The University of Georgia in Athens is leveraging faculty expertise and strengthening industry ties through new Institute for Integrative Precision Agriculture to fortify research and outreach.

“With integrative precision agriculture, we are taking the next step and enhancing the entire agricultural process,” says Jaime Camelio, professor and associate dean for research, innovation and entrepreneurship in the College of Engineering and interim co-director of the institute.

Precision agriculture maximizes yields through data-driven decision making enabled by technologies and tools such as such soil moisture sensors, drones, satellite imagery and robotics. Integrative precision agriculture expands the range of opportunities for optimization using artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analysis. It also expands the scope of agricultural sectors involved by incorporating insights from fields as diverse as engineering, plant genomics and forestry.

Camerlio noted that Institute faculty will address a range of commercially important sectors, including poultry, peanuts, cotton, fruits, vegetables and controlled-environment agriculture.

Interim institute co-director Allen J. Moore, a distinguished research professor and associate dean for research in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, noted that the Institute builds on UGA’s strengths, including its ag engineering program, which is one of the oldest in the nation.

“The word ‘integrative’ is key," Moore says. "While precision agriculture is not new, our ability to use data from multiple sources in making decisions brings the potential to make greater use of the resources we have for agricultural production and processing. We recognize that farms, pastures, chicken houses and processing plants are not uniform and that optimizing the potential across this variability takes integrating information from multiple sources such as weather, soil, drainage, other organisms, diseases and any other information we can gather and integrate.”

Industry trends will inform course offerings, and industry partners will be involved in joint research projects. The institute will offer training and development for producers through Extension, Public Service and Outreach networks and UGA’s Innovation District.

UGA has launched hiring initiatives to bring a total of 9 new faculty members with expertise in integrative precision agriculture to campus. The state of Georgia recently supported integrative precision agriculture at UGA through a total of $4.4 million in funding. The funding will enable the university to recruit a GRA Eminent Scholar with nationally renowned expertise in integrative precision agriculture and provide seed grant funding to jump-start faculty research.

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