ECE's Krogmeier and ABE's Buckmaster drive tech effort to spur food and agriculture innovation

A team of Purdue researchers is working to accelerate innovation in the food and agricultural industry through the development and sharing of open-source tools and culture.
A portion of the graduate students, staff, and faculty associated with Purdue’s new Open Ag Technology and Systems Center. From left to right: He Liu, Yang Wang, James Krogmeier, Andrew Balmos, Ryan Beasley, Yaguang Zhang, Sam Noel, Amy Reibman, Dennis Buckmaster, and Jaclyn Leeuw.

The work being done through Purdue’s Open Agricultural Technology and Systems (OATS) Center involves a core of 17 Purdue faculty from diverse backgrounds, academic units, and research interests, organized into three sub-teams: engineering, software and computing, and food and agronomy. The goal is to develop scalable, distributed agricultural data processing that is readily translated to practice.

James Krogmeier, professor and associate head of electrical and computer engineering, co-directs of the OATS Center along with Dennis Buckmaster, professor of agricultural and biological engineering. According to Buckmaster: “The digital nature of the ag-food system from this point forward is clear. This Center’s activities, in addition to the research and outreach, will facilitate better graduates in the digital agriculture realm.”

Projects will focus on harnessing the power of open source to improve productivity and profitability while using less land, water and energy. The OATS Center will produce targeted online training materials to teach stakeholders how to use the tools available to them. The work will also be shared via Center-sponsored conferences, industry agricultural associations, academic publications, Github, and web and social media. According to Aaron Ault, Senior Research Engineer with OATS, “The open source model has enabled the tech sector to achieve some of the fastest rates of progress in human history by democratizing innovation.”

A center kickoff forum was held March 23rd on the Purdue campus to provide an overview of the open source benefits for code and data exchange, how the OATS Center is envisioned to build an open source community and create solutions, and how companies can participate as Founding Director-level and Collaborator-level members. Included in the agenda were live demonstrations and presentations of ongoing work.

Initial OATS Center funding is provided by a grant from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a nonprofit established through bipartisan congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill. Some of the leading agribusiness and technology organizations have also pledged support, including WinField United, Centricity, Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), AgGateway, CNH Industrial, and Infosys. OATS co-director Krogmeier summed up “We’d particularly like to thank FFAR, Purdue University, and our industry partners for their significant investment in the Center, which they are making to build an open source foundation upon which to build an ag-food internet that will accelerate innovation for their customers, for farmers, for food processors, and for the public.”

The OATS Center will be an integral part of Purdue’s newly announced Digital Agriculture Initiative, which seeks to improve agricultural processes through improved applications of data.

Source: OATS Center to use open-source technology to accelerate innovation in food and ag industry