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K-State Today

December 21, 2020

Agronomist receives $3M grant to develop digital geospatial tools for improving resilience of farming systems

Submitted by Layne Wilson

A Kansas State University researcher received a $3 million grant from the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification, or SIIL, to improve the resilience of smallholder livelihoods through the application of digital and geospatial decision support tools under diverse farming systems.

Ignacio Ciampitti, associate professor of agronomy, will lead the three-year project and serve as the director of the Digital, Geospatial and Farming Systems Consortium — Building a New Era of Predictive Agricultural Innovation. The new consortium will involve experts in farming systems involving crop-livestock integration, modeling, mobile technologies and remote sensing for crop mapping, production and human nutrition.

The consortium team comes from five U.S. universities, establishing a strong collaboration with team members in the targeted countries: Senegal, Cambodia and Bangladesh.

"This consortium will build upon the five domains  — productivity, economics, environment, social and human condition — of the sustainable intensification framework, developing an interdisciplinary and solution-oriented geospatial framework, integrating remote sensing, farming systems modeling, and geospatial data layers to provide innovative data products to take actions toward more resilient farming systems, benefiting families and communities," Ciampitti said.

"The consortium will focus on strengthening collaboration with industry partners," Ciampitti said. "The initial founding members are Corteva Agriscience, Microsoft, Descartes Labs and aWhere, assisting on building data products and providing support in the outreach goal."

Ciampitti said the expertise of the consortium team provides critical opportunities for innovation in the digital agriculture space.

"Providing access to simple digital tools to researchers, extension personnel, policymakers and practitioners will allow them to make informed decisions to minimize risk and improve the resilience of people and farming systems," said Vara Prasad, university distinguished professor and director of the Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab. 

"The consortium will seek opportunities for training undergraduate and graduate students in the targeted countries in the main skillset related to data science," Ciampitti said. "This will be accomplished by establishing more integration between this consortium via SIIL and the primary projects already in place on the targeted countries."

The Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab is managed by K-State and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development as part of Feed the Future, the government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Along with Ciampitti, consortium researchers include Jason Neff, University of Colorado; Paul West, James Gerber, Zhenong Jin and Kathryn Grace, University of Minnesota; Amirpouyan Nejadhashemi, Michigan State University; and Molly Brown, University of Maryland; as well as the critical integration of industry partners with the opportunity of expanding the number of members on the consortium.

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