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What is integrative precision agriculture?What is integrative precision agriculture?

Integrative precision agriculture has become Georgia’s brand for digital, data-driven approaches and solutions for agriculture.

Brad Haire

June 1, 2023

4h 27m View

At a Glance

  • The conference included precision ag heavy hitters from regional land-grants, companies and international experts.

In May, the Institute Integrative Precision Agriculture at the University of Georgia hosted the “Integrative Precision Agriculture – Local Solutions Through Global Advances.” The conference brought together precision agriculture heavy hitters from the region’s land-grant institutions, private companies and several international experts.

George Vellidis, a UGA agricultural engineer and an early precision ag champion and investigator in the Southeast, spearheaded the conference. IIPA has become Georgia’s brand for digital, data-driven approaches and solutions for agriculture. Last year, the Institute for Integrative Precision Agriculture was established to connect research, education and Extension with partners at other universities and in industry.

“Integrative is a term that I think is very important for ag. It's not just engineers working on a technology problem. We have pathologists, entomologists, agronomists and many other disciplines all working together to solve a problem, so we're not going down the wrong track, not making wrong decisions,” he said.

That was the purpose of the conference, he said.

“To get that knowledge and apply it to what our growers are doing; to cross state and regional collaborations so we can solve the problems faster. We don't have to develop all the technology. What we have to do is see what other people have done and apply it to solve our problems,” Vellidis said.

Related:Approaching autonomy in Ag

Farmers' view

The conference’s first session included farmers, an excellent way to start the conversation. The opening panel included Jessica Brim Kirk, director of food safety and marketing at Lewis Taylor Farms, Lawton Pearson, owner of the peach and pecan operation Pearson Farm, and Brandon Wade, plant manager of Alma Nursery and Berry Farm. Providing insight from the row crop side was Kater Hake, retired vice president of agricultural and environmental research for Cotton Incorporated.

Each brought individual angles to the precision ag conversation. Hands down, though, labor was the shared connection. It’s a common refrain through agriculture for many years. No agricultural sector feels the crunch of labor more than fruit and vegetable growers. They need reliable, cost-efficient hands, but what they really want is a paradigm shift.

Technological advancements over the last decade have greatly improved the processing lines on on-farm fruit and vegetable packing facilities, improving efficiency, logistics, tracking and product safety for consumers. In the fields much of the work requires many human hands skilled in what to do and not to do.


It’s not just the challenge of securing timely, skilled labor. Pearson suggested his operation and others would benefit from improved technology-based methods to predict yields and optimal harvest times each season.

Securing skilled labor through government programs such as H-2A has improved over the decades and that’s a good thing, but such programs remain costly to growers with bureaucratic hurdles. Plus, increased market competition from imported foreign fruits and vegetables, many coming from foreign competitors unfairly subsidized by their governments, are pushing U.S. growers to find ways to lower costs through technology.

There are advancements in robotics to assist specialty crop growers. Honing robotics to replicate, or improve upon, what the human eye and hand can do in fields is not simple. But there are ways to leverage what we know and can do into what we can do better for less.

Or discover things we don’t know we can do, yet.

The current and future use of AI permeated many presentations and conversations at the conference. Harnessing what seems its endless generative might into workable solutions across the agricultural ecosystem, from research and development to in-field applications, is a growing trend across agriculture, both at the land-grant universities, such as the University of Florida, and within established and start-up agricultural companies.

The conference also included welcoming encouragement from former secretary of agriculture and Georgia governor Sonny Perdue, and Jere Morehead, UGA president.

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