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Monsanto Innovation Center opens at University of Illinois

Center will apply interdisciplinary approach to build solutions and drive agricultural innovation.

The University of Illinois announced that global agricultural company Monsanto and its subsidiary The Climate Corp. have opened the Monsanto Innovation Center at the University of Illinois Research Park.

When fully staffed, the Monsanto Innovation Center will employ more than two dozen students to enhance and augment a robust agricultural innovation portfolio with additional enabling capabilities like information technology, data science and engineering.

Students will focus on cutting-edge, real-world, social, scientific challenges in areas like advanced analytics, operations research, phenomics, genomics, plant science and precision breeding technologies, according to the announcement. The center will employ students who are studying disciplines such as electrical engineering, UX design, mechanical engineering, software engineering and imaging sensor science.

The center will use digital tools and data to drive agricultural innovations that increase efficiency and reduce the amount of water, land and energy necessary to meet the world's food, fuel and fiber needs.

“At Monsanto, we are a company built on innovation. We believe connecting new talent and ideas accelerates the discovery needed to feed and sustain our world,” said Mike Graham, Monsanto vice president of global plant breeding. “The Monsanto Innovation Center will cultivate future scientists who have the opportunity to shape how data science is applied to modern agriculture.”

Climate Corp. chief science officer Sam Eathington added, “Continued advancement of research and educational programs at leading universities is essential to the future success of modern agriculture. Additionally, it's critical we support the training and development of the next generation so they can apply their education and implement new technologies to help solve agricultural challenges. It's for this reason we have invested in the new innovation center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: to help deliver on this promise.”

The center has hired graduate and undergraduate students representing at least four different colleges and multiple disciplines across campus. It is focused on fostering a collaborative, entrepreneurial and solution-based framework where students will engage with innovative projects designed to help facilitate professional development.

“The Monsanto Innovation Center at Research Park represents the next frontier of a relationship that spans decades,” University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign chancellor Robert J. Jones said. “Tapping into the talent base of our students is a win-win. For them, getting to address some of the complex problems facing society is part of the fabric of what it means to get an Illinois education.”

The center opens with seven skilled student interns and will continue to recruit top university talent to fill roles as additional projects come to fruition, the announcement said.

“Monsanto and the University of Illinois have deep ties thanks to a long-lasting, strong relationship. We anticipate that will only continue thanks to this unique opportunity to grow a footprint directly on campus in the Research Park,” said Blake Giles, site director of the new Monsanto Innovation Center.

Monsanto, headquartered in St. Louis, Mo., works to find sustainable solutions for soil health, helps farmers use data to improve farming practices and conserve natural resources and provides crop protection products to minimize damage from pests and disease. Through programs and partnerships, the company collaborate with farmers, researchers, nonprofit organizations, universities and others to help tackle some of the world's biggest challenges.

Climate Corp. aims to help the world's farmers sustainably increase their productivity through the use of digital tools. The integrated Climate FieldView digital agriculture platform provides farmers with a comprehensive, connected suite of digital tools.

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