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I-FARM: Farm of the Future Project

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Project Overview

icon-natureicon-solarThe I-FARM Project fits into two iSEE research themes: Secure & Sustainable Agriculture; and Climate Solutions. It was seed-funded by iSEE’s Campus as a Living Laboratory program in 2021, then fully funded with a three-year, $3.9 million grant from USDA NIFA in 2022.

I-FARM stands for “Illinois Farming and Regenerative Management.” Primary Investigator Girish Chowdhary says the Illinois-led study — funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) — will develop an 80-acre agricultural testbed, where commodity crops (corn and soybean) and livestock are farmed using synergistic and sustainable practices.

“We will accelerate creation, maturation, and adoption of new management technologies that are fundamentally more sustainable, profitable, affordable, and scale-neutral. The new practices will be enabled by maturing digital agriculture technologies developed in wide-ranging research efforts at the University of Illinois,” said Chowdhary, Associate Professor of Agricultural & Biological Engineering and Computer Science.

Over three years, the I-FARM testbed will feature improved precision farming with remote sensing; new under-canopy autonomous robotic solutions for cover-crop planting, variable-rate input applications, and mechanical weeding; and artificial intelligence-enabled remote sensing for animal health prediction, nutrient quantification, and soil health.

“With the data gleaned from this project, the MyFarm app will provide farmers with an integrated dashboard that can be customized to the needs of their farm,” Chowdhary said. “Our focus on scale-neutral technologies can provide a solution to the worsening labor crisis for small farms and improve the sustainability of large and spatially heterogeneous farms.”

I-FARM technoeconomic simulations and farmer surveys will clarify barriers and incentives to adoption of sustainable technology to industry and farmers. Integrated extension activities will be conducted in a research space that is open to farmers, with demonstrations and training, easing the adoption of new technologies and opening new markets. The I-FARM team will also help the ag industry create new data-driven products and services for farmers, and an Industry Advisory Board and a Farmer Advisory Board will help optimize the impact on farming practices.

Project News

The I-FARM, short for Illinois Farming and Regenerative Management, is an 80-acre agricultural testbed funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) for three years and $3.9 million. I-FARM researchers test new synergistic, sustainable, and regenerative practices for growing commodity crops and raising livestock.

I-FARM researchers will begin to study the implementation and adoption of novel farm management practices enabled by a wide range of digital technologies developed at the University of Illinois. These technologies include autonomous robots and remote sensing powered by artificial intelligence. Before I-FARM technologies can be brought to production farming, researchers must evaluate their benefits in production settings and mitigate any costs or risks.

Naveen Uppalapati, a National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) Research Scientist on the I-FARM Operating Team offers answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about the I-FARM, including what technology is being used, how the research will benefit farmers and industry, and what the future looks like for adopting the solutions created by this project.

Read the full FAQ by iSEE Communications Intern Lucy Nifong >>>

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced in June 2022 that it is funding a new collaboration between two institutes and a research center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign that will create an integrated farm of the future in the U.S. Midwest.

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s “Farm of the Future” proposal process was extremely competitive, and only one was awarded from across the nation, said Co-Investigator and Center for Digital Agriculture (CDA) Co-Director Vikram Adve, the Donald B.Gillies Professor of Computer Science.

“This grant is a major endorsement of our growing strengths in digital ag,” Adve said.

The I-FARM is a unique partnership between CDA, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), and iSEE at the U of I.

“I-FARM’s integrated suite of solutions will lead to sustainable ways of meeting growing demand for agriculture in a changing climate,” said Co-PI and iSEE Interim Director Madhu Khanna, the ACES Distinguished Professor of Agricultural & Consumer Economics. “The CDA, iSEE, and NCSA built the strongest research proposal by reaching across disciplines and bringing together expertise from all over the University of Illinois — from computer science to economics to crop science and animal science, we are exploring as many aspects as possible as we seek to build a farm of the future.

“We look forward to a fruitful collaboration with this project — and similar multidisciplinary work in the future because it is the best way to solve most of the wicked problems this world will face.”

Read the full news release >>>

The Team

Principal Investigator and Co-Investigators


Operating Team

  • Naveen Uppalapati, Research Scientist, NCSA
  • Faiza Aziz, Graduate Student, Chowdhary
  • Menglin Liu, Graduate Student, Atallah
  • Emerson Sie, Graduate Student, Vasisht
  • Yi Yang, Graduate Student, Guan


Project Manager

  • Melanie Rodriguez, Project Manager, Center for Digital Agriculture, NCSA


Farming and Industry Partners

  • Coming soon!


Coming soon!