Plant Sciences 2.0

Imagine a world where we actively protect our environment and we produce enough food to feed a growing population, and that food has increased nutritional value and meets consumer needs and preferences.

Purdue is positioned globally to develop and deliver technology and human capacity to produce food, fuel and fiber. By capturing and analyzing consumer insights, we also have the expertise to use data and advanced technology to bring value driven innovation and disruption to the agriculture and food ecosystem.

Purdue’s reach will extend to keeping the world’s forests healthy, productive and resilient, using newly devised remote sensing methods to monitor and mitigate forest fires and prevent the spread of disease and pest outbreaks.

Photos shot 7/2 in the Controlled Environment Phenotyping Facility (CEPF) and the Horticulture Greenhouses at the request of Erin Robinson, Phil Fiorini and Nancy Alexander. Photos will be used with web stories by Alexander for Ag Comm and Fiorini with Purdue’s Marketing and Media.

Over the past 10 years, there were an average of 62,693 wildfires annually burning an average of 7.5 million acres and has devastating impacts on human health.  In addition, chestnut blight has killed over 4 billion chestnut trees on more than 200 million acres. These devastating impacts will continue unless we change our course of action.

Because of our investment in plant sciences, Purdue is the place where these problems can be solved.  Purdue will be known as the place to bring forward a future where the environment and agriculture work hand in hand to develop a world that can feed its population while strengthening the environment.

Achieving this vision will be a transformative process for Purdue University by merging cross-disciplinary expertise and for our state, country and the world by introducing new methods to address some of our greatest global challenges.

On April 9 Purdue launched Purdue's Next Moves -- five new distinct strategic initaitives designed to advance the university's competitive advantage in its continuing quest for leadership among the world's top research and teaching institutions.

Building on success

Purdue Moves original investment in the Institute for Plant Sciences more than five years ago has positioned the University as a global leader in plant sciences research, positively impacting agriculture in Indiana and around the world.

Over 100 scientists across five colleges have collaborated to establish flagship programs in plant phenomics, digital agriculture and big data, generating over $200 million in gifts and external grants since 2014, and strengthening basic and applied plant science programs at Purdue.

Here are some of the other milestones from the past five years:

  • Total research awards since 2014 total $161.9 million
  • Student enrollment in plant sciences grew more than 20%
  • Thirty-nine Center for Plant Biology (CPB) faculty have published 345 papers -- 180 in high impact journals
  • $855,000 was invested in 15 Ag-Celerator startups commercializing Purdue IP
  • Four agricultural companies have located in the Convergence Center in the Discovery Park District (DPD)

While we're proud of how far we've come working together across the college and university, we remain in persistent pursuit of the next giant leap.

Advancing global leadership and pivoting into new areas

As part of Purdue’s Next Moves, Plant Sciences 2.0 will advance Purdue Agriculture’s global leadership in plant sciences. Enhanced research opportunities will attract scientists and economists who can further contribute to these goals.

Plant Sciences 1.0 primarily focused on plant productivity. Plant Sciences 2.0 will leverage and expand Purdue Agriculture’s expertise in digital agriculture, phenotyping and agricultural economics to add value to plants and forest products by optimizing productivity, nutrition and sustainability traits and coupling these to consumer preferences.

Few universities have grasped the potential for digital forestry as Purdue University has done. Currently, the US Forest Service uses manual processes that inventory 1% of our forests. Phenotyping tools and digital technologies will enable worldwide forest analysis including tree census, mitigation of forest fires and spread of disease.

Scholarly and applied activity in these areas will attract agricultural, data science, food and forest product companies to locate in Indiana to partner with Purdue and other companies in the state. Employers will seek Purdue Agriculture undergraduate and graduate students who have discipline expertise combined with data science skills.

We seek to become the preeminent university by using advanced data analysis to benefit the world by:

  • Adding value to plants and forest products by optimizing productivity, nutrition and sustainability traits, coupling these to consumer preferences
  • Helping consumers make informed food choices
  • Educating the public and media about the complexities of the food supply chain
  • Consolidating and visualizing data on consumer food demand trends
  • Keeping forests healthy, productive and resilient
  • Mitigating and monitoring forest fires
  • Optimizing forest management for timber, fiber, carbon, water, wildlife and recreation
  • Preventing the spread of disease and pest outbreaks in forests
  • Training a technically proficient workforce

Phenotyping and Data Science

Previous investments in controlled environment and field-based phenotyping at Purdue have garnered federal and industry grants that have our phenotyping facilities at full capacity. We will expand automated greenhouse facilities and add additional instrumentation to measure quality and sustainability attributes such as water use, carbon and nitrogen cycling to minimize greenhouse gas emissions for plants and small trees (up to 4.5m).

Development of a rainout shelter will add additional capacity to measure environmental impacts on plant phenotypes. We will also expand capabilities in data science to analyze and interpret images.

Digital Forestry

Investments in the Integrated Digital Forestry (iDiF) initiative at Purdue will leverage digital technology and multidisciplinary expertise to measure, monitor and manage forest ecosystems to maximize social, economic and ecological benefits. This interdisciplinary research team is developing digital platforms and strategies that will revolutionize forestry and building a globally competitive workforce for the information age.

AI-assisted tree inventory using remote sensing tools will enable us to capitalize on IoT, big data, edge and cloud computing for precision forest management and will support critical efforts to monitor and mitigate forest fires, disease and other disturbances.

Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability

Led by agricultural economists, multidisciplinary teams will apply cutting-edge tools in AI and machine learning to assess and predict demand for food and sustainability attributes. This will include regular consumer tracking surveys aimed at identifying trends and shifts in consumer demand, monitoring social media activity on food-related issues and analyzing impacts of policy and external events on food demand and food markets.

Ag-Celerator Impact Fund

Capitalizing on the success of plant-based startups, we will enhance the ability of startups to develop their go-to-market strategy. An angel investment fund leveraged with other funds will allow us to grow the most promising investments right here in Indiana.