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November 2022

Dean's Fellow Welcome

If you’re a sports fanatic, you know what MVP is. Well, there is an alternative meaning that is not most valuable player but minimum viable product. Identifying and developing an MVP can be a good approach to developing solutions.

Have you ever heard of the word or concept of pretotyping? I was introduced to this by colleague Aaron Ault of ECE several years ago and continue to find applications of the notion. This topic is also the focus of one day in the AGR 10800 Ag Tech & Innovation learning community course. Pretotyping is a blend of the words prototype and pretend.

The notion is this – prototyping is necessary; you must test in the real environment, have user experience feedback, test for reliability, etc. But prototyping is expensive, so you don’t want to waste time, effort, and funds on the wrong thing. Pretotyping can help you identify the right “it” to build. If it sounds intriguing, maybe start with this quick reference guide that introduces you to terms like fake door, Mechanical Turk, or the infiltrator. For more you can check out pretotyping.org or read Pretotype It 2nd edition. These are quick reads and just might help you prioritize your use of time and talent. Need a sample? 

pretotyped chart

A pretotyped chart showing an individual cow’s intake pattern (also compared to the herd average) based on a hardware and software system that is conceptualized but not yet built.

I hope the idea helps you to make your best next (not the next best) “it.”

Dennis Buckmaster

Research Spotlights

Potential Payoffs

I am hoping this abstract of work by Drs. Boehlje and Langemeier from Agricultural Economics sparks enough interest for you to read the full article:

Precision agriculture or site-specific crop management attempts to observe, measure, and respond to inter- and intra-field variability. The goal of precision agriculture is to enhance yields, reduce cost, and/or mitigate environmental risks. This article discusses potential payoffs of precision agriculture from the producer, value chain, and environmental perspectives. Benefits of precision agriculture are discussed in the context of technology adoption and competitive advantage. Potential benefits associated with precision agriculture are manifold. In addition to potentially reducing cost and enhancing product value, precision agriculture has the potential to improve efficiency of machinery use, reduce risk, enhance property value, improve our ability to monitor food safety and enhance traceability, enhance our capability to execute and monitor sustainable practices, reduce fertilizer and chemical leaching and runoff, and conserve irrigation water. The adoption of precision agricultural technologies will likely require a reexamination of a farm’s workforce skills.

If that wasn’t enough to get you to read the full article, how about knowing there is a section titled “what about the future”?

Soil Health Tech Stack

In these modern times of data driven agriculture, “tech stack” is an increasingly common term. Just a few months ago, Purdue faculty and staff were involved with an event coordinated by the Farm Foundation and others regarding the Soil Health Tech Stack (recorded conference sessions here). Rob Trice of Better Food Ventures crafted 8 recommendations from that event. Whether your topic is soil health or something else, I believe there might be some good ideas to glean from that report.

soil health recommendations

Extension Spotlight

UAV Technology Program at ACRE in January

UAV Technology Program
Purdue Extension is hosting a UAV Technology Program at ACRE on January 5-6, 2023 from 8 am-5 pm at the Indiana Corn and Soybean Innovation Center.

This is a 2-day event to help prepare aspiring remote pilots to take the certification exam, enjoy some hands-on flight time, and discuss practical applications for UAV technology. Space is limited so if interested please use the CVENT link to register. Cost is $200/person.

FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Test Preparation Course Topics
  • FAA Test Preparation
  • Flight Instructions
  • Camera Settings
  • Flight Plans and Record Keeping
  • Data Management
  • Image Quality & Troubleshooting
  • Sensors & Artificial Intelligence
  • Emergency Preparation

Positions Available

We welcome the opportunity to spread the news of positions you have, regardless of level. Whether you are looking for undergraduate researchers, graduate assistants, support staff, or faculty posts, if they have a data-driven agriculture aspect, we will include a brief posting in this newsletter for whatever the appropriate dates might be.  

