Last week, two of the proposals submitted by the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences were selected for funding in the Provost’s Investment for Growth Program. Funding for this program is acquired through an internal reallocation process designed to invest in ideas that catalyze the development of innovative programs designed to increase enrollment and promote financial sustainability. The Provost’s Office will provide resources to build a new undergraduate degree program in Metropolitan Food and Environmental Systems (MetroFESt) and create a Center for Smart Agriculture on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus through a collaborative effort with the College of Engineering. The University of Illinois announced the selection of 14 projects campuswide to receive funding for the Investment for Growth program last Tuesday. Please see link to the announcement here for more details.
The success of these projects will allow ACES to continue to advance our mission of scholarly excellence while developing new sources of revenue to support our educational, research, and outreach priorities. These initiatives will create new opportunities for our college to contribute to the improvement of global health through the advancement of food and agricultural systems, including the development and implementation of novel technologies.
Metropolitan Food and Environmental Systems (MetroFESt)
The MetroFESt major will focus on innovative, sustainable food production and environmental safety within urban settings. Students will engage in immersion-based, hands-on learning opportunities with industry partners to apply the content they are learning in the classroom to address real world challenges.
In Illinois, we have access to several major metropolitan food hubs. Additionally, our University of Illinois Extension educators are already working throughout these areas to promote local foods, urban food marketplaces, neighborhood gardening, vertical farming, rooftop water reclamation, and city soil testing, among many other activities. By collaborating with Illinois Extension and other food-related partners, such as restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, grocers, city farmers, health inspectors, non-profit and non-government organizations, etc., we can provide students with a one-of-a-kind opportunity to apply systems thinking to address local problems related to food production and food access.
The Center for Smart Agriculture
The Center for Smart Agriculture will strengthen research, teaching, industrial outreach, and community education in agricultural sciences that interface with engineering. It will also provide experiential learning opportunities for students enrolled in the new Computer Science + Crop Sciences undergraduate degree program. The Center will engage in large-scale, interdisciplinary research initiatives that will expand our relationships with agricultural industries in Illinois.
Efforts conducted through the Center for Smart Agriculture have the potential to create tremendous benefits to society including improved food distribution, reduced hunger, increased sustainability, reduced environmental impact, and increased agricultural productivity. New datasets and algorithms can provide novel agricultural research methods that will redefine farm practices and business models. Development of new computational methods will help push the boundaries of the application of Computer Science innovations to the expansion of agricultural and allied disciplines.
On behalf of the College of ACES, I want to express my gratitude to the University of Illinois for providing us with this opportunity to strengthen our contributions to improve food infrastructure in the state and beyond while enhancing our participation in the advancement of data sciences.