary Investigator Girish Chowdhary, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering and computer science.

The I-FARM is a unique partnership between the university’s Center for Digital Agriculture (CDA), the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), and the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE). Over three years, the I-FARM testbed will feature improved precision farming with remote sensing; new under-canopy autonomous robotic solutions for cover-crop planting, variable-rate input applications, and mechanical weeding; and artificial intelligence-enabled remote sensing for animal health prediction, nutrient quantification, and soil health.

Other U of I project members include Co-PI Madhu Khanna, ACES distinguished professor of agricultural and consumer economics and iSEE interim director; Co-PI Kaiyu Guan, associate professor of natural resources and environmental sciences and founding director of the Agroecosystem Sustainability Center; and co-investigators Isabella Condotta, assistant professor of animal sciences; Deepak Vasisht, assistant professor of computer science; Shadi Atallah, associate professor of agricultural and consumer economics; Hamze Dokoohaki, assistant professor of crop sciences; Salah Issa, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering; Andrew Margenot, assistant professor of crop sciences; DoKyoung Lee, professor of crop sciences; and Bin Peng, senior research scientist at iSEE and NCSA.