A Flourishing Field

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A nearly $1 million grant from the National Robotics Initiative is enabling a team of UGA researchers to develop a robotic system of all-terrain rovers and unmanned aerial drones that can more quickly and accurately gather and analyze crop data.

Through our outreach, research and instruction, the University of Georgia is helping ensure that Georgia’s largest industry—agriculture—continues to flourish.

Last month our College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences wrapped up the annual Georgia Ag Forecast series, which was presented in eight communities across the state in partnership with Georgia Farm Bureau and the Georgia Department of Agriculture. In addition to providing this year’s outlook for Georgia’s major commodities, featured speakers discussed the upcoming federal Farm Bill and other issues that impact farmers and agribusiness.

The Georgia Ag Forecast is one of the many ways that the research-based expertise of our faculty reaches individuals and communities across the state. UGA Extension serves each of Georgia’s 159 counties and worked with more than 1.5 million people in the last fiscal year alone. Extension has played a vital role in making Georgia the nation’s leader in blueberry production as well as a global leader in the turfgrass industry, and our College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences continues to evolve to meet the state’s needs.

Earlier this semester on our Griffin Campus we dedicated the Food Technology Center, which houses UGA’s Food Product Innovation and Commercialization Center. We also recently announced finalists in our annual Flavor of Georgia Food Product Contest, which promotes small businesses, entrepreneurship and economic development related to Georgia’s burgeoning food industry. More than 1,100 products have been entered since the contest began in 2007, and 92 percent of the finalists in last year’s competition saw increased business based on their participation. This year’s finalists include barbeque sauces, beverages and a host of snack foods. The winner will be announced on March 21, which Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black has designated “Flavor of Georgia Day.”

In addition to conducting research and outreach, faculty in our College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences educate students whose knowledge and skills are in high demand after graduation. Alumni of the college can be found in corporations such as the Coca-Cola Company and Chick-fil-A, in a range of agribusiness and consulting roles, and conducting research that has implications for animal and human health.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts 57,900 annual job openings each year for holders of bachelor’s and graduate degrees in agriculture and related fields, and nearly half of these new career opportunities will be in management and agribusiness. Another 27 percent of these openings will involve the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math, and 12 percent of the openings will be in agricultural education, communication and services. Only 15 percent of the openings will be in what people most commonly associate with agriculture, farming.

As the state’s most comprehensive land-grant institution, the University of Georgia has a special obligation to support and advance agriculture in Georgia. Our nation’s food and fiber supply depends on Georgia agriculture, and Georgia agriculture depends on UGA.