Farm of the Future Listening Session
Welcome everybody, thank you for your patience uh, we're waiting - we'll provide a little bit of time here for everybody to roll into this meeting and I'm looking forward to getting it underway. So, we'll, we'll begin here in just about a minute or so and give that some time. So, thank you again, for joining us.
Let's see, I'm trying to um, is the uh, PowerPoint showing? Yes. Okay, we'll go into slideshow mode, there we go. Perfect. Well time is of the essence here, so I think uh, we'll get going. I want to welcome everybody again for taking time to visit with us and probably provide your input on this exciting and important new program that we're proud at NIFA to have the chance to be able to move- get this rolling and implement it in time with your guidance and with your input. Uh, my name is Kevin Kephart and I'm here to, to lead us in this - in this conversation here, here this afternoon or to be a participant with you as well.
I want to make some introductions of folks that'll- that you'll be hearing from and interacting with here this afternoon. First of all, Deb Hamernik, Deb is uh, the Deputy Director of the Institute for Food Production and Sustainability and uh, she- she wears two hats; Deb is also the Director of the Animal Systems Division within that Institute and she's with us here this afternoon. Again, I'm Kevin Kephart I'm- I'm the Director of the Agricultural Systems Division at NIFA and we also have John Erickson. John is the Acting Director of the Plant Systems Production Division within IFPS and then uh, Joe Munyaneza is the Acting Director of Plant Systems Protection and- and Joe is on detail with us from, from ARS. So, it's good to have you on
board with us right now Joe. Behind the scenes we've had a great team of people that have been helping us get the Farm of the Future program up to this point. They include Bill Hoffman, Bill is our Chief of Staff in NIFA. He's on the screen here with us. And we also have Brad Rein, a National Science Liaison with Ag Systems based in Washington D.C. a couple of a really good Program Specialists- we have Katie Dentzman with Ag Systems and Catherine Bohnert with Plant, Plant Systems and then a really great team of experts in areas relevant to what the Farm of the Future could be about, including Steve Thomson with Ag Systems and Ganesh Bora with- with Ag Systems, Robbin Shoemaker Ag Systems, Andre Cibils is- is with Animal Systems, Ann Stapleton Plant Systems Production, Vijay Nandula with uh, with Plant Systems Protection, and then Hongda Chen with Food Safety.
So, with that introduction I’m going to hand it over to John Erickson and he'll go over the full gamut of what we know right now about the Farm of the Future program. John. Thanks Kevin. As you can see it probably won't take very long, I'd like to also welcome everyone and just point out what we know now and the extent of what we know is on the Farm of the Future comes from this authorizing language of section 799 of the 2021 omnibus appropriations bill and that states for an additional amount for National Institute of Food and Agriculture research and education activities, four million dollars to remain available until September 30th, 2022 for a competitive grant to an institution in the land grant university system to establish a Farm of the Future test- bed and demonstration site. Okay, so, I think, yeah, so we have uh, resources and guidance from Congress to make one award to a land grant institution and it will be to support development of a testbed and demonstration site, so, that's what we have. Okay, I'll hand it over to Joe Munyaneza right now, and Joe will cover some of the some of the other details uh, including uh, this listening session but some other things as well so Joe I'll hand it over to you. Thanks Kevin, um, so, Joe Munyaneza here again uh, I'm serving as Acting Director for the Plant Protection Division uh, my day job I'm with USDA ARS.
uh, this listening session is an opportunity for stakeholders and customers to provide input to assist NIFA in developing an RFA. Participants may speak for up to three minutes each. Written comments can be sent to the following email address: NIFA.FarmoftheFuture@usda.gov.
Comments will be taken until the end of the month. Uh, next slide Kevin. Again, the intent of this session is for input and guidance, this is not a Q&A session.
Many ideas come to mind when it comes to Farm of the Future, including these on the slide. We need to hear from you, we need your priority ideas to help guide the development of a successful RFA for this new program. Thank you, back to Kevin for more details.
Okay thank you Joe, so a process that we have to go through to get this moving along is depicted here, we've heard from Congress what our authorization is and the amount of the appropriations so we have those two aspects covered in this effort, so right now that the next step that we need to do is what we're doing right now and that's, that's to get stakeholder input during the month of May. So that's to give us guidance to hear from you on what your interest is, to help us develop the next step, our next step is to actually draft a request for applications, an RFA, that hasn't happened yet because we need to hear from you first and that's why this is really an input session and not a Q&A session. Everything we know so far about Farm of the Future is largely in the authorization and appropriation information that we provided a few slides ago. So now after we have
that information and what we hear from you, and throughout the month of May through written comments, will be, we'll put all that together and draft a request for applications that, after it goes through policy review and make sure that it follows NIFA's rules, we'll eventually publish that make that available to you, make that available to the public and request those applications afterwards, after the, the deadline date has been met, which we don't know what that is yet, but when the deadline date's been met, we'll convene a review panel of peers and review those- those applications and then eventually we'll decide upon an award from all of that input. So that's the process that we have ahead of us and the arrow indicates where we are today. So, here's some things on, on how we'd like to conduct, conduct this uh, this listening session- it's an opportunity to hear from you, hear from stakeholders and provide assistance to us as we develop the request for applications. There's a lot of folks that are on here uh, 47 people have indicated that they'd like to have time to provide verbal comment and if we limit things to three minutes or less we might be able to get through all of those, but that 47 represents more than, than uh, uh, three uh, more people than what we can allow in this time frame that we have so we'll see how it goes and we'll do our best to get everybody included. So, comments uh,
will begin with registrants that have indicated they wish to speak and we have a list of them. NIFA staff will keep track of the time and if we're significantly going over that three-minute threshold we'll let you know and we'll have to move on to the next person. Yeah, again the input the- the uh, the uh, intent here is to provide guidance to us and get your chance to say what we need to hear in that regard and the session is open until four o'clock central daylight time so uh, that, that's how long we have this this Zoom channel. Now if you- if we miss out on you on verbal content, or if you want to say something uh, longer than that will- will be allowed in a three-minute statement you always have the opportunity to provide us a written statement and send it to this email NIFA.FarmoftheFuture@usda.gov and
that's been on the bottom of every one of these slides that we've been presenting as well so with that I'll just, I think I'll stop sharing now and Deb uh, who is our first speaker? And I want to point out that I know that we have several producers. I'm really excited about hearing from the producers on, on what their comments are going to be so, so, Deb who's our, who's our first one? Thank you, Kevin, and our first speaker today is Archie Clutter from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, um, Archie please go ahead you have three minutes. Can you unmute yourself Archie? There we go. Perfect. You muted yourself again. You're still on mute Archie.
