Artificial intelligence, sustainable production take center stage at multistate meeting

(08/15/23) ST. GABRIEL, La. — Some of the most innovative minds in agriculture from across the country gathered last week to share ideas on numerous topics at a multistate meeting hosted by the LSU AgCenter.

The three-day event included tours of the John Deere facility in Thibodaux and the AgCenter Sugar Research Station in St. Gabriel as well as general meetings and breakout sessions.

Thanos Gentimis, AgCenter statistician and chair of the event, said the annual meeting is a way for like-minded experts to discuss ways to use methods such as artificial intelligence to improve agriculture production.

“We have a diverse group of people here,” Gentimis said. “Some work with drones, some with automation and robotics. It’s a way to try to get grants together and pool resources instead of competing against each other.”

AgCenter Sugar Research Station associate Brayden Blanchard led a guided tour of the facilities, which showcased the efforts of the breeding team in how they conduct the program as well as the different uses of AI and machine learning they have integrated to improve efficiencies.

“It’s well known that breeding programs generate a ton of data, and there are many different ways to employ machine learning techniques to optimize data collection, processing and analysis to get the most accurate comparisons of our varieties,” Blanchard said. “That way we can evaluate the comparisons, determine which varieties are the best and eventually release them to commercial farmers.”

Juan Landivar-Bowles, resident director and professor at the Texas A&M AgriLife Center, said the meeting was a way to link data scientists and engineers with biologists to create synergy in developing tools for agriculture.

“What we’re looking for is for this group to serve as a forum to exchange ideas and pick each other’s brains to try to solve future problems,” Landivar-Bowles said. “The LSU AgCenter and Thanos have been tremendous hosts.”

Matt Lee, LSU vice president for agriculture and dean of the College of Agriculture, was on hand on the second day of the meeting to speak about the importance of collaboration.

“Collaborating on AI projects can be incredibly rewarding and can lead to innovative solutions,” Lee said. “Effective collaboration can accelerate the team’s progress and bring fresh perspectives. By working together, you can leverage diverse skills and perspectives to advance and achieve the project’s goals.”

Gentimis said the most important things a group environment like the multistate meeting affords researchers is twofold.

“Creating meaningful collaborations to share ideas is one,” he said. “Secondly, we want them to see what we do here in Louisiana, to see how far along we are with AI and where to go from here together. So we’re both showcasing and trying to connect.”

Brayden in the sugarcane.

LSU AgCenter Sugar Research Station associate Brayden Blanchard leads a tour of the breeding facilities for a group of out-of-state scientists at the 2023 multistate meeting, which focuses on the use of artificial intelligence for sustainable production. Photo by V. Todd Miller/LSU AgCenter

Collins and Brayden.

LSU AgCenter Sugar Research Station breeder Collins Kimbeng and associate Brayden Blanchard spoke with out-of-state scientists during a tour at the 2023 multistate meeting, which focuses on the use of artificial intelligence for sustainable production. Photo by V. Todd Miller/LSU AgCenter

8/15/2023 7:24:13 PM
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