Danforth Plant Science Center Awarded $20 Million Grant to Develop AI Farm of the Future

The National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes program has awarded a five year, $20 million grant to scientists at the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri. The grant money will be used to explore foundational AI goals and innovative uses of AI to develop a prototype autonomous “farm of the future.” The project, named AI Institute for Future Agricultural Resilience, Management and Sustainability (AIFARMS), is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which announced plans to make Missouri its new home in 2019, and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Todd Mockler, PhD, a scientist at the Danforth Center, will co-lead a research team applying AI approaches to extract plant phenotypes from sensor data sets in order to accelerate crop improvement, with a focus on enhancing nitrogen and water use efficiency in major row crops such as corn and soy.

“Crop and livestock production are extremely complex systems that feed billions of people despite tight cost constraints and chronic risks from weather and other external challenges. I’m excited to be part of a fantastic team of colleagues in diverse disciplines ranging from artificial intelligence to robotics to plant biology,” said Mockler. “The AIFARMS institute is poised to address fundamental challenges facing world agriculture while improving the resilience of crops and the sustainability of crop and livestock productions systems.”

The AIFARMS Institute combines deep research expertise with strong education and outreach programs in digital agriculture to grow a diverse workforce with AI skills, reach rural and other underserved populations, and to create a global clearinghouse to foster community-wide collaboration in AI-driven agricultural research.

“This major Federal investment in next generation agriculture signals our commitment to keeping American agricultural innovation on the leading edge of global science,” said USDA-NIFA Acting Director Parag Chitnis. “These future-focused centers of innovation will use the latest techniques from all corners of science including molecular science, engineering and robotics to seek solutions for myriad challenges facing agriculture, from crop improvement and animal welfare to labor shortages and farm safety.”

Missouri’s agtech industry, with its focus on innovative technology and research in plant science and animal health, is transforming agriculture. Across Missouri, leading agtech organizations are either headquartered in the state or have large and significant operations, including the Danforth Plant Science CenterBayer CropScience, the Missouri Botanical GardenYield LabDuPontBASF, and Bunge.

And it’s not just technology that makes Missouri the global agtech leader. The world-class talent is, well, world-class. Universities across the state offer advanced plant science degrees, and Missouri is home to the highest concentration of plant science PhD’s in the world.

It is easy to see why agtech companies are choosing Missouri as the best place to grow and expand their research capabilities. For more details on Missouri’s worldwide agtech leadership, check out our article on why Missouri is THE global leader in agtech.

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