There we go there we go thanks. Thanks again, for just brief comments, the demands on the Farm of the Future will be enormous and unprecedented to deliver nourishment to a growing global population in the face of increasingly volatile climate conditions and fluctuations. The Farm of the Future that meets those demands can't operate with the practices of the past, we need research and science-driven tools for more effective, real-time, operational decision-making on the Farm of the Future, tools necessary for climate smart stewardship of land, water other natural resources necessary for profitable, sustainable agricultural production. The Farm of the Future program can help develop, test, and deliver those tools. The integrated research necessary must be seamlessly transdisciplinary and execute holistic, systems-based plans that incorporate effective connections of ideas and discoveries to prototypes and field validation to create scalable tools and solutions and for that continuum to work effectively, the field validation must access and leverage a diversity of testbeds and proving grounds, including through partnerships with producers and other stakeholders. Those partnerships with stakeholders will help ensure the value of the outcomes and along with effective integration at all levels of extension, enhanced technology delivery and adoption. And then those types of plans
will also provide tremendous opportunities for integration with teaching and learning across levels of education to achieve science literacy and the cutting edge workforce development that's so essential for the future of agriculture. Thanks for your time. Thank you, Archie, that was two minutes, great job, thank you Archie. The next speaker is Craig Uden, and then following Craig will be Barbara Cooksley, Craig are you online? Craig are you on mute? Okay we'll come back to Craig, I don't see him popping up here, uh, there he is, Craig you're on mute I believe.
Thank you gotta get on, there. uh I'm Craig Uden uh, owner and uh operator [...] feedlot incorporated and a cow calf producer in central Nebraska and uh one thing I'm looking at this smart Farm of the Future is even more important today than ever as we come out of this pandemic, the ever-changing landscape of agriculture due to global demand and COVID-driven challenges, and one thing the smart farm needs to represent that's, it's been a buzzword, is becoming reality and that is sustainability, and as I look at sustainability I think it's very important that we have to put all this in perspective, sustainability in my mind is continuous improvement through continuous education and implementation of new technologies and systems. And we have to look at the whole system whether we're looking at uh, precision livestock, precision cropping natural resources, water, water use is going to be a big challenge, but those systems need to provide an economic benefit to the producer and they need to be socially acceptable to the end consumer And I think that's very valid today as we see all the challenges out there including the consumer, as we look at the smart farm we are very much including technology and changes of systems in our, in our programs. Uh, we're looking at uh, different challenges to our handling, handling equipment, we look at things like smart tags that identify sickness and we think those can be used to rent, ration management in our programs, consumption of, consumption and ration changes, looking at smart technology as far as feeding, whether it be the mixing or the automated truck for delivery of feed, because we need to continue to work on transparency all the way through our systems to have that uh, cohesiveness between production and consumption.
Another thing as far as on the water, natural resources in the feeding sector, would be collection of wastewater which we do today and the use of that on growing crops and then the harvesting of those crops such as size production or taking that crop off and then putting cover crops off for additional nitrogen utilization and erosion management. But the overall thing is we need to continue to keep moving ahead and bring all aspects of agriculture together because smart farming practices need to be simplified for producers so that there is an acceptance and a rapid adaptation to uh, of these changes. We've seen a lot of things that are grand ideas, but if we cannot, uh, put those things into place then we we find challenges, great ideas nothing, not being implemented in a timely fashion and it seems like today in all aspects that uh the industry changes rapidly and it has itself every time so, I appreciate the time to let me uh, speak before you today and, and uh, thank you very much.
Thanks Craig. Uh, the next speaker is Barb Cooksley, followed by Roric Paulman. Barb. Barb you're on mute. Barb, there you go, you're up, you're good. Thank you, good afternoon my name is Barbara Cooksley, I'm a rancher from Anselmo Nebraska, I'm an alumnus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, our state's land-grant university. My family uses the University's extension and research services for timely answers to land and animal husbandry questions for our family ranch of 800 beef cattle on sixteen thousand acres in the Nebraska sandhills, which is a unique ecosystem covering one quarter of the state.
My husband and I are the fourth generation on this land and we live and ranch with the fifth and sixth generations. We use the native sandhill grasses for grazing cattle, sustaining native populations of flora and fauna, as well as protecting the ground and surface water, as we are also over the Ogallala aquifer, one of the world's largest groundwater sources. We strive for continuous improvement of our management through innovative and proven tools for our decision-making. We are currently completing a conservation program using many of the tools proven by research. We need to continue to have this type of forward-thinking research, extension, and teaching for the decisions we make now and to lead our decisions in the future.
Past research has given us expected progeny difference or EPDs for livestock selection, flexible grazing programs to address drought, and historical short and long-term weather information for our management decisions. In the future we must have research to show the positive climate impacts that cattle grazing has on the soil, water, and air. We need even more information about the breeding and selection of our cattle, more genomic testing to fit our specific program, and quality assurance programs for our consumers. The Farm of the Future competitive grant is a forward-looking opportunity to build stronger partnerships between producers like us, land-grant universities, and the USDA to address these issues impacting our daily ranch decisions. Thank you. Thanks Barb.
