by Keith Hollenkamp –
In April, the MBDH teamed up with the International Food Security at Illinois (IFSI) to host the Machine Learning: Farm-to-Table Workshop. The workshop brought together domain scientists to stimulate new data-driven R+D activity at the intersections of the Agriculture, Bioinformatics, Food-Energy-Water, and Food Security communities.
The partnership with IFSI and the College of ACES (Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences) began after Melissa Cragin, Executive Director of the MBDH, attended the big-data focused Food and Security Symposium last year. This led to a collaboration with Kathy Baylis, Associate Professor in the College of ACES, and the IFSI group to expand on the ideas presented and bring together the agricultural sciences, big data, and machine learning communities to foster new collaborative research.
“Last year’s food security symposium caught the interest of the Midwest Big Data Hub, so this event combined our forces to identify research areas and gaps for people working in the spaces of big data and agriculture. My personal quest was to see that international themes were included,” said Baylis. “Machine learning can vastly improve predictive models, using both higher data frequency, and greater data ‘depth,’ such as a greater number and range of characteristics, than we can apply in more traditional statistical analyses.”
Dr. Alex Winter-Nelson, Director of ACES Office of International Programs, welcomes attendees to the Machine Learning: Farm-to-Table Workshop. Photo: Courtesy of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
The two-day workshop provided a convenient setting for researchers, academics, and business owners to exchange ideas and discuss how machine learning is affecting agriculture. Dr. Alex Winter-Nelson, Director of ACES Office of International Programs at UIUC welcomed attendees to the workshop, an event that also pushed forward the goals of the College of ACES.
“The workshop was a great opportunity to build on the College of ACES earlier work on leveraging big data for food security and the environment,” said Winter-Nelson. “The interactions provided models and lessons from our peer universities and has helped us map our way forward as we try to make greater use of data science to address food and environmental challenges.”
The workshop included two keynote speakers: Dr. Pat Schnable, a distinguished professor in the Iowa State University Department of Agronomy and the Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology, and Dr. Ranveer Chandra, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, where he is leading an Incubation on IoT Applications. Dr. Schnable kicked off the first day of the workshop with his keynote on using massive amounts of genotypic, phenotypic, and environmental data to develop predictive models that can help overcome crop production challenges. Dr. Chandra started Day 2 of the program by discussing how data-driven techniques can help boost agricultural productivity by increasing yields, reducing losses, and cutting down input costs.
Dr. Ranveer Chandra from Microsoft Research gives the Keynote Presentation of Day 2 of the Machine Learning: Farm-to-Table workshop. Photo: Courtesy of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
The workshop included two panels of academics and industry experts who discussed their work and the opportunities and challenges brought on by machine learning. Workshop participants spent part of each day engaged in discussions to address current research opportunities and feedback for the MBDH and federal funding agencies on Big Data for agriculture and food security. A white paper is forthcoming.
Tom Evans (Indiana University) participates in a panel on Machine Learning Opportunities/Challenge. Also pictured: Paul Miller (Agrible), Dr. Lakshmi Kumar Matukumalli (National Institute of Food and Agriculture), and Tami Bond (UIUC) Photo: Courtesy of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
Researchers from across the Midwest were also invited to present Lightning Talks demonstrating machine learning methods and applications in agriculture and food-energy-water.
Videos of the keynotes, panels, and lightning talks are available on the MBDH Youtube Channel.