New leadership to take Illinois’ Center for Digital Agriculture into the future
After five trailblazing years, the Center for Digital Agriculture (CDA) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has a new executive director, John Reid, who plans to support CDA’s growth across all dimensions of use-inspired research, translation of research into practice, and education and workforce development.
Reid is affiliated with the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) and The Grainger College of Engineering as a research professor in agricultural and biological engineering and computer science. He brings more than 35 years of technology leadership experience in industry and academia and a commitment to translating innovation research into practice. Reid’s research spans precision agriculture technologies, agricultural robotics and automation, and the deployment of embodied AI in agriculture, construction, and marine applications.
“I'm thrilled to announce John Reid's arrival as executive director. As the center has expanded significantly, it's become apparent that dedicated leadership is now essential,” said Matthew Hudson, scientific co-director of the CDA, professor in the Department of Crop Sciences in ACES, and science integration chair for the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation. “This strategic shift will facilitate continued growth and prosperity for the center.”
Reid has been affiliated with CDA since 2022, and has served as a strategic advisor on the agricultural machinery industry, prepared competitive grants aligned with the CDA mission, and built foundational elements for an industry partner program, among other accomplishments.
“My vision for the CDA is to strategically expand our use-inspired research and catalyze the transition towards a circular bioeconomy through cutting-edge AI and digital ag technologies,” Reid said. “Simultaneously, we will establish robust industry partnerships and enhance education programs to cultivate a diverse and skilled workforce, ensuring CDA's leadership in shaping the future of agriculture.”
Reid’s appointment is just one of several leadership changes at the CDA. Founding co-directors Vikram Adve and Matthew Hudson will continue to serve the center as scientific co-directors and Christina Tucker will add director of operations to her title as associate director of education.
“I’m excited to be handing over the reins of CDA to John Reid. John brings tremendous expertise in digital agriculture, both in academia and industry, and his broad perspective and strong leadership experience will take CDA to new heights,” said Adve, the Donald B. Gillies professor in computer science. “Working with Matt to launch CDA and establish a strong foundation for the center over the initial years has been both exhilarating and humbling. Bringing in John and Christina will free me to focus on the scientific vision and growth of the center along with Matt, and to continue leading the AIFARMS National AI Institute within CDA.”
In her role as associate director of education, Tucker dedicated herself to building the center’s educational offerings, launching the first 100% online Master of Engineering in Digital Agriculture program, developing a federally funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program, and fostering a collaborative partnership with Tuskegee University. She hopes to continue expanding the reach of these programs in her new role.
“After being involved in the center’s educational activities for the last two years, I’m excited to take the next step and get more involved with the overall vision of the center. The multidisciplinary approach of CDA and the success of these academic and industry partnerships will be vital to sustainably feeding the world for years to come,” Tucker said. “I look forward to connecting with our faculty affiliates to grow our research and outreach efforts.”
The CDA, which was founded in 2018 and launched in October 2019, is a collaboration between the College of ACES, Grainger Engineering, and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at Illinois. Its founding recognized the increasing interdependence of computer science, digital technologies, and engineering with traditional agronomy, livestock management, and workforce development.
Five years in, CDA has made significant strides in its mission to help agricultural producers, researchers, and industries keep pace with the ways technology is transforming how we feed and support a growing population. The center will celebrate its fifth anniversary at its upcoming annual conference planned for March 6, 2024. Those interested in learning more about CDA’s initiatives, collaborations, programs, and research projects are invited to attend. Join CDA’s mailing list to stay up-to-date on center opportunities, conferences, events, and offerings.