The next speaker is Roric Paulman followed by John Schuler. Roric are you online? I do not see Roric or John online, if either of them are please speak up, but I don't see them in the list of attendees. Okay we can come back to them later, thanks Katie. Let's go to Elizabeth Stolberg. Elizabeth are you on board? There she is, you're on mute Elizabeth. Hi there, I- I was not expecting to speak, I'm listening only today. Okay, thanks
Elizabeth, sorry for the confusion. Um, let's go to L.W Lockley Jr. - L.W. Lockley followed by Dennis
Buckmaster. L.W Lockley? Yeah, I don't see him either um, it looks like we also have Lee Van Wychen on my list? Yeah is Lee on board? Yes, he is. There he is yeah, hi there. Thank you, you have three minutes to speak please. All right thank you my name is Lee Van Wychen and I'm the Director of Science Policy for the Weed Science Society of America and unfortunately, the Farm of the Future is most likely to have weeds and probably herbicide resistant weeds, so um, a few things, of course we want to see the Farm of the Future focus on integrated pest management techniques and the mechanical, chemical, cultural, biological control that's tried and true formula for keeping weeds off balance, but within there, there's a couple emerging technologies, one is weed genomics and using the genomics of some of our worst weeds like Palmer amaranth and waterhemp against, against itself, creating a male sterile genotypes that's a possibility, so I do thank, we thank NIFA for funding a weed genomics conference this fall so that's a good start there and then, but the focus, the technology that I really want to focus on is precision technologies for our Farm of the Future, where we can look at weed management using intelligent weeding systems that combine, you know, real time reliable discrimination of between the weeds and the crop under field conditions and then using, um, you know, precision removal tools, a spot spray of a herbicide, or a mechanical removal, or other alternative weed control tools such as lasers, or electrocution, or flames. I mean
there's a lot of different ways so, we'd really like to see the Farm of the Future focus on that precision technologies, and I know there's a start with the Artificial Intelligence Institute so that's a great start there, and yeah, those AI technologies, I mean you know, we reduced input costs, they can reduce the risks associated with herbicide off target movement, we can reduce soil erosion and runoff, and also, we improve our soil carbon sequestration. So, there's a lot of additional benefits by being more specific with our weed management, and it also will help us manage herbicide resistant weeds, and even in organic production systems gives us another tool there. So, that's where we hope the Farms of the Future will focus on weeds, thank you. Great, thank you. Uh, looks like Dennis Buckmaster is next, followed by Thomas Evans. Okay uh, thank you very much for, this is Dennis.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to share today, really do appreciate it. I am a professor of ag and biological engineering at Purdue University, serve as a Dean's Fellow for digital ag. So, my comments about a testbed uh, would be as we've addressed in some recent conferences that agriculture now is really agriculture plus other things which to some are naturally part of agriculture but it's extending and becoming more important, sustainability, identity, preservation, water quality, marketing, and sort of the list goes on and most of those things are sort of data driven. Agriculture at its core is logistics, it's the right to seed to the right animal, the right person, machine, chemical, water, other things at the right place at the right time, and that optimizing involves complex interactions of inventories, machinery, personnel, and technologies.
So, I think the Farm of the Future is going to integrate both data and models data sets of course but also data streams and so that will require multiple modes of connectivity, things like wi-fi, tv white space, citizens band radio service, LoRa, cellular, the diversity because real-time systems need to be tested even though some of that data may not need to move in real time, some of it will. So, my dream of that, the Farm of the Future testbed will have compatibility, compatible systems or at least the ability to integrate siloed technology and data systems. Our dream is of interoperable data, essentially autonomous data that just lands where it needs to land and lends the insight that it ought to lend. So that requires a tremendous amount of- and thorough networking, politicking frankly, to make sure that the best advancements are moved forward appropriately with the right industry players, and farmers, stakeholders, etc. uh,
we'll need some artificial intelligence and machine learning, both in the decision-making itself, but also in the data pipeline and the analytics, there's room to apply those things. Stakeholder engagement was previously mentioned, I certainly echo that, there is a need for demonstrations for sure. I think that culture of innovation and demonstration is a part of land grants, so hopefully that's covered really well. And just two parting thoughts. One is of course the Farm of the Future needs to accommodate a diversity of crops and livestock and probably there's no one single land grant that's going to cover all of that, but the more of that that we can capture uh, the better of course. uh, and then I believe the Farm of the Future is gonna involve autonomous things, uh, so some expertise in autonomy near and around and available to that testbed is going to be important. So
again, I appreciate the opportunity to chat and I'm enjoying listening as well. Thank you, very much. Thank you Dennis, appreciate your comments. Um, I think Thomas Evans and Andrew Abanyo are not here, so we'll go to Amy Hamilton. Amy are you here? Thank you.
And you might be on mute Amy. There you go. Yes, yes, I'm Amy Hamilton from the rugged Ozark Highlands of Missouri, I'm a native grass and wildflower seed producer for over 35 years.
Uh our business, Hamilton Native Outpost, received a Conservation Innovation Grant in 2011 and we planted 99 species of native diversity for the purpose of grazing and learning about native plants and as well as all the ecosystem benefits that these plants can provide. When NRCS started their soil health movement, I began to learn about these native plants in another way and how they can fix the soil. NRCS principles of soil health have opened my eyes about how plants work together to maximize photosynthesis, provide cover for wildlife, cover the soil, and provide adequate food for cattle year-long. Tall fescue is the major forage in our area, it is not native, and it has been discovered that it's actually toxic to our cattle and it causes the cattle to perform poorly, the cattle can abort, it's actually a 200-million-dollar problem here in the state of Missouri. We also have a lot of invasive species coming into, into our country and it's just, just a lot for farmers to deal with.
Basically, agriculture is not working out very well here. Could it be that we don't have enough diversity in our degraded pastures for soil health? Yes. Our weeds are not palatable to livestock and they get a full foothold on land that is actually not being grazed uh, because they are able- these, this combination of plants isn't able to make organic matter, this increases water infiltration and symbiotically, actually, helps make for healthy soils. We can train our cattle to eat some of these invasive plants, we can get goats- but what about our pollinators, what about our insects, what about our wildlife that depend on these native species? My farm is in the middle of the Operation Strike Force area and it has been historically underserved and I can see that the science of simple monocultures of agriculture is not working out very well because our soils just are not functioning properly.
