NIFA Grant Helps UCR Develop Agricultural Technology

Brian German Industry, Technology

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded $90 million in grant funding to nine projects, to support investment in research to improve sustainability in the agricultural industry.  Of the eight institutions to receive funding support, the University of California, Riverside (UCR) was awarded a $10 million NIFA grant. The funding will be used to support the development of artificial intelligence (AI) in the agricultural sector to help efficiently address farming issues.

NIFA grant

“In an effort to help American farmers produce nutritious, high-quality products in a way that conserves natural resources and protects the environment, these projects will provide needed research to overcome critical barriers facing the industry,” NIFA Director Scott Angle said in a press release. “Investments in research that promotes sustainable systems will result in long-term improvements in agricultural practices that will benefit consumers, farmers, and the environment.”

The long-term goal of the UCR project is to formulate an informed plan for implementing highly automated mechanized systems to address nutrition, irrigation, pest management, and salinity in farming systems. Farmland in the Colorado River Basin along with the Salinas River Valley will be used as study areas for the project. The NIFA grant project will help with the development of algorithms for agricultural input management with AI, to be integrated with automated pest management systems that will provide alerts for pest, disease, or weed problems.

Part of the project will include the establishment of a multi-state Cooperative Extension network to develop training programs to increase industry knowledge about the new technologies. The NIFA grant will help translate the information gathered through the mechanized systems through user-friendly web interfaces, including a smartphone app called FutureFarmNow. Funding from the grant will also establish a Digital Agriculture Fellowship program to allow for the recruitment of more than 50 students over the next five years. 

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West