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Discussing digital ag data sharing

By Staff | May 28, 2016

MELISSA CRAGIN, left, executive director for Midwest Big Data Hub at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, poses with Dr. Sally Rockey, executive director of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture; Sarah Nusser, Iowa State University’s vice president for research; and Joe Colletti, ISU’s associate director of the Experiment Station.

AMES – Ag researchers say a major part of doing their jobs is knowing what specific problems need to be solved on the farming level.

To get that insight, one needs data, and sometimes that’s not always easy to get.

To discuss the problems and their potential answers, Iowa State University hosted the Digital Agriculture Conference at the Scheman Building in Ames, May 16 and 17, attended by 110 participants from across America.

The conference also included international students from universities from around the United States.

“Our main objective for the conference was to develop new partnerships and/or explore how partnerships could develop for the benefit of all,” said Brian Meyer, director of college relations for ISU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “There is a tremendous amount of new data being constantly generated.”

JESSE WINDLE, director of data science for Hi-Fidelity Genetics, based in Durham, North Carolina, attended the Digital Ag Meeting conference hosted by Iowa State University.

“Exploring how we can work together, sharing research, addressing issues and possibilities, will benefit the ability of moving forward within this complex situation,” Meyer added.

Attendees came from various specialty fields, businesses and professions.

They included Cheryl Porter, a computer researcher at the University of Florida.

“I attended the digital ag meeting because I am working on several fronts to develop the community and infrastructure which will allow agricultural data to be findable, accessible, interoperable and re-usable, also known as FAIR Principles,” Porter said.

She is engaged with international groups seeking collaboration possibilities, interaction and the sharing of data, software and ideas.

“Although my institution, University of Florida, is not part of the Midwest Big Data Hub, I think this group is right on target for making real positive differences in the way agricultural data is handled in the future,” said Porter.

The conference included a lecture from Melissa Cragin, executive director of Midwest Big Data Hub, on Accelerating the Big Data Innovation Ecosystem.

Dr. Sally Rockey, executive director for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, spoke on Opportunities for Collaboration in Digital Agriculture and Beyond.

“I foresee partnerships that would include exceptional internships, post-doctorate opportunities and cross-institutional training,” said Rockey.

Breakout sessions, panel discussions and updates took place, as well as a keynote session with Joe Colletti, associate director of ISU’s Experiment Station.

“Agriculture is a fertile place for data science and statistics,” said conference attendee Jesse Windle, director of data science for Hi-Fidelity Genetics, based in Durham, North Carolina. “It is exciting to get to talk with others about their vision for the future in this area.”

Hi-Fidelity Genetics uses data science to build tools that facilitate plant breeding.

“I hope to bring back a better understanding of the problems facing farmers, breeders and anyone else involved with agriculture,” Windle said. “Sometimes it’s hard to find out what problems need to get solved.”

“Conferences like this provide the opportunity for industry, government and academia to come together, talk about the problems and potential solutions.”

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