Flooding and stream bank erosion are a big problem because we do not understand diversity and the right plants in the right place. Most of the endangered species in our area are in the streams. EQIP and state farm programs fo-focus on livestock water- livestock water and management, fencing which is good, but plants are part of, part of the solution. Healthy soils can actually help repel invasives and hold our streams. I really actually always wanted to be a cowboy but ended up a plant nerd and would like to serve grassland agriculture in the Operations Strike Force area. In Missouri we seem to have plenty of money to plant monarch habitat for the Conservation Reserve Program but we do not have money to plant diverse natives for grazing.
So, I would like to like to see if I could help with that. Thank you. Great, thank you Amy. Uh, next speaker is Girish Chowdhary followed by Chuck Ross followed by Robert Kallenbach. Girish you're next please. Hi uh, thank you. This is uh Girish Chowdhary, I'm a professor of ag bioengineering and computer science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, I am also the Associate Director of the National AI Institute, AI Farms at uh, University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign along with other institutes and today I'd like to just lay out a vision based on some of the work that we have been doing and just whatever we've been hearing from uh, from people. So, we believe
that the Farm of the Future will use affordable AI and autonomous systems to enable sustainable production that is profitable, inclusive, and scale neutral. We know that today agriculture is faced with, not only growing enough food for a growing population, but also providing ecological services. The environmental footprint of agriculture is not where it needs to be, and as shown in Foley's 2011 Nature paper, there is a strong need to bring the production and the environmental cost of that production into balance. Eventually hopefully to a situation where agriculture is a net carbon negative into the environment. We think that existing tools that are available to farmers need to be augmented with new tools that are more affordable and that bring more autonomy and AI to all farmers, not just to very large farmers.
We think that affordable AI is at the crux of this issue, with affordable AI we think that appropriate scale autonomous robots or autonomous systems could be created that could provide services such as mechanical weeding, under canopy cover crop planting, precision seed and spray, and many other things that can be accomplished. We think that these types of robots and data systems will enable sustainable and environmentally sound production systems and that there is a great potential by leveraging new and advancing technologies in batteries and edge analytics and edge AI that these systems can be run off of renewable energy. So just to bring everything back into focus, we believe that the Farm of the Future needs to be carbon negative, it needs to require orders of magnitude, less chemical inputs than what we're using today in our farms, especially in large acre farming in the Midwest. It needs to provide ecosystem services and not just produce food, for example, it needs to make sure that water quality is improving, is to make sure that air quality is improving, it needs to run off of sustainable resources, it needs to be diverse in crops and products, ideally it would be able to integrate animals into the production systems, which would further augment that diversity, and it should be profitable at all scales, not just at the large scale, which it is profitable today, but also, for the small uh farmer and for the really micro urban farmer also these farms of the future should be profitable. It needs to be well-connected
and it needs to be accessible to low income and underserved populations. Thank you. Thank you, Girish, appreciate your vision there. Thank you. The next speaker is Chuck Ross followed by Robert Kallenbach. Hi there, thanks for the opportunity to speak to you, and congratulations on pursuing this forward-leaning effort. I'm speaking today as the climate catalyst for the Extension Foundation- I also have a background as an extension director for the University of Vermont and Secretary for Agriculture for the state of Vermont.
And one of the things we would want to underscore is the need for society to measure all the goods and services that farmers produce including their stewardship of the public resources they impact and that especially pertains to climate which is going to be in weather variability which are going to be critical issues moving forward. We believe that farming and agriculture has an enormous role to play with respect to climate and we would encourage this effort to engage the um extension universe and its ability to reach 3140 counties with trusted relationships across the country. And if this Farm of the Future site is going to be engaged, we believe the extension's engagement will help them be able to do better research, spread the education, do better on the job of information sharing through that extension network, and also build partnerships across the country, which is going to be needed if we're going to have a truly um, fully represented Farm in the Future. One of the suggestions we would ask you to consider is potentially working with an extension foundation and the National Directors of Extension in their organization called ECOP and consider potentially including a a fellow for the future of the - Farms of the Future um, to engage the extension network to fully operationalize the extension network. Finally, if um,
this is going to be an organization that's going to be looking to the future we believe it needs to have a continuous education framework um as it moves forward. It needs to be able to develop the ability to constantly and consistently measure the goods and services that farms and agriculture produce including food and fiber as well as other goods and services that are important to issues like climate. Um, we also believe that uh, if this is going to be a robust effort then there must be a way to engage, help the farming community engage the communities in which they live so they have that feedback loop and can be seen as the positive contributors that they are and also be responsive to the concerns that community may have. So again, I'll leave my comments there we- just underscore that the importance of the uh, ubiquity of the extension network and um, invite further conversations with the Extension Foundation as a potential partner in developing this kind of service, if you will, to the agriculture across the country. Thank You. Thank you, Chuck. We
appreciate your call. The next person to speak is Robert- Robert Kallenbach. Yes this- good afternoon, I'm Rob Kallenbach and I'm the associate dean for extension in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at the University of Missouri. And as we've kind of thought about ‘what is the Farm of the Future?’, we come back to this fundamental thing, and that is that technology is really changing how we interact, not only with each other but how we interact with the environment. In fact, when you think about the smartphone that you have in your pocket right now, it has more computing power than it took to put humans on the moon.
And when we think about how we can leverage what technology offers in the future it's built on the idea that we can connect better than ever. Technology is fundamentally changing not only how we interact but how we work, how we play, and yes how we are going to do agriculture. And we see a future in technology that so many have described on here where you've got drones doing things and autonomous tractors and robots and all sorts of meat technologies that you often see in the plant world, but as others have said, we've got to be able to take those same technologies and there's a ton of cool ones that also apply to the animal world, whether that's in robotic milking, or whether they're sensors that just tell us the status of animals reproductively, or where they are nutritionally. There's tons of opportunity in things like startup companies that are all across this nation that are interested not only in working in agriculture, but working in the interaction of humans and food.
