THE HEARTLAND OF AGTECH
Champaign-Urbana has long been a hub for technology as well as agriculture. In the past decade, those two paths have converged, paving the way for the community to become an “epicenter for AgTech.”
AgTech is the fastest growing sector in the University of Illinois Research Park, with innovation occurring across the value chain – from inputs to production, harvest to post-harvest storage, commodity trading to processing. It leverages the university’s long legacy of excellence in computing and data analytics, and its status as a thought leader in newer technologies such as mixed reality; robotics; artificial intelligence; and machine learning.
The Research Park hosts an annual AgTech Innovation Summit in early March, which has grown to 900+ registered attendees including entrepreneurs, investors, corporations, startups, academics, students, growers, and others in the agribusiness sector.
Access To Talent
The College of ACES is a multi-disciplinary institution that works to find innovative solutions to the world’s most critical challenges in order to ensure sustainable food and energy, a thriving environment and healthy families and communities.
ACES is a global leader in the most promising areas of scholarship in the agricultural, consumer, and environmental sciences. They are known for their globally competitive students (3,400+), their first-class discovery research, and the innovative knowledge they share.
Parkland College was the first in Illinois to offer a high-tech, hands-on career program in both Precision Ag and Advanced Applicator Technician training. Their NSF-funded Midwest Center for Precision Agriculture provides students, area employees, regional growers, and high school educators the knowledge and skills-based training to be successful. With a 20-year history of training precision agronomists, they’ve built a strong regional reputation.
They have been recognized as the #2 Precision Agriculture community college in the country and awarded four National Science Foundation grants for their innovative programming.
John Deere Technology Innovation Center: One of six JDTIC facilities in the world, John Deere at Research Park encompasses office space, a garage, and a test plot – all within a five-minute walk. Once a hub for mobile app development and robotics, JDTIC at UIRP has an interdisciplinary team of full-time professionals and interns that focuses on advanced sensing applications.
ADM Modeling Center: Employs student interns to perform computational work, conceptual engineering, and modeling to evaluate bio-based chemicals. The ADM center at UIRP will be expanding in scope and size in fall 2022.
AGCO Acceleration Center: AGCO Acceleration Center tripled its footprint at UIRP in 2022, increasing capacity to 80 workstations with a cutting-edge Maker Lab for prototyping and collaborative work. The AGCO Acceleration Center started under the leadership of the company’s Grain & Protein division; its research and innovation has since expanded to encompass all product areas. It employs undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of backgrounds and talents to focus on developing new-to-market solutions and advanced technologies.
CME Innovation Center: This Chicago-based company develops new trading technology with computing and data science students.
Cargill Innovation Lab: Announced in August 2019 the opening of the Cargill Innovation Lab at Research Park, where students and staff will work directly with Cargill business leaders, operations teams and customers to help move digital ideas – in weeks, not months – to test mode.
Granular: Once a Silicon Valley startup now owned by Corteva, Granular’s Midwest regional headquarters are located in the Research Park. The company uses software and data science to make farming more profitable and efficient.
Corteva (formerly Dow AgriSciences): Opened an innovation center in 2015 at the Research Park with a focus on exploration and implementation of analytics technologies applied to agricultural challenges.
Country Financial DigitaLab: Opened at Research Park in November 2017, the DigitaLab improves customers’ experience through mobile application development and data analysis.
Genective: A joint Venture between two seed companies – Limagrain and KWS – Genective’s goal is to discover and develop novel modes of action for insect control in genetically engineered corn.
The Champaign-Urbana startup community crosses sectors, but there’s no doubt that AgTech is one of the area where it shines – and part of the reason why Silicon Prairie News named it the #2 City for startup and entrepreneurial activity in 2018.
EarthSense – One of 8 AgTech Startups Worth Watching (Successful Farming)
IntelinAir – One of 7 AgTech Startups to Watch (Agriculture.com)
Epivara (formerly Insigna) – Named One of 12 Moonshot Startups (ChicagoInno)
ILLINOIS AGTECH ACCELERATOR
The Illinois AgTech Accelerator, powered by Serra Ventures, is an accelerator for high-growth or early-state AgTech and Agriculture startups. Led by gener8tor, the accelerator has two programs:
gener8tor AgTech – a 12-week accelerator for high-growth AgTech and Agriculture startups
gBETA AgTech – a 7-week accelerator for early-stage AgTech and Agriculture startups
NOTEWORTHY PROJECT – RIPE
Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) is an international research project that is engineering crops to be more productive by improving photosynthesis, the natural process all plants use to convert sunlight into energy and yields.
Video Tour of the High-Throughput Phenotyping Facility – Team members David Drag and Brett Feddersen give you a tour of the facility, the greenhouse, and the technology inside:
Founded in 2012, RIPE is led by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Funding is provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Foundation for Food& Agriculture Research, and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.
RIPE has the largest cable camera system for research in the United States and is home to an 8,000-square-foot greenhouse with the largest indoor phenotyping system in the continental United States.
CHAMPAIGN-URBANA AGTECH WEEK
Presented annually by Champaign County Economic Development Corporation, University of Illinois Research Park, and You’re Welcome CU, Champaign-Urbana AgTech Week celebrates Champaign-Urbana’s robust AgTech ecosystem, including the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Parkland College, corporate innovation partners, startups, state-of-the-art facilities, student organizations, local ag companies, the Illinois AgTech Accelerator, and more. Events are held virtually and in-person.
Save the date for our 4th annual Champaign-Urbana AgTech Week, March 6-10, 2023!
AND WE HAVE FARMS – LOTS OF THEM
Champaign County comprises approximately 1,000 square miles, the majority of which are involved in agriculture. Illinois is a leading producer of soybeans, corn and swine. Agriculture and related industries support 6% (482,000+) of Illinois jobs.