The University of Minnesota (UMN) is planning a $220 million research complex near Austin, Minn., as it seeks to put the state on the cutting edge of farm and food technology. Plans for the Future of Advanced Agricultural Research Minnesota (FAARM) center unveiled recently include fields, research and innovation space, and workforce development efforts.

"We do this now, in a lot of ways, but this expands our vision and scope for the work we do," Dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences Brian Buhr told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "It is a revolutionary time in technology and innovation."

UMN is requesting an initial $60 million in state support from the state Legislature and has a $60 million commitment from the Hormel Foundation. The rest will come from "a variety of public and private sources," according to a news release. Development is expected to take 5 years.

Research at FAARM will "pursue scientific solutions to adapt" and delve into artificial intelligence, robotics and other technologies alongside a focus on "health intersections between people, animals, crops, plants, soil, water and environment," according to the university.

The College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences has 10 outreach and research centers around the state currently, which "have some investment needs," according to Buhr. Bringing efforts together on a new site in Mower County meets those needs, he said.

The university is partnering with Riverland Community College in Austin for education and outreach for students of all ages through the FAARM initiative as it seeks to fill jobs at multiple levels in the state's $112 billion agriculture economy.

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