And we think the future in technology offers a lot, and yet, we know that technology does not always offer the simple solutions. Sometimes the solutions that are offered by technology are complex, and it will be up to this group to think about ‘how do we train the workforce that's going to be in agriculture that uses that technology?’ We have people in the workforce and agriculture that range from technology natives, typically, the young people- to folks who are not so technology native. How are we going to work with all of those folks to make this really useful to agriculture and really useful in our environment? I'll close with this- when we look at broadband availability across the United States FCC estimates that more than 65% of all the counties that are in rural America do not have sufficient broadband to work with cloud computing- we have to fix that problem as we bring technology that needs it to agriculture. These have to be done in parallel, and so thinking about how we train, how we develop, and how we invest all needs to be part of one package, and that is how we see the Farm of the Future.
Thank you, Robert, really appreciate those comments, thank you. so i think the next on the list was Craig Brod, but I don't believe Craig is here Craig Brod? Uh, we'll move to Patrick Smith, followed by Laura Michelle. Patrick Smith? Good afternoon everyone. I'm glad to have this chance to talk to you all and been, I've enjoyed listening to folks. Farming in the future may be mankind's single largest coordinated effort to improve the health of the planet and health of the planet's inhabitants.
Future farming will benefit our air, water, and land. Future farms respond to consumer demand not supply chain preferences. Farms in the future will work with nature to manage pests and soil health, to ensure farmer success and profit for the farms, the food supply chain will work with farmers and consumers for product selection and delivery commitments. Future farming prototypes will show that healthy soil can be built through minimum till practices, compost amendments, use of cover crops, and a diverse assortment of crops. The
rigid farming practice today, focused primarily on livestock management and nourishment. Future farms will replace current practices to meet these ends with practice that enrich the soil, enrich the farmer, and enrich the consumer. I am a supply chain management information technology expert, having designed, and developed, and managed systems for the natural food industry for 27 years. I am currently a USDA field enumerator and soil health advocate. In the last 100 years machines replaced laborers on farms, chemicals replace soil health, agri-business distributors and retailers replaced the connectivity between urban consumers and farm crop selections. Future farming
will see fewer machines, more farm hands employment, more crop varieties, healthier soil, and more nutritious food. Similar to the FDA smarter food safety initiative, future farming will embrace standardized means of informing, excuse me, future farming will embrace standardized means of information technology interoperability, harmony of data content, elegance in information sharing, and an infrastructure for us all to work together to solve today and tomorrow's environmental and food health crises. I talk to farmers and ranchers most every day- the concerns I hear about weather risks, price and yield uncertainty, skilled labor shortages, overwork, and low profits. Future farming will empower farmers with new tools to manage many of these concerns.
Here's what to require of the grant proposals for the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture Farm of the Future competitive grant program. These seven requirements: methodologies and implementation of practices for building and maintaining biologically healthy soil; cover crop considerations education and management options. Low-till and no-till options for managing wheat control and cash crop plants, crop diversity that is driven by consumer demand, compost programs that comply with the US Composting Council's mission of compost utilization for creating healthy soils, clean air, and water, a stable climate and a sustainable society; finally, means of connecting with urban food centers, local food hubs, and grocery produce operators. Future farming will embrace the simple solutions of improving soil, crop diversity, and consumer connection. Thank you. Thank you, Patrick, we appreciate the list, um, thanks again.
The next speaker is Laura Michelle, Laura? You might be on mute Laura. Hello? There you go, thank you. Hi iIm just listening today but thank you. Okay thank you, uh, the next one is Vincent, um, let's see Vincent Harkiewicz, Vincent are you ready? Hi, thank you my name is Vince Harkiewicz and I'm the co-founder and CEO of Gronetics an open source data platform for agriculture and farming with the goal of making open innovation and open data sharing the standard for ag innovation.
Um, it's my feeling that, in order for the grant to make the greatest possible impact, that it should be designed in a hub and spoke kind of fashion with, where open innovation can be leveraged. The grant awardees or awardee could be the hub to as many partners and volunteer organizations to collaborate on the Farm of the Future project. This could easily, easily be done through existing open innovation focused web forms software that's widely available. This would facilitate a faster iteration cycle than any single institution could accomplish on their own, and would start to drive open innovation as the core methodology through which new technologies and farming systems are tested and implemented. Feedback from
the community could also be used to prioritize different projects and theories that the institutions would like to test. Priority should be on circular and regenerative farming design, modeling of carbon sequestration through agricultural practices, and then lastly the data should be widely available and- from the research projects, should be widely available and accessible to anybody looking to- to to leverage it and to use it. The thinking behind this is that right now, for artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to be effective, they need the largest data sets possible for things like pest identification, weed identification, um, animal husbandry, animal identification, and all these new kind of field of new strategies for supporting innovation in, in farming. Another la- and lastly another thought is to focus on the repurposing of waste streams, um, I know that there's a lot of innovation around repurposing agricultural waste, and uh, to bring that to the forefront so we can start to close the loop on a lot of these, the traditional farming practices. Thank you. Great thank you Vince,
appreciate your comments. So now, we will move to Daniel Stricker and we've put the names uh, in the chat box here for the next few uh, that order just so you can be a little prepared, we have a lot of no-shows today so Daniel Stricker followed by Cindy Schulte. We can hear you. Can you hear me? Yes, we can hear you. All right this double zoom thing is, is uh, it's still kind of new to me, um as with everybody, well anyway the um so- so I'm really grateful to be, you know, have a seat at this table right now, um, and the light of all the hard work that you guys put in to secure these funds and as well as the, the acumen of education and and business acumen involved with everybody around here. So, um, I'm an artist and uh, like I said, grateful to uh, uh, be here and, um, have the affinity towards an agricultural venture and so I, I believe that the uh, the Farm of the Future really, uh, ultimately uh, um, it should revolve slightly on a social venture, and an aspect of reciprocal giving, o where farms support one another, and so the new generation of farmer producers are also embraced in a sense of harmonies through one another and interdependent relationships.
Um, that's, that's, an aspect of a project that I'm-, I've been working to put- I think we might have lost him, looks like he might have had an internet connectivity issue. Um, we can go on; I think Cindy is not here. 0:50:42.480,0:50:46.400 If Daniel comes back, um, we'll let him speak again.
