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Indoor Ag Tech Summit 2018, June 20-21, NYC

The Indoor AgTech Innovation Summit (New York, June 20-21, 2018) will focus on the role that vertical and indoor farming can have in building sustainable, profitable and healthy food systems, and new opportunities for investment and collaboration. Cornell CALS will be a Platinum Sponsor for the event with Dr. Neil Mattson serving on a panel, and Dr. John March giving a keynote address.

We face a daunting task as the global population increases rapidly. Agriculture and the worldwide food system will need to feed an estimated global population of 10 billion people by 2050 while producing twice as much food as we do now. Critical resources needed to meet this challenge are already severely strained.

Globally, most arable land is already in production, and current agricultural methods put pressure on limited freshwater and energy resources. Agriculture contributes to environmental problems (water and air quality, greenhouse gases, soil degradation) and labor issues (availability, working conditions, chemical exposure, etc.). Food loss and waste affect an estimated 40 percent of all food grown today, and food security will be increasingly jeopardized by climate change. The United Nations expects that the 3 billion people added to the world population will live primarily in urban areas. Finding more efficient means of food production, distribution and safety are critical challenges we face in the decades ahead.

Digital Agriculture (DA) presents a unique opportunity to solve the growing sustainability and food security challenges. The implementation of technology hardware and software can play a critical role in feeding the booming global population while making agriculture more resilient, efficient and healthy for the planet.

The Cornell Digital Agriculture InitiativeIndoor farming

Cornell has THE unique value proposition around agricultural technology. The intersection of our excellence in agriculture (#3 in the world), food science , plant and animal sciences (#2 in the world), engineering (#13 in the U.S.), information science (#7 in the U.S.), business (#16 in the U.S.) and sustainability (Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future) provides us with a diversity of thought that few institutions, if any, can match.

Today at Cornell, we define DA as the application of computational and information technologies coupled with nanotechnology, biology, systems engineering and economics to enhance the research and operational sides of agriculture and food production. For years our scientists have been collaborating across disciplines to achieve breakthroughs in these critical areas. We are now organizing to launch a  new Cornell Institute for Digital Agriculture (CIDA) which more fully harnesses our world-class expertise and interdisciplinary systems approach to develop data-driven solutions.

As a private, Ivy League university and the land-grant university for New York state, our mission is to discover, preserve and disseminate knowledge, to educate the next generation of global citizens, and to promote a culture of broad inquiry throughout and beyond the Cornell community. We also aim, through public service, to enhance the lives and livelihoods of students, the people of New York and others around the world. Because of our robust mission and top-quality research programs in diverse and relevant academic disciplines, we are positioned to be the global leader in food security and technology. 

At the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the questions we probe and the answers we seek focus on three overlapping concerns: natural and human systems; food, energy and environmental resources; and social, physical and economic well-being. For more than 150 years our Cornell agricultural extension  has served family farms in New York state. Globally, we have pioneered university outreach to smallholder farms around the world, from enhancing the nutrition of cassava, wheat, and maize in Africa to improving yields of rice in India and apples in China. We have built a strong reputation as a global leader backed by our more than 100-year history in international programs and global development.

Cornell leadership have embraced DA as a priority for the college and university. President Martha Pollack, who has been a leader in artificial intelligence research, enthusiastically endorses DA and the current work of faculty to develop key research pillars. Digital Agriculture aligns with priorities set by Provost Michael Kotlikoff, including celebrating collaboration among faculty and launching "Global Cornell."Indoor farming

In December 2017 , Kathryn J. Boor ’80, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of CALS, said “Digital Agriculture is one of the most exciting opportunities in my deanship.” Greg Morrisett, Dean of Computing and Information Science, along with other faculty leaders in DA have described this collaborative approach as “transcendence from the traditional academic silos”  and a transformational approach to coalescing as an academic and research community to solve critical problems of the world.

Funding opportunities for DA are being developed, and we will have greater detail in spring   2018. However, two initial priorities are emerging:

  • Hiring of new faculty positions to better enable research and innovation across disciplines
  • Funding signature research projects.

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