Purdue ABE – Controlled Environment Precision Food Production: The Agricultural and Biological Engineering department of Purdue University has a tenure-track faculty position open regarding “Precision Food Production Systems.” We welcome applicants with a Ph.D. in engineering, computer science, or a closely related field and a passion for controlled-environment production of either plants or animals. This faculty position involves research and teaching related to computational approaches that combine instrumentation, actionable analytics, end-to-end data management, modeling, and automation. Review of applications will begin on December 10, 2022

A background check is required for employment in this position. Purdue University is an EOE/AA employer. All individuals, including minorities, women, individuals with disabilities, and veterans are encouraged to apply. 

Full details about the position and instructions for applying are here.

Student Spotlight

We want to share your good news!

We would love to promote student defense events related to data science and digital agriculture. Just provide this information and we’ll include it in upcoming newsletters.
  • Student name and department
  • Thesis title or topic
  • Advisor & committee member names
  • Date, time, location
We would also welcome an opportunity to promote completed work. If you had a student recently graduate with a data-driven agriculture theme, send us the author information, thesis title, and URL for us to include in an upcoming edition of this newsletter.  

Course/Curricula Spotlight

HORT 31900

HORT 31900, controlled environment production of horticultural crops, is a 3-credit spring course taught by Dr. Krishna Nemali. Here is the catalog description (and it requires one introductory biology course such as BIOL 11000, BTNY 11000, or HORT 10100). 

This course combines production principles with environmental concepts and advances in technology to provide a comprehensive training in sustainable production of herbaceous ornamentals and vegetables in controlled environment systems. The laboratory instruction provides hands-on experience with the practice of growing crops under controlled environments by combining the learning from lab prep with the use of technology to control environment during production.

The photo below is of Dr. Nemali giving a tour to the Ag Tech & Innovation Learning community students. He is holding his sub-$200 Raspberry pi unit running Python code on images from a camera to send results of analytics to his smartphone (several illustrated in the inset photo).

Nemali Lab

Summer Opportunities for Students

Here are some opportunities for you to pass along to your students:

  1. A “10-week summer camp on data science for agriculture.” This program gets rave reviews and is a good alternative to internships. Applications are due March 6, 2023.  Past participants have come from a very wide variety of majors and institutions from around the US.
  2. Dr. Diane Wang of Purdue Agronomy, has a need for two interns in the summer of 2023 to support NSF-funded work.
  3. Dr. David Cappelleri is the Purdue lead for IoT4Ag, and NSF-funded Engineering Research Center which offers research experiences for undergraduates (REU) at the University of Pennsylvania, Purdue, University of Florida, or the University of California-Merced.


It is difficult to remain aware of all opportunities. I still find that faculty and students are not aware of both of these programs or are confused by two programs that look very similar (and I had to dig to make it clear to myself). Just compare the names:

Data Science Graduate Certificates Banner
Full details should be gained from the respective websites, but perhaps this summary can help you or your students understand these options.

Certificate Chart

Visit each program’s respective website to learn more:
GIS Certificate
Spatial Data Science Certificate

Upcoming Events

We still have 2 Data-Driven Seminars this semester co-sponsored by Integrated Digital Forestry Initiative, Institute for Plant Sciences and Digital Agriculture. 
Learn more at https://ag.purdue.edu/digitalag/seminars/index.html

Data-Driven Seminar

Monthly Miscellaneous

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Even if you are not a weather or climate afficionado, you may find the freeze date tool interesting enough to fill your next lunch break (press article) - especially if you farm or have a garden.  With combinations of maps, tables, and charts, you can explore last spring and first fall freeze dates along with growing season length using your assumptions on critical temperatures. Thanks to the Midwest Regional Climate Center and USDA’s Midwest Climate Hub for releasing the tool which has county-by-county data for over 70 years.

Freeze Date
Sample Frost Date Tool output.

If you have an idea for a Monthly Teaser or Miscellaneous item, we welcome your contribution!! 

Happy Thanksgiving with a throwback to last year's Presidential pardoned turkeys - Peanut Butter and Jelly.

Purdue Turkeys

Find past issues of the Digital Agriculture Newsletter here.

Know someone outside of the Purdue  College of Agriculture who would be interested in this newsletter? Have them sign up at https://ag.purdue.edu/digitalag/digital-agriculture-newsletter.html