Uh, Mark. I see Mark is here. Yes, do you hear me? Yes. Okay. Uh, I have one fundamental question about Farm of the Future. Are you talking
animals or crops? Are you talking big acre or are you talking suburban or very urban? Are you talking family-based? Are you talking corporate? And I think that in each one of those areas new forms of farms will evolve but there will be not one model. There might be a suburban model based on a sun greenhouse. They may be um, in in the wide-open spaces. There
might be new models like we see them develop in central Eurasia. Uh, there is the whole thing of what new crops will come out of genetic engineering? Will we, how will climate change push crop growing more north? And so, the, having the Farm of the Future as a goal may be nice but what we think we also need is, what is the problem you're trying to solve? Are you trying to solve the problem of urban and rural people that have lack of access to fresh food? Or do you try to improve the farming practices so we never run into palmer amaranth again? Are we going to go battery driven tractors or not? So those are the practical questions I see. And I would like NIFA to be problem solving oriented in how they define this project rather than technology and doing an extrapolation on current trends That's, that and, and pleased that is a totally new way of thinking but that's part of what NIFA is about isn't it? Thank you. Great, great comments. Thank you Mark Thank you, Mark. We will move on to Mohamed Khan followed by Doug Metcalf.
All right, can you hear me Deb? Yes, thank you. Hi, my name is Mohamed Khan, Extension sugar beet specialist for North Dakota State University and University of Minnesota and I would just like to kind of follow up from my colleague there, he just talked about farming coming up north. welcome to North Dakota. Some other things that we should probably be addressing is, um, I, I was kind of thinking, how do I, um, ask my, um, people in authority to kind of, uh, say that we're qualified for such a grant? The first thing they'll ask me, ‘Am I going to do irrigated agriculture or non-irrigated agriculture’? So some parts of the US, it's irrigated, some parts it's not.
Are we going to focus on those farms at 444 acres, or are those farms like in North Dakota, the average acres is 1500 acres. It is going to be all crops? Is it going to be all animals? Or is it going to be integrated? And one of the things we have seen for our producers is that, they're pretty good at producing crops but they're not very good at making the most profits. Can we probably involve some processing, some value added to the crops so that they can get more returns? I agree with our the previous speakers, we've got to be looking. Are we going to
be looking at calorific crops, wheat, rice? Are we going to be looking at beans, maize? Are we going to be looking at specialty crops? And in the future, there are some of us who will have more money than others, and there are some of us will probably be smarter at, be able at advising us as to what are some requirements that we can get in our crops to make us healthier. That is, how can we modify these crops genetically, so that they can be more nutritious for us? Right now, we're having COVID, which is a challenging time, but everybody in the world right now needs a vaccine and most of us will use it. We have used, we have been able to develop that vaccine using science. Can we use that momentum of acceptance of science to modify our food world, to get resistance to pests and to diseases, to manage weeds and stuff like that? This is probably one of the best times to to use that opportunity. And when we look at the system, we have more or less about 70 percent water in the world about 30 percent land and of course all of the land is not useful in some areas. Can we go use vertical farming? Will that be better for the people who are living in, uh, cities or so in urban area, urban areas where you have large populations and more or less food deserts? And when we're looking at a whole system, do we go now in my area, we need large farms and large machinery equipment because we have a limited amount of time to do, to do the work that we need to do.
Can we use science and technology and artificial intelligence to produce smarter smaller more efficient technology where we have problems getting labor to do most of the work on the farm? And when we're doing all of this here, we have so much technology now so that we can, can we improve our soil improve the soil health so that at the end everybody benefits we have a sustainable soil better environment. Look at things like manure not as a waste but as a raw material. How do we use it so that we don't look at meat production as something that is negative. Those are my thoughts for now, Deb. Oh
thank you, Mohamed I appreciate your comments there. Thank you. So uh, Doug Metcalf has just declined to, uh, speak. He's happy to listen. We'll move to Surendra. Um, Surendra might be having some internet or microphone issues. Surendra, I'm not sure if you'd
like to speak or not. Surendra? So, I think we'll, we'll pass and go on to Matthew Gregg. Matthew are you here? Matthew followed by Pam Marrone. Matthew.
Yep. Okay, hello, how's everybody doing today? Great, thanks, how are you? Thank you for your time. Um, I'm going to get straight to it. A
little checklist, um, I want the the Farm of the Future to have a better network for our communities. If it's going to be locale settings, um, the better, to better manage our catastrophes, the better our budget, budget plans for the future, cut energy costs, that should be a goal. It should improve the current ecosystem that we currently have, and if we're going to go into the future right? We want to be able to manage our phases our yearly reports, nutrient management, our crop protection, crop management, um, and I say that, to say because I'm a black farmer and understand that you have different farmers with different needs and every farmer has a different technique and in order to sustain this we have a lot of working dynamics, right? So, we want this technology to complement the farming techniques knowing that the average farmer does meant, does miss out on two-thirds because they don't have the information, the lack of information, but just don't know what's going on, right? So, yeah, in order to make this data-driven knowing that AI technology is going to be a part of it, we have to have the right tool for the right job and that's all I have to say. Thank you
for your time. thank you, Matthew. Thank you for participating.
uh Pam Marrone and then I think Lauri Elliott uh is allowed on our list. So, Pam and then Laurie. Yes, hi, I'm Pam Marrone. I come from Davis California. I'm a serial entrepreneur having started three companies dedicated to discovery and commercialization of ag biologicals I now also, since my retirement from Marrone Bioinnovations, I now advise several companies from farm to fork, mostly startups and, um, I, I have over my career talked to a lot of farmers every, every, every week and, um, what they are often is befuddled by a lot of the new technology, and, um, we appreciate all the funding that NIFA does, but it's often, uh, one, um, topic at a time, or you know where the Asian citrus salad goes in the canopy, or you know, individual, um, projects at the land grants. And what the farmers tell me is that they want systems integrators, they want a proficiency of their, of their advisors to be able to help them integrate all the tools and cultural practices. And now, an increasing amount of precision technology and data, and also the new, not so new, but, um, still very low awareness and education and knowledge both in the land grant um, extension specialists, as well as with farmers of ag biologicals uh, microbes plant extracts, bio-stimulants, bio-nutrients uh, bio-pesticides, um, that are, are the future.
