Saturday, March 2, 2024

UGA’s Institute for Integrative Precision Agriculture to host international conference

⋅ BY DAVID MITCHELL ⋅

The Integrative Precision Agriculture International Conference — Local Solutions Through Global Advances will be held May 18-19 at the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education and Hotel. Hosted by UGA’s Institute for Integrative Precision Agriculture, the conference will feature speakers who solve problems around the globe and offer new perspectives on common challenges in the field.

Crop and livestock farms throughout Georgia are in a perpetual exchange of ideas and innovations to solve challenges that have tangible impacts on the state’s—and the country’s—food supply.

But these concerns aren’t relegated to the southeast corner of the United States. Indeed, global shifts in agriculture—from new technologies to changing regulations—are felt throughout the industry, from Georgia’s peanut farms to cornfields in Nebraska, Greek olive groves and beyond.

This May, the University of Georgia’s Institute for Integrative Precision Agriculture will host an exchange of these ideas at the Integrative Precision Agriculture International Conference – Local Solutions Through Global Advances, where global thought leaders from industry and academia will share a vision for how integrative precision agriculture can be applied to solve critical issues facing crop and animal production.

The two-day event will feature 25 speakers presenting a range of topics that offer new perspectives based on expertise and experiences specific to their local environments.

“We thought it was important to provide a range of ideas on problem solving in other parts of the country or world,” said George Vellidis, a professor in UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and one of the event’s organizers. “We invited a suite of people from around the industry who are on the cutting edge of some of these new agriculture technologies that we know will be a benefit to all our attendees.”

The conference, which will take place on May 18-19 at the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education and Hotel, will focus on a number of challenges:

  • One session will focus on new developments in the delivery and types of chemicals used to protect crops from insects or disease, providing insight into new technologies that could minimize chemical use by as much as 70%. In addition to the obvious financial cost efficiencies at stake, this would offset environmental costs, as well.
  • On the second day, speakers will focus on poultry, Georgia’s biggest agricultural industry in terms of dollars generated. Industry experts will offer new perspectives and integrative precision agriculture solutions that address concerns about animal welfare in poultry production.

“The international perspective is important,” said Harald Scherm, a professor and department head for the Department of Plant Pathology at UGA. “Agritechnology companies have a global presence, and innovations that can benefit the diverse food and fiber systems in Georgia are developed by small and large companies all over the world. Furthermore, other countries have faced labor, environmental and regulatory issues impacting agricultural production for longer or more severely than the U.S., which promoted earlier adoption of some integrative precision agriculture technologies abroad.”

Conference attendees will have opportunities to participate in post-conference events like a spray drone workshop, student hackathon and tour of UGA’s Sanford Stadium.

The spray drone workshop will be led by a pair of experts, one from Auburn University and another from Greece, whose experience with the technology varies as a result of the types of crops and climates in which they use it. Attendees will gain new perspective as a result, Vellidis said.

The stadium tour will feature work from Gerald Henry, the Athletic Association Professor in Environmental Turfgrass, whose lab examines turf maintenance in hopes of minimizing potential injury. Henry uses many precision agriculture technologies, like drones that can fly over fields to help identify turf weaknesses. He and his students will share their work, and then participants will be able to tour the world-class facilities of the two-time defending football national champions.

Lastly, the student hackathon will comprise an introduction to machine learning, deep learning and computer vision led by UGA School of Computing Assistant Professor Jin Sun. Students will learn basic concepts, data collection, choosing machine learning models and more. In the second part, students will use this knowledge to develop solutions to two challenges—one in crop production and the other in poultry production.

The former will focus on analyzing farmland for crop yield prediction using satellite and drone data, the latter on detecting and counting chickens in still images on challenging conditions.

Teams that develop the best solution to each problem will be awarded $1,000.

Registration for the full conference and one Friday event will cost $100, while student registration will be just $25. Those interested in attending just the spray drone workshop can do so for $30.

Register online here.

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