At UC Davis, a team of professors have kicked off the Smart Farm Initiative. Lead by biological and agricultural engineering professor David Slaughter, the initiative strives to utilize and progress technology in agriculture to increase productivity and transform farm work to a STEM-based industry.
There are more humans alive on Earth right now than ever before—7.3 billion—and that number is still growing, with UN projections that it will reach 9.7 billion by 2050. A population of this magnitude brings a lot of challenges, food production chief among them.
Tens of thousands of people living in the San Joaquin Valley’s unincorporated, rural, low-income communities have unsafe drinking water pouring from their taps. That water is delivered from a patchwork of community water systems that often don’t meet state or federal standards for drinking water, or from private wells that are not tested.
Jeff Flynn ’05, general manager of Unitrans, has his eye on the future — in particular, the fuel source for Unitrans buses. Most of the fleet today runs on compressed natural gas. Unitrans is working with campus administrative and academic units — Design and Construction Management, and the Institute of Transportation Studies — on an electrification plan in support of the university’s Big Idea, Carbon Neutrality Leadership Initiative.
Thanks to technology, the farm of the future produces more food, measured by inputs of land, labor, energy or materials than ever before and does so with less water and less impact on the environment and climate. It also provides skilled careers for a new generation of farmworkers. That’s the vision behind the Smart Farm Initiative.
The many intersections surrounding food and agriculture—from labor and the economy to health and the environment to globalization and even ethical considerations—result in several urgent issues arising at the same time.