And, um, so, so, I asked that any farm of the future have a strong consideration for bio-intensive ecologically based approaches of holistic integrated systems on the farm incorporating all of the uh, new aspects of biologicals so we can move away from chemical intensivity to biological and eco-ecologically based. thank you Thank you, Pam, appreciate your comments. Um, I, so, I think the last person we have registered is Lauri Elliott. If anybody else would like to speak uh, please put your name in the chat box. Lauri hi, um, I'm Lauri Elliott I'm with Conceptually Resources. Um, I'm probably more like the last lady, serial entrepreneur. I work
in developing countries, um, along the value chains so we work with small producers, and, um, in agriculture, agriculture and so on and so forth. So, um, I think there are a lot of great comments that were made. I kind of just want to do a summary. Um, I think we need to look at when, um, I'm sorry, the former uh, uh, lady was speaking, the integrated, integration is critical seeing things as a holistic integrated inclusive matter is very important. The premise of any type of Farm of the Future has to be looking at complex adaptive systems adaptive, we've heard people talk about, you know, what if it's urban, what if it's rural? How do you configure this? The underlying methodology and approach is extremely important. Our human ecosystems, our environment, our complex adaptive systems, we cannot design in, uh, linear systems no matter what we've got. We've got too many parts that are
too complex. So, it really needs to be a living, living system, living organism. Um, in particular we have to go the extra length to make sure that marginalized communities, wherever they are, are included and they are able to produce enough for themselves, in excess to, to support economic growth and development in their areas. Um we can no longer
disconnect and say okay well someone will get to that. Um, there has to be an intentional design that is part of a resilient and, people talk about sustainability but, that term is often attached to conservation, which is not bad, right? Conservation sustainability, but the reality is, is we have human populations that are growing so, we're going to use the land. Okay? Um, so we need to look at restorative, regenerative things like permaculture for example, uh, to restore things that we know can be restored. There are people growing things in the desert that they didn't do ten years ago.
So, we really have to uh, expand our understanding and in some cases we may just need to start from scratch. I know that sounds horrible, but literally just say if we were building this from scratch, what we do and then bring all the pieces that we have into that container so that we can adapt it appropriately? And just the last thing I would say is that, um, as it relates to uh, integration. Um, none of these things will survive if there is not an economic foundation. So, you cannot just do technology, you cannot just do whatever, and say someone will commercialize it and make it work, okay? There has to be an intentional design. We see a lot of things in third world countries where there's a lot of great stuff a lot of great tech, a lot of people have done a lot of stuff, data collection, and it all, and the US is responsible for this, USDA also.
A lot of research been done on studies but nothing is commercialized, okay? So uh, if you cannot have a system that has something that's going to make profit to continue it, it's, it's not, it that's not normal, okay, for human society. You have to have something that generates something that brings back and restores what was taken out in that process, right? So, um, so, again I just, I'm hopefully, I'm able to put, you know, streams together, um, because I think a lot of great comments have been made. But, um, but the key thing, the foundation is, um, it's going to be dynamic, it's going to change, that's just the nature of it, right? So, we have to build whatever we're building as a Farm of the Future, is a center of innovation that allows for those adaptations to happen, okay? And that's my comments.
Thank, you Lauri, appreciate your comments. uh, so, the next speaker will be Alex Thomasson followed by Hector Menendez. Alex? Yes, can you hear me? Yes. Thank you. Excellent uh, great uh,
meeting and thanks for the opportunity to speak here. Some of my comments will echo those of Dennis Buckmaster and Girish Chowdhary. I'm an agricultural engineer, a professor and department head at Mississippi State University, and I'm going to speak about agricultural autonomy and I'll try to define that as I go along. But I believe that agricultural autonomy, which fundamentally is the conduct of farm tasks without human involvement, will play a major role in the farm of the future. Agricultural autonomy will
not only alleviate the modern shortage of farm labor but also improve the precision and efficiency of farm operations as well as increase profitability and reduce environmental risk and soil compaction from large machines. Agricultural autonomy will involve ground-based and aerial robots as well as multi-robot teams in collaboration. It will require sensing, broadband, communications, and big data analytical tools including artificial intelligence. Semi-autonomous technologies have been available in agriculture for more than a decade. Automatic guidance systems for tractors and harvesters were introduced about 20 years ago. Market adoption has been extremely high because of the obvious benefits, mainly reduced driver fatigue and improved precision that reduces skips and overlaps in the application of inputs.
Fully autonomous technologies have been on the market more recently. Commercial off-the-shelf drones have been legal and affordable for about seven years. Ground-based robots have begun to be commercially available for various agricultural purposes for the last few years.
With these products, adoption for consistent farm use is still developing. The fastest adoption of drones in agriculture has really been in research where crop breeders have begun to consistently use them to collect images that allow measurement of plant height, for example, and apparent health of the plant. These automated measurements enable them to consider many more genotypes than previously possible as they strive to develop crops with higher yield and resilience to biotic and abiotic stresses.
Because the expense of the equipment is less of an issue in research, these technologies and techniques for measuring such plant phenotypes can be perfected in the research community and potentially adopted later in production farming. On-farm use of fully autonomous technologies can potentially involve collaborative systems in which, for example, a drone could identify areas of crop stress in a field in real time and direct a ground-based robot to mitigate the problem. A key idea in agricultural autonomy is that farm equipment has grown very large to maximize the efficiency of the human driver.
If the human driver is no longer required, the machines themselves can conceivably be much smaller enabling the possibility of reduced soil compaction from heavy machinery and treatment of individual plants by numerous small robots rather than one large machine. When farm inputs are applied with such precision, the likelihood of over-application of chemicals is drastically reduced. Agricultural autonomy has potential utility in virtually all aspects of farm operations including soil preparation, planting, weeding, irrigation, pesticide application and harvesting. It can bring about increases in precision efficiency and profitability and reductions in environmental risk.
Agricultural autonomy will be a key piece of the Farm of the Future and I'd like to make one last final comment. I noted that Matthew Gregg was talking about, I think, particularly smaller and minority farms and one of the questions that comes up along the way is, you know, how do smaller farms afford this type of technology? And I think we really have to look at different business, business models. uh, and, and, that commonly relates to something that's become known as robotics as a service.
