Extension to Play Key Role in New “Ag Tech Corridor” Project

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The NSF-funded CROPS project will build an ag tech corridor to speed the sharing of research-based techniques and new technologies with farmers, particularly underserved farmers, new farmers and those with small acreage.

[View full original article by Dee Shore at CALS News]

A $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) is kickstarting an effort to create an agricultural technology corridor from central to eastern North Carolina.

The project brings together researchers from six North Carolina universities and county agents and specialists with N.C. Cooperative Extension with representatives of the N.C. Biotechnology Center, RTI International and the N.C. Community College System.

North Carolina State University is among the partners on the NSF-funded Regional Innovation Engines project led by N.C. A&T State University. Other partner universities are East Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest, as well as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The project – called Climate-Responsive Opportunities in Plant Science, or CROPS – aims to expand efforts to share research-based techniques and new technologies, particularly those that can help lower barriers to market entry for limited-resource farmers so that they can succeed in the face of climate change and develop entrepreneurially.

This spring, the partners will begin working together to create a plan to develop a 42-county Agricultural Tech Innovation Corridor that will enable improvements in agriculture to reach underserved areas of the state faster.

A map of North Carolina highlighting the 42 counties that are part of the "agricultural tech innovation corridor" involving NC State University and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

N.C. PSI to lead NC State’s contributions

The N.C. Plant Sciences Initiative will lead NC State’s contributions to the project. The university’s principal investigator for the project is Ross Sozzani, professor of plant and microbial biology and N.C. PSI plant improvement platform leader. The university’s proposal development unit also plays a key role.

Other NC State faculty members co-leading different aspects of the project or serving on the governance board are:

  • Adrian Percy, N.C. PSI director
  • Rachel Vann, NC State Extension specialist and assistant professor of crop and soil sciences; N.C. PSI extension, outreach and engagement platform director
  • Anders Huseth, NC State Extension specialist and associate professor of entomology and plant pathology
  • Terri Long, professor of plant and microbial biology and N.C. PSI education and workforce development platform director
  • Cranos Williams, Goodnight Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Analytics in electrical and computer engineering and plant and microbial biology; N.C. PSI data-driven plant sciences platform director
  • Chris Reberg-Horton, NC State Extension specialist and professor of crop and soil sciences; N.C. PSI resilient agricultural systems platform director

Outreach will be central to the project, with a CROPS Extension Agent Network amplifying the project’s impact. The network will be modeled after the N.C. PSI’s Extension Agent Network, which Vann leads.

The CROPS program begins this spring with listening sessions across the state, and its programs are free to participants.

Read the full original article by Dee Shore at CALS News.