On November 18, 2013, the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the Agricultural Technology Research Program at the Georgia Tech Research Institute had the privilege of co-hosting the first-ever Agriculture Collaboration Day. Based on a theme of “Building Partnerships to Pursue Grand Challenges in Food and Agriculture,” the event brought together senior leaders, professors, and researchers in agriculture-related disciplines from both institutions. Other invited guests included Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, Abit Massey and
Mike Giles of the Georgia Poultry Federation, James Lee Adams of J.L. Farms, and Mark Glass of Mark Glass Enterprises.
The goal of the event was to explore the idea of forming a joint multidisciplinary initiative between UGA and Georgia Tech centered on “High-Tech” Agriculture. It is clear that advanced technology will need to play an ever increasing role in developing solutions to meet the future food and agriculture demands of a growing world population, which recent reports estimate to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. Combining the resources and talents in the agriculture and food science disciplines at UGA with the engineering and technology expertise and resources at Georgia Tech will immediately position this partnership as a leader in pursuing these Grand Challenges. Such an initiative could serve as the education and technology innovation and development conduit for shaping the future of food and agriculture in Georgia and the nation as a whole.
The day began with a morning session at Georgia Tech’s Food Processing Technology Building, where participants discussed multidisciplinary and collaborative research and educational opportunities, including agri-robotics, poultry processing and production of the future, and nanotechnologies and sensing for food safety and agriculture. An afternoon session was held at UGA’s C.M. Stripling Irrigation Research Park in Camilla, Ga., where the discussion focused on areas of collaboration for improving agricultural water use efficiencies. Demonstrations were also held focusing on precision irrigation applications, remote soil moisture monitoring tools, and the use of unmanned aerial vehicle platforms for obtaining remotely sensed crop health and stress data.
Overall, the event was very well received, and there is significant interest in further developing this opportunity. It is great to have strong leadership at Georgia Tech, UGA, and the Department of Agriculture that captures the vision and encourages discussions among various institutions. While still just a seed of an idea, it is not difficult to envision how this might grow through the “innovation at the intersection,” a phrase we have coined to describe the opportunities that lie along the boundaries between disciplines. The goals would be to strengthen the existing agricultural and food industries in Georgia while becoming the “go-to-place” for new high-tech agricultural development. It would be great to see the Department of Agriculture’s “Georgia Grown” brand be extended to include an entirely new ecosystem of technology start-ups, based in Georgia, focused on the agriculture and food sectors. So, while this is just the beginning, we are excited about the opportunities this initiative will bring.
Doug Britton, Ph.D.
ATRP Program Manager