Uh, in this type of automated technology. And I'll, I'll leave it there. Thank, thanks again for the opportunity. Thank you Alice, Alex. Thanks for participating, appreciate your comments. So I think Hector Menendez is next and then we noticed that uh, Misty Burris joined. Uh, Miss Misty was
on the agenda earlier to speak, so, Misty if you'd like to speak, we do have time for you after Hector. So, Hector? Hey, good afternoon. Can you all hear me? Okay. Yes. Thank you. Excellent. So, my name is Hector Menendez. I'm from South Dakota State University.
I'm located in Rapid City of South Dakota. I'm an assistant professor there and extension specialist in livestock grazing. And so, where I'd like to really capture this Farm of the Future is looking towards the past.
Some of you may have read John Wesley Powell's story of West of the 100th Meridian by Wallace Stegner. And so, Powell developed, if you don't know, the US Geologic Survey and the ethno, ethnological studies in the Smithsonian. And he really had a vision, was inches away, and if you talk to Barry Dunn, he's our President of South Dakota State, he'll recommend this book to you. So, he's the one who gave it to me, and he, Powell was inches away from getting Congress to, instead of using the Jeffersonian system, to use foodscapes and that would have totally revolutionized how we expanded into the west. Instead of giving someone 160 acres of non-irrigated crop land or land that's closer to the the Midwest and prone to a drought, you would have had a 1500-acre, 2500 acre ranch and this would have been totally different. And so, I think what the point I'm trying to make here is foodscapes are, are an interesting idea, but more so, we are uh, fighting deeply embedded mental models, policies, and structures that are causing resistance where we're at now. So, in order to
understand where we need to go, we need to understand the complexity like Pam was talking about. And I would add that I'm a systems expert, systems thinking, system dynamics, and we need to understand the potential intended and unintended consequences of these really complex systems. And so, with, in addition to all the technologies and novel things that people mentioned, if we bring this systems approach, then we can really help set up the farm of the future for success. To be that dynamic evolving thing, to really achieve those goals that everybody else has mentioned that are important. And so, the next thing I'd like to bring is system so in a lot of the NIFA and NSF grants, there is, um, the term systems. I think that needs to
be more clearly defined to let people know what it is. And a systems approach again can help us understand those potential intended and unintended consequences. And then, just to wrap up, um, in addition to that methodology to to capture complexity and policy resistance, sustainability is a big deal. And I'm defining sustainability in terms of, you start these programs, there's a learning curve, there's an economic time delay for people across a threshold to ret, to achieve return on investment. after a time and that's where most Managers fail and so, in order to implement these programs and these extension uh, you know, maybe incentive-based programs, we need to be able to get producers to cross that valley of death if you will, to both uh, overcome the learning curve, remain adaptive, and uh, continue to adapt and grow. So yeah, I'll stop there and thank you for your time.
Thank you, Hector. Thanks for your comments. I'm glad you had the opportunity to uh, to speak today. Uh Misty would you like
to speak? Misty, you might be on mute. Misty, I think you're a mute. Would you like to speak? Maybe she doesn't want to speak. We have gone through our list of people that are here and that wanted to speak uh, does anybody else that's listening in uh, we do have about 45 minutes yet left in the time frame we said we'd be on board and listening.
So, if there's anybody else that would like to offer some comments there's time now. If you put your name in the chat box, we will unmute your microphone and give you the opportunity to speak Or raise your hand. Right, if you, if you, uh, Peter Livingston uh, thank you, Peter. I think we'll uh, get you unmuted here and give you the opportunity to speak.
Good, thank you and thank you for holding this panel. Um, I assume you can hear me. Yes. Yes. Yes, very good. Um, I have already written out my comments in an email but I'm, instead of sending it to you, I'll just read through them.
I agree fully with Archie that the demonstration of projects to producers is key to the success of long-term projects. Without farmer buy-in the, the innovative products we would come up with are not, of no use really. Um, I would also ask that you include non-land-grant universities, Cal Poly is, uh, not one of the land grant universities in California, and yet we have probably the second largest uh, ag uh, college of agriculture in the, in the state and I think we're probably in the top ten in the country. So, I would
hope that uh, you would not exclude us from from this grant process. Um, the other thing is we really work a lot with specialty crops. Um, our acres uh, compared to wheat may not be that large, overall, but for the state our acres are are very substantial so just please uh, don't exclude specialty crops. Um, I think the integration of sensing and treatment is going to be key uh, solution to reduction of chemical inputs and I'm looking forward to participating on projects that work that way. The other thing is, is that
we need to work, we need to have investigators on our teams that work in the area of policy. Um, our ag, agriculture autonomy is a great subject, but in California we're limited to two miles per hour. Um, so if I have an autonomous spray rig out doing, Uh, 800 acres of almonds uh, it's going to take a lot of hours, a lot of days to get that orchard sprayed uh, at two miles an hour. So, we need to make sure
that, that some sort of um, wording is in there that that promotes us to have policy people on our teams Um, and then I agree again with the uh, the speakers on the healthy soils, regenerative use of cover crops and water management. So, thank you for the opportunity to comment and again, I appreciate your event. Thanks Peter, uh, appreciate your comments. So, it looks like Surendra will be next.
Surendra had some internet issues earlier and is back with us so if you can un there you go. Thank you Surendra. Hi good afternoon everyone, Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity. Uh, my name is Surendra Surujdeo Maharaj. I am an ag teacher at Booker Washington high school in Houston, Texas, um, and I would also like to make an appeal based on the last speaker if it's possible that the the grant could be extended to high schools who are offering agriculture classes.
Um, one of the things I've been noticing here in Houston is that a lot of the curriculum, so I also teach a class in greenhouse operations and management, um, so, a lot of the curriculum that's being offered it, at least the ones that are approved, it's, it's dated by about uh, five to six years out. With the rapid pace in development of technologies in agriculture this somehow the other isn't making it into the curriculum so, my background is in agriculture and I was hired primarily to bring that level of knowledge and integration onto the campus and share it with our students. We have a project a concept where we wou