Guilherme DePaula, assistant professor, is part of a new federally funded project led by Iowa State University researchers to help farmers share data relevant to their operations with one another and improve production. The multidisciplinary team consists of researchers from agronomy, engineering, and economics. DePaula will lead the economic analysis portion of the project.
The Smart Integrated Farm Network for Rural Agricultural Communities (SIRAC) project recently received a three-year, nearly $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop technology that will allow farmers to pool data and share knowledge to guide responses to production obstacles such as weeds, disease and pests.The effort will start out as a small pilot project and gradually expand to hundreds of farmers. The multidisciplinary research team will pair innovative data gathering methods with machine learning to make the information easily accessible to farmers in the program, said Asheesh Singh, a professor of agronomy at Iowa State and principal investigator on the grant.
The research team has identified central Iowa as a testbed for the new technology. Around 10 farmers in the region will participate in the pilot project, which will begin collecting data at the start of next year’s growing season. ISU researchers will use unmanned aerial vehicles and other cutting-edge technology to gather data on various aspects of their operations. For instance, the program will collect information on diseases affecting crops, as well as weather conditions, pests and weeds. Machine-learning algorithms will evaluate and sort the data and make relevant information available to other farmers participating in the project. Farmers can use the data to inform decisions on their own operations.