Seven new artificial intelligence institutes are being established across the country by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the National Science Foundation. The $20-million investment in each of five National Science Foundation institutes and two USDA institutes is just the beginning.

“The future-focused centers of innovation will use the latest techniques from all corners of science – molecular science, engineering and robotics to seek solutions for myriad challenges facing agriculture,” said Parag Chitnis, acting director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The institutes and their focus areas are listed.

  • The Institute for Next Generation Food Systems will be led by a team at the University of California-Davis. It will integrate a holistic view of the food system with artificial intelligence and bioinformatics to understand biological data and processes. It will address issues of molecular breeding to optimize traits for yield, crop quality, pest and disease resistances, agricultural production, food processing and distribution, and nutrition. It will emphasize inclusive education and outreach approaches to build a diverse workforce.
  • The Institute for Future Agricultural Resilience, Management and Sustainability will be led by a team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It will advance artificial-intelligence research in computer vision, machine learning, soft-object manipulation and intuitive human-robot interaction to solve challenges such as labor shortages, animal efficiency and welfare, environmental resilience of crops, and safeguarding soil health. The institute will feature a new joint computer science-agriculture degree and global clearinghouse to foster collaboration in artificial-intelligence-driven agriculture research.
  • The Institute for Research on Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence in Weather, Climate and Coastal Oceanography will be led by a team at the University of Oklahoma-Norman. It will focus on atmospheric and ocean science and risk communication to develop artificial intelligence that addresses environmental concerns. It will feature certificate programs aimed at workforce skills and managing environmental hazards.
  • The Institute for Foundations of Machine Learning will be led by a team at the University of Texas-Austin. It will focus on theoretical challenges in artificial intelligence such as next-generation algorithms for deep learning, neural-architecture optimization and efficient robust statistics. The institute will partner with industrial-technology companies and the City of Austin. Online coursework and research initiatives will bring current artificial-intelligence tools to students and professionals across the country.
  • The Institute for Student-Artificial Intelligence Teaming will be led by the University of Colorado-Boulder. It is developing artificial intelligence that helps both students and teachers work and learn together more effectively, engagingly and equitably. The vision is to develop partners that will observe, participate in and facilitate collaborative-learning conversations by interacting naturally through speech, gesture and facial expression in real-world classrooms.
  • The Institute for Molecular Discovery, Synthetic Strategy and Manufacturing – or the National Science Foundation Molecular Maker Lab Institute – will