November 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter
By J. Scott Angle
In the near future, a new UF/IFAS hub dedicated to revolutionizing agriculture will help you make a leap forward in farming.
A center for applied artificial intelligence in agriculture will be that hub. Last month we announced our plan for a 19,000-square-foot facility anchored by a workshop for developing precision ag machine prototypes.
GCREC Director Jack Rechcigl and Associate Director Nathan Boyd have been talking this up for some time. They invited me to GCREC about a year ago to present their vision to me and to a council of stakeholders. The council unanimously supported the project, and several members individually urged us to move on this immediately.
Plans call for research and office space as well and areas designed to encourage conversations to build teams for AI research and Extension. That’s important, because while the center will be based at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, it will develop technologies for the entire state, from the Everglades Agricultural Area to the Panhandle to the Tri-County Agricultural Area.
Hillsborough County has already made a $1.5 million commitment to the center. Our advancement team is seeking private support. We’re requesting funding from the legislature in 2023.
The center will be our most important facilities investment in a generation. We’ll need support from Tallahassee and possibly Washington. You can help by supporting our legislative budget request. I hope it will be top of mind for those of you who participate in Florida Farm Bureau Day and the Taste of Florida Agriculture Reception at the Capitol on March 8.
A center will add momentum to a movement. It will be a declaration that Florida’s farmers and agricultural scientists are the vanguard of feeding the world in a more sustainable way. It will be the epicenter of accelerated evolution of agriculture from human-labor-intensive to technology-driven.
We need to do this now. Global spending on smart technologies such as AI and machine learning directed toward agriculture is projected to triple in the next three years. There is enormous interest in scientific advance, giving us the opportunity to employ the land-grant university-industry-government partnership model to make major global impacts.
Help us imagine a future for agriculture that the center will help create, one where technology again keeps Florida globally competitive, producing our own food, employing Floridians, contributing to the local economy, and making Florida the leader in feeding the world.
There have been few moments in the history of UF/IFAS when the way to create the future is so visible and reachable. We have the experts to do it. The center will help unleash their talent and imagination.
J. 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).