The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), University of North Dakota, Iowa State University and Kansas State University are partnering on a digital agriculture project funded by a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant aims to foster collaboration among Midwestern agricultural and Big Data constituencies.
The Midwest Big Data Hub Digital Agriculture Spoke will help build partnerships to address emerging issues, such as precision agriculture, ecosystem management and services, socioeconomic impacts and specific data-related issues.
“This project is important because working with Big Data can be very costly, so it’s critical to recognize shared challenges on a national level so we can share insights and resources,” said Jennifer Clarke, director of the Quantitative Life Sciences Initiative and associate professor in the UNL department of food science and technology and the department of statistics. “The collaborations that result from this project will enable us to leverage Big Data to solve critical challenges related to sustainable agriculture and food security."
Clarke will lead UNL efforts associated with the project, which will initially focus on two knowledge domains important to agriculture, including unmanned aircraft systems and plant sciences. Automating Big Data life cycles in unmanned aircraft systems in agriculture, plant sciences, phenomics and genomics is a key objective for the team. Information sharing, education and training at all levels will also be a priority.
NSF awarded a total of $10 million to 10 “Big Data Spokes” to initiate research on specific topics identified by the Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs (Figure). Project topics range from precision agriculture to smart cities to personalized education. The data spokes reflect the unique priorities and capabilities of the four hubs, which represent consortia from all sections of the country.
Jim Kurose, assistant director of NSF's Computer & Information Science & Engineering Directorate, said these Big Data spokes advance the goals and regional priorities of each hub, "fusing the strengths of a range of institutions and investigators and applying them to problems that affect the communities and populations within their regions. We are pleased to be making this substantial investment today to accelerate the nation's Big Data (research and development) innovation ecosystem."