Illinois Ag News Headlines
New Degree in Computer Science and Crop Sciences Melds 2 Worlds
Illinois Ag Connection - 12/07/2017

Technology and data are increasingly integral to agriculture, and the University of Illinois' Department of Computer Science and College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences have introduced a first-of-its-kind major built on that relationship.

Starting in the fall of 2018, students will be able to enroll in the new CS + Crop Sciences undergraduate program at the university, one of a growing number of CS + X degrees at U of I.

According to German Bollero, professor of biometry and head of the Department of Crop Sciences in the College of ACES, agriculture's growing reliance on technology is producing vast amounts of data -- from molecular genetics, the study of weather and the climate, GIS-based data gathering, and the many applications of drones.

"The generation of huge data sets has expanded the demand for people with the skills to integrate computer science and agriculture," Bollero said.

The new degree is expected to be in high demand among students, and has the potential for high impact, said Lenny Pitt, the associate head of the Department of Computer Science and its director of Undergraduate Programs.

"When we talk about this partnership, it has an opportunity to really impact the world, in terms of food production, high-tech farming techniques, the environment, and costs and efficiency," Pitt said.

Agricultural technology companies are taking notice of the new program. "Syngenta located its first Digital Innovation Lab at the Research Park to gain better access to a wealth of student talent and a world-ranked research university. This decision is continually solidified through news of programs such as CS + Crop Science. I'm excited to interact with a new batch of students who seek to bring engineering skills to the burgeoning field of agriculture," said Brandon Dohman, innovation lead for the Syngenta Digital Innovation Lab at the University of Illinois Research Park.

CS + Crop Sciences plans to begin with 5 to 10 students in the fall of 2018 before eventually enrolling 60 to 80 students.

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