From Precision Ag to Decision Ag

Opportunities to Disrupt the Next Emerging Tech Sector in Maryland

Thursday – May 30, 2019  •  9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Frederick Community Collge – Student Center (campus map)
7932 Opossumtown Pike, Frederick, MD 21702

REGISTRATION FEE – $20 per person  (includes lunch)

Though often considered to be rather traditional, agriculture and aquaculture are well on their way to turning into high-tech industries as advancements in machinery and a growing number of startups show. New concepts like smart & precision farming, crop efficiency, and vertical farming bring a breath of fresh air to this field, leading to what is called Agritech and Aquatech.  A growing population, climate change, urbanization, and globalized trade are a few of the megatrends that impact agriculture/aquaculture. In 2017, technology funding reached a record high of $10.1 billion.

The essential value of smart farming lies in making farms, fields and aquatic more efficient. Emerging technologies in this field include software solutions, optimization devices, and process automation tools capable to transform commercial as well as smaller farms by generating more profits from the area of land available.

Although precision farming is related to smart farming the concept goes much further. The farming management concept also known as Precision Agriculture (PA) or Site Specific Crop Management (SSCM) is based on observing, measuring and responding to inter and intra-field variability in crops.

Advanced robotics, automated machinery & drones are crucial to increasing the efficiency of agricultural production in the future. Automated large machinery can take over many aspects of large-scale farming.

The purpose of F³ Tech Symposiums is to serve as a tool for engaging industry into the innovation ecosystem.  These one-day events include a broad outreach among entrepreneurs, innovators, farmers, watermen, environmentalists, industry, investors, service providers, government agencies, and academic and research institutions.  The purpose is to advance awareness and an open dialogue with stakeholders about agriculture, aquaculture, and environmental technologies, to foster partnerships and relationships, and to create a shared understanding of what the market and industry needs and explore opportunities for creating value and impact from the F³ Tech sector and be an ongoing tool for sustaining and growing an industry-led incubation ecosystem.  Symposiums are held quarterly, rotating among the Eastern Shore, Southern Maryland, Western Maryland, and the Baltimore/DC corridor.

Draft Agenda

(still in development – updates made when confirmed)

9:00 a.m.

Registration and Refreshments

9:30 a.m.

Welcome and Opening Remarks

9:45 a.m.

Orientation on F³ Tech Initiative - Update on current activities and outcomes in the F³ Tech (Farm-Fish-Food) initiative, a statewide private/public initiative that is creating a new renaissance of economic growth and prosperity through innovation and technology built upon Maryland’s traditional industries of agriculture and seafood. The overall program is a pipeline of three components through which entrepreneurs, innovators, startups, and existing businesses go through the proof-of-concept and commercialization of new product and service ideas and innovations. The initiative includes partners and resources from throughout Maryland.
Presenters:  Mike Thielke - Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center, Easton, MD
                          Andrew Rose - MidAtlantic Farm Credit, Bel Air, MD

10:15 a.m.

Session 1: Precision Ag Changing to Decision Ag
Farming has entered a period when data convergence, collection and storage are headed toward synchronization. The computer processing power related to data enables extensive analytics and wider insights to push yields, not only on individual farms, but as an aggregate from operations with similar climates and soil types to offer benchmarking.
Presenter: To be confirmed

11:15 a.m.


11:30 a.m.

Session 2: The Open Ag Technology And Systems Center (OATS)
Many of the most promising avenues for sustainable food-ag system improvements involve novel applications of sensing, networking, and computation to big data science, visualization, and analytics. Powerful data sets and models continue to be developed at the plot, watershed, and even regional level from these research efforts. However, there are fundamental issues impeding progress in data-driven sustainability and preventing translation of research into practice. These issues are solvable by open source data and algorithm exchange paradigms, so much so that we believe data exchange among systems, people, and projects is the most critical component for achieving data-driven sustainability goals. To harness the data revolution in agriculture we must therefore address the key attributes of data flow to empower agriculture which are trust automatable data exchange, and interoperability. OATS believes these attributes require levels of code-based standardization only achieved through the open source development paradigm. Helping to bring this open source culture to agriculture is the mission and focus of the OATS Center at Purdue University.
Presenter: To be confirmed

12:30 a.m.

LUNCH – grab a box lunch or salad and take it with you to a Table Topic Discussion

12:45 p.m.

Lunch & Table Top Discussions (Round 1) - Four topics for attendees to share and learn. Join others in discussing, exploring, and learning about topics of common interest. Subject matter experts will be available to assist with discussions.

SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY - Synthetic biology is one of the fastest growing and most exciting areas of science — and a perfect example of next-generation innovation. Combining disciplines like biology, design, engineering and software development, synbio allows us to shape natural systems and even create entirely new ones from scratch. Any new or disruptive technology that threatens the status quo can cause confusion and even spark controversy, but in the case of synbio, there is potential to help solve some of the biggest problems we face in the food and agriculture industry. How can Maryland’s existing life science and biotech sector participate in this expanding sector?

PRECISION/DECISION TECH - To date, precision ag industry sales have been driven by hardware (auto-guidance, precision planting tech or many others), but currently most machines are manufactured with precision hardware in place, and ag professionals are eyeing continued growth sources. Kevin Monk, senior associate, Context Network, says the stage is set to look at overall data services in determining what can be done to benchmark operations and bring maximum returns to growers. “Most precision ag payback has been found in efficiency returns and lowering costs. However, with data management and analysis, the focus is going to switch back to improving yields. A century back, farmers went from mules to tractors in the mechanized agriculture jump. Mechanized ag faded as a term when tractors became standard fare. Precision ag is approaching the same point of redundancy. “Precision ag will morph into the norm that everyone uses in their fields,” Pendleton explains. “Precision ag and decision ag are addictive, and the more you know, the more you want. The more you know, the more you use.” How can Maryland’s existing IT and cybertech sectors respond to these opportunities?

MILLENIAL FARMING (agriculture or aquaculture) - Millennial farmers/growers have a slew of characteristics that help them farm successfully, especially when it comes to modern farming and growing techniques. For one, they are a connected group. According to consumer data collected by, millennials own an average of 7.7 Internet-connected devices and use 3.3 of those devices daily. That means millennial farmers/growers are adept at using the agri- and aqua- technology that has been shown to have a real impact on the success of farming and growing, such as hyper-local weather apps, precision farming technology, sensors and real-time analysis, and more. What innovations and technologies are millennial farmers/growers looking for to make them more productive, sustainable, and profitable?

AUTONOMOUS TECHNOLOGIES - Over the last 20 years, there has been a major shift in technology applied to agriculture that has significantly increased efficiency, with greater output (crop yields) produced for less inputs (seed/fertilizer) per acre of land. GPS technology has facilitated precision agriculture techniques and technology that have been a large factor into increasing efficiency, with functions such as auto-steer, variable rate application, prescription application, overlap control, and many others. This has enabled the ability to apply the right amount of inputs based on soil and moisture conditions in the right place to optimize yields. While GPS technology has now become well established, there have been major advances recently in Internet of Things (IoT), machine automation, and data management (big data) technology that are now ready to come together to make autonomous machine operation in agriculture a reality. The path towards highly automated and autonomous machines in agriculture is complex, but will evolve quickly due to the real and demonstrable value that it offers. Farmers are known to be willing innovators to try new technologies that promise new efficiency and increased profitability, but this needs to be proven and reliable to be accepted. As well, new technology must work with existing infrastructure and machines, as the move to autonomy will happen over time. What disruptive innovations and technologies can Maryland originate in autonomous agriculture and aquaculture? and technologies are millennial farmers/growers looking for to make them more productive, sustainable, and profitable?

1:30 p.m.

Lunch & Table Top Discussions (Round 2) - A repeat of the above topics allowing for attendees to participate in a second discussion.

2:15 p.m.


2:30 p.m.

Session 3: The Path Towards Autonomous Machines In Agriculture
Agriculture is positioned better than any other industry to be the first major adopter of autonomous machines for the following reasons:
• Precision agriculture technology based on GPS have laid a foundation of precision control in the industry,
• There is a solid business case for real value and increased profitability in agriculture with autonomous machines, it is not just a novelty,
• The current high cost of equipment and shortage of skilled machine operators makes autonomous systems an economic option.
There are three major areas of technology that have developed significantly in the last few years that are now ready to come together to make autonomous machines in agriculture a reality. These areas include:
• Internet Of Things (IoT) And Connectivity Technology
• Data Analytics (Big Data)
• Machine Automation
Presenter: To be confirmed

3:30 p.m.


Symposium Partners