Opening Plenary Keynote - Jess Lowenberg-DeBoer - sponsored by IPNI

Jess Lowenberg-DeBoer
Prof. Lowenberg-DeBoer is the Elizabeth Creak Chair in Agri-Tech Applied Economics at Harper Adams University, Newport, Shropshire, UK, and is co-editor of the journal Precision Agriculture. His research focuses on the economics of agricultural technology, especially precision agriculture and agricultural robotics. He has published 84 articles in refereed journals, two books and chapters in six other books. Lowenberg-DeBoer’s research and extension work is founded in hands-on experience in agriculture. He farmed in Iowa in the 1970s producing lamb, wool, alfalfa and other forages. Since 1993 he has owned and managed 200 hectares of Iowa corn and soybean land.

A Worldwide Perspective on Precision Agriculture Adoption
Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) guidance is being adopted rapidly by mechanized agriculture almost everywhere in the world. Sprayer boom control, planter row shutoffs and other technologies based on GNSS guidance are also being adopted quickly. GNSS guidance is easy to use and the cash costs are often paid by reduction in skip and overlap in agricultural input application. Variable rate technology (VRT) has become standard practice for some niche crops like sugar beets, but VRT adoption has lagged for bulk commodities like corn, soybeans and wheat, with adoption rarely rising over 20% of farmers or crop area. To achieve wider adoption VRT should move toward an embodied knowledge technology that is reliably profitable, easy to use and automated to minimize need for manual soil sampling and human intervention in creating recommendation maps.  

PrecisionAg Plenary Keynote - Steve Savage - sponsored by SST Software, Raven, and IPNI

Steve Savage
Steve Savage has worked with various aspects of agricultural technology for more than 35 years.  Steve was an undergraduate at Stanford and then completed an M.S. and Ph.D. in Plant Pathology at the University of California, Davis.  He has worked for Colorado State University, in fungicide discovery at DuPont, and at the bio-control start-up, Mycogen.  Since 1996 Savage has been an independent consultant working with a wide variety of clients on topics including biological control, biotechnology, crop protection chemicals, crop genetics, post-harvest waste reduction, sustainability metrics, biofuels, and soil health.  Since 2009 Steve has also been active as a writer and speaker on food and agriculture topics (Applied Mythology blog). Since 2015 he has been an invited Contributor for Forbes and since 2016 a part time Crop Protection Benefits communicator for the non-profit, CropLife Foundation for which he does a bi-weekly podcast called POPAgriculture.

Agricultural Sustainability: Where Is The Conversation Headed?
The decades long discussion about sustainable agriculture has evolved beyond its dogmatic early definitions towards a more science-based approach focused on measurable “outcomes” for important categories like the efficient use of land, water and other resources and the minimization of “footprints” such as those for energy and greenhouse gases as well as off-site movement of nutrients etc.  There are several “multi-stakeholder” groups involved in this process including producer groups, food companies and retailers, environmental NGOs and technology players.  Writer and speaker Steve Savage will talk about where consensus is building about sustainable best-practices and what challenges remain for the implementation and consumer communication of these ideas.

Closing Plenary Keynote - J. Alex Thomasson - sponsored by IPNI

J. Alex Thomasson
Dr. J. Alex Thomasson is Professor and Endowed Chairholder in Cotton Engineering, Ginning, and Mechanization in Texas A&M University’s Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering.  He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia.  Dr. Thomasson received his bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University, his master’s degree from Louisiana State University, and his doctor’s degree from University of Kentucky.  He has researched remote and proximal sensing – essentially on-farm data collection – for over 30 years.  He is a recognized expert in precision agriculture, sensors, data analytics, and agricultural robotics.  Dr. Thomasson brings the perspective of one whose teaching and research are focused on improving the productivity, efficiency, profitability, and sustainability of large-scale production agriculture.

How Would Google Farm?
If Google were to enter farming, it would likely start by finding and amassing all available data – without biases or preconceived notions – and let the data dictate how to make on-farm management decisions.  Google’s self-driving car can see, hear, read, understand, decide, and act – just like human drivers do.  We now also have tremendous data collection capabilities for situational awareness of the crops we are growing.  As Google revolutionizes how we think about mobility, we have the same opportunity to exploit big data in agriculture.  We are learning how to combine the latest advances in precision agriculture and plant genetics with big data and advanced artificial intelligence.  As the world’s population continues to grow rapidly, merging these technologies is critical to maintaining an adequate supply of food and fiber.