The Future Is Taking Shape Right Now

The Future Is Taking Shape Right Now

The Gulf Coast Research and Education Center demonstrated once again at the recent Florida Ag Expo where the future of Florida agriculture is happening today.

 

I was proud to announce new faculty hires we brought to Florida because of their expertise in artificial intelligence.

 

Kevin Wang recently arrived, and he will be helping our breeders. Certainly, he’ll work with our strawberry and tomato breeders, but he will work across commodities. He’ll do things like use drones to evaluate fruit in the field.

 

Dana Choi will arrive in January. Her specialty is mechanical harvesting. At Penn State she was training machines to identify and pick apples and mushrooms. She’ll train her AI-aided sights on Florida crops now.

But there’s something even bigger afoot—Nathan Boyd and Jack Rechcigl want to make GCREC a statewide hub for applying artificial intelligence to agriculture. Both share my vision for AI focused on the practical, getting AI into your hands, making it accessible, easy to use, and affordable for farmers large and small.

 

This is not a pie-in-the-sky dream. Rechcigl has met with an architect. He wants to build what he calls the Center for Applied Artificial Intelligence in Agriculture. The center has the support of the Gulf Coast Council and its chair, Kenneth Parker.

 

I know labor costs and underpriced imported produce that comes from places with nominal labor costs are twin threats to you. Robotics and AI could address both by automating your harvest, weed control, pest management and more.

 

My definition of sustainable agriculture includes a clause that people who produce our food can continue to make a living off it. Innovation is increasingly the edge that keeps you competitive in a global market. That’s what we’ll continue to deliver. 

 

Boyd, Rechcigl, the entire GCREC crew and the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences never lose sight of it. Florida ag won’t look the same in five or 10 years as it does now. But it will still thrive based on a partnership between those who produce our food, feed, fuel and fiber and the scientists who produce the innovation and know-how to help them do it in a profitable, sustainable way.

 

  1. Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).