NASA officials visit ASC to exchange insights with University of Illinois leadership, farm community

Leadership from NASA, ASC, the College of Aces, the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment gathered to present the Earth Science and Agricultural Research symposium on April 23, 2024 at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (photo credit Mike Koon)

The Agroecosystem Sustainability Center, the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment, and the College of Aces collectively hosted about a half dozen representatives from NASA, including Tom Wagner, the Lead for NASA’s Earth Action consortium, and Alyssa Whitcraft, the Executive Director of the NASA Acres program, on the University of Illinois campus on Tuesday, April 23.

Through a morning Earth Science and Agricultural Research symposium at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), a two-hour roundtable with key stakeholders, and an afternoon visit to the Energy Farm, leadership shared ideas and explored ways to further partner with ASC, Illinois, and the state’s farm community.

Keynote speakers for the event were (l-r) NASA Earth Action Program Lead Tom Wagner, University of Illinois Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation Susan Martinis, ASC Founding Director and NASA Chief Scientist Kaiyu Guan, NASA Acres Executive Director Alyssa Whitcraft, and University of Illinois College of ACES Dean German Bollero. (photo credit Julie Wurth)

NASA Acres was formed in 2023 to bridge the gap from space-to-farm and education-to-impact together with U.S. farmers, ranchers, and other agrifood system decision makers who collectively address the most pressing challenges to sustainable, productive, and resilient agriculture. Whitcraft and ASC Director Kaiyu Guan, the consortium’s chief scientist, have been working together for a number of years even before coming together to form a significant part of NASA Acres leadership.

The event brought together many of the key stakeholders – NASA, ASC, university research and innovation leaders, area farmers, legislators, the Illinois Farm Bureau and other agriculture agencies. Those stakeholders explored ways they could synergistically form partnerships and efficiently provide actionable data and tools to farmers to help them make effective decisions. The partnership will also inform how researchers can effectively answer pressing questions and needs of the farmer.