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INSTITUTE FOR SUSTAINABILITY, ENERGY, AND ENVIRONMENT
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS URBANA-CHAMPAIGN

 

SMARTFARM Project

 

Project Overview

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The SMARTFARM Project fits into the iSEE research themes of Secure & Sustainable Agriculture, Climate Solutions, and Energy Transitions.

 

In Lead Investigator Kaiyu Guan’s words:

“Our DOE-funded project team will develop a precise system for measuring greenhouse gas emissions from commercial bioenergy crops — essentially new technology for managing bioenergy crops, improving yield, reducing over fertilization, and designing new tools for ‘Smart Farms.”

“We will establish the Midwest Bioenergy Crop Landscape Laboratory (MBC Lab) to monitor emissions on fields in Champaign County, and the vast amount of data collected will be publicly available and could someday lead to financial rewards for farmers who reduce emissions through sustainable crop management.

“Our team will develop protocols for data processing and storage, create an online portal for growers and other researchers to access, and build the cyberinfrastructure for real-time data visualization. The researchers will also share findings regularly with the broader farmer communities in Illinois.

“Our MBC Lab is the perfect testbed for measuring emissions from biofuel production, and the platform we will develop will provide data and technology that can be applied to existing markets and broader production agriculture for ‘smart farming’ and environmental sustainability.”


Project News

NEW PUBLICATION!

Computational models that track carbon as it cycles through an agroecosystem have massive untapped potential to advance the field of precision agriculture, increasing crop yields and informing sustainable farming practices.

“Although modeling the carbon cycle in agroecosystems has been done before, our work represents the most comprehensive integration of models and observations, as well as rigorous validation that includes rich measurements from both field and regional scales. The modeling performance of our solution (published this month in Agriculture and Forest Meteorology) far surpasses prior studies,” said SMARTFARMS Lead Kaiyu Guan, an Associate Professor of Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Guan is also a Blue Waters Professor at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and Founding Director of the Agroecosystem Sustainability Center created by the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences and iSEE.

Read a full news release on this publication >>>

A postdoctoral research position is available in the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign as part of the SMARTFARM project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. A major goal of SYMFONI (System of Systems Solutions for Commercial Field-Level Quantification of Soil Organic Carbon and Nitrous Oxide Emission for Scalable Applications) is to understand the field scale mechanisms driving carbon storage and loss and gaseous nitrogen fluxes from commercial agricultural fields under different management practices.

The postdoc will focus on making high-resolution measurements of soil carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide fluxes with automated gas exchange equipment, as well as soil driving variables (e.g. pH, soil bulk density, soil organic matter and carbon, nutrients, etc). Experience with instrumentation and management of large data sets are desirable for this position. A willingness to learn techniques for spatial analyses also would be beneficial. The successful candidate will have experience conducting field research and should be comfortable working in a highly collaborative environment where they will coordinate research activities with a large team, supervise technicians and undergraduates, and write manuscripts. Field work will be conducted on commercial farms in Champaign County, Illinois.

The postdoc will work primarily under the guidance of Co-PIs Evan DeLucia, Wendy Yang, and Carl Bernacchi, and will be expected to collaborate with other ecosystem ecologists, ecosystem modelers, ecohydrologists, and others in the SYMFONI project.

Required Qualifications:

  • A Ph.D. or the equivalent in ecology, biogeochemistry, soil science, or related field
  • Experience with laboratory and field work
  • Strong English writing and oral communication skills
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Ability to work in a collaborative environment
  • Ability to travel frequently to local research sites
  • A valid driver’s license

All candidates must have received a Ph.D. in a relevant field within the past five years. The position is available for two years, with possible extension further; however, annual renewal is dependent on funding and progress made by the individual. This position includes a competitive salary and full benefits.

Application review will begin June 15, 2021, and will continue until the position is filled. The start date is flexible, but ideally the start would be on or before Dec. 1, 2021. Applications should include a brief cover letter, curriculum vitae, and the names and contact information for three references. Please send your application via email to Anya Knecht, the SYMFONI Research Coordinator, at knecht2@illinois.edu.

For further information about the position, please contact DeLucia at delucia@illinois.edu, Yang at yangw@illinois.edu, or Bernacchi at bernacch@illinois.edu.

Illinois is an Affirmative Action /Equal Opportunity Employer and welcomes individuals with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and ideas who embrace and value diversity and inclusivity (www.inclusiveillinois.illinois.edu).

The University of Illinois conducts criminal background checks on all job candidates upon acceptance of a contingent offer.

On Sept. 8, 2020, the University of Illinois announced that the Smart Farms team led by Kaiyu Guan was awarded $4.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) through its “Systems for Monitoring and Analytics for Renewable Transportation Fuels from Agricultural Resources and Management” (SMARTFARM) program. 

The funding will be used to calculate farm-scale carbon credits, allowing individual farmers to understand the value of their land and practices toward carbon trading markets. Funding for the newest phase of the project, named “SYMFONI,” allows accurate and rapid field-level quantification of carbon intensity for every individual field across the U.S. and can be seamlessly scaled up to the global scale. This is made possible through the integration of field-based observations with satellite and aerial hyperspectral data, physics-guided deep learning, mobile soil sensing, and supercomputing. Guan, Assistant Professor of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences (NRES) and a Blue Waters Professor at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), says the system builds a generic framework that will flexibly integrate newer sensor technologies as they become available, meaning the output will continue to improve over time.

“We couldn’t be prouder of Kaiyu and his team’s efforts toward a more sustainable future for agriculture and the planet. Innovations from researchers within the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES), along with our partners across campus, have been changing the world for 150 years, and with investments like this from ARPA-E, we’ll continue moving forward to a brighter future,” said German Bollero, Associate Dean for research in the College of ACES.

The Illinois team was the only group nationwide to be twice awarded funds in ARPA-E’s SMARTFARM program in its two funding phases. The same team leads a Phase 1 project ($3.3 million) to collect gold-standard carbon emission data at the farm scale and build the foundation for testing Phase 2 technologies. The Illinois-led project also represents the largest portion of SMARTFARM funding, receiving 27% of the total distributed in the current round of funding.

The project team includes nine members across Illinois’ Urbana-Champaign campus. For this round of funding, Jian Peng from Grainger College of Engineering was added — as were Zhenong Jin and Vipin Kumar from the University of Minnesota, Kang Sun from the University of Buffalo, and Jinyun Tang from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

Read the full news announcement >>>

The Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) was instrumental in helping a University of Illinois team land a $3.3 million U.S. Department of Energy grant.

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded a $3.3 million grant to a multidisciplinary research team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to develop a precise system for measuring greenhouse gas emissions from commercial bioenergy crops grown in central Illinois.

The three-year project through the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) is expected to reduce emissions associated with ethanol and other biofuels by enabling new technology for managing bioenergy crops, improving yield, reducing overfertilization, and designing new tools for “smart farms.” The vast data collected will be publicly available and could someday lead to financial rewards for farmers who reduce emissions through sustainable crop management.

Led by Kaiyu Guan, an Assistant Professor of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences (NRES), the team will establish the Midwest Bioenergy Crop Landscape Laboratory (MBC-Lab) to monitor emissions on three 85-acre maize and soybean fields in Champaign County.

Read the full news announcement >>>


The Team

Principal Investigator (PI) and co-PIs

  • MBC Lab and SYMFONI: Kaiyu Guan (PI), Associate Professor of Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (right)
    Departmental page >>>
    Lab page >>>
  • MBC Lab and SYMFONI: Carl Bernacchi, Plant Physiologist, U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service
    USDA ARS page >>>
    Lab page >>>
  • MBC Lab and SYMFONI: Evan H. DeLucia, Arends Professor Emeritus of Plant Biology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
    Departmental page >>>
    Lab page >>>
  • MBC Lab: Jeremy Guest, Associate Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
    Departmental page >>>
    Lab page >>>
  • SYMFONI: Zhenong Jin, Assistant Professor of Agroecosystem Modeling, University of Minnesota
    Departmental page >>>
    Lab page >>>
  • MBC Lab and SYMFONI: D.K. Lee, Professor of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
    Departmental page >>>
    Lab page >>>
  • MBC Lab: Jong Lee, Principal Research Scientist at National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
    NCSA page >>>
  • SYMFONI: Jian Peng, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
    Departmental page >>>
  • MBC Lab and SYMFONI: Wendy Yang, Associate Professor of Plant Biology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
    Departmental page >>>
    Lab page >>>

 

Operating Team (Faculty, Postdocs, Technicians, Students)

  • MBC Lab: Chunhwa Jang, Postdoc in Crop Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • MBC Lab and SYMFONI: Chongya Jiang, Postdoc in Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • SYMFONI: Vipin Kumar, William Norris Professor and Head of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota
    Departmental page >>>
  • MBC Lab: Yuchen Liu, Postdoc in Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • SYMFONI: Kang Sun, Assistant Professor of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, University at Buffalo
    Departmental page >>>
    Lab page >>>
  • MBC Lab: Xiangmin Sun, Postdoc in Plant Biology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
    Bernacchi Lab page >>>
  • SYMFONI: Jinyung Tang, Research Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
    Departmental page >>>
  • MBC Lab and SYMFONI: Sheng Wang, Postdoc in Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • MBC Lab and SYMFONI: Bin Peng, Research Scientist in Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • MBC Lab: Leslie Stoecker, Data Manager, Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

 

Project Manager

  • MBC Lab and SYMFONI: Anya Knecht, Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE), University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

 

Collaborator

  • MBC Lab: Tilden Meyers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division, Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Publications & Presentations

(iSEE project members’ names in bold):

  • Publication: “Quantifying Carbon Budget, Crop Yields, and their Responses to Environmental Variability Using the Ecosys Model for U.S. Midwestern Agroecosystems.” Zhou, W., Guan, K., Peng, B., Tang, J., Jin, Z., Jiang, C., Grant, R. Mezbahuddin, S. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology (July 2021)
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