NSF IoT4Ag Retreat Connected Farmers, Technology, Academia

The National Science Foundation-funded IoT4Ag Engineering Research Center (ERC) launched in 2020, uniting expertise in agronomy, agricultural engineering, communications, robotics, environmental science, electrical and computer engineering, cyber systems, social science, and more. The center focuses on developing and deploying precision agriculture technologies to address the global grand challenges of food, energy, and water security. The center’s year three annual retreat was held June 14–16 in Gainesville. Center members from the five constituent academic institutions (the University of Florida (UF), the University of Pennsylvania, the University of California Merced, Purdue University, and Arizona State University) gathered to showcase progress, discuss challenges, and plan for the coming year.

“The IoT4Ag Center is a great example of how to create research impact in the 21st century. The Center facilitates multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary research partnerships and provides invaluable industry and stakeholder engagement opportunities for our students, research staff, and faculty.” – Interim Dean Dr. Forrest Masters,  Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering

The day before the retreat officially began, a student-led bootcamp convened all student participants for field trips, guest speakers, and discussions on research collaboration, sustainable agriculture, researcher wellness, and more. The overall focus of the boot camp was sustainability. 

Day one of the retreat opened with a welcome from Dr. Forrest Masters, interim dean of the UF Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, followed by a keynote address from UF Distinguished Professor and Assistant Vice President for Research Dr. Robert J. Ferl. He presented “Space Agriculture: How Plants Inform & Enable Human Space Exploration.” All student participants took part in a boot camp where they learned about the UF site and prepped for the workshop.

Day two featured workshops and discussions on such varied topics as entrepreneurship, community engagement, water use, and nitrogen use. The day also was spent with intensive planning sessions as well as exploring student’s posters.

Day three was a field day, literally. Center students, staff, and faculty spent the day together, visiting the Townsend Peanut Farm in Wellborn and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences North FL Research and Education Center in Live Oak.

ECE Associate Chair Dr. David Arnold is the UF center site director and led several sessions at the retreat. Said Dr. Arnold,

“This was a fantastic opportunity to showcase our UF campus and facilities. These annual internal meetings are also critical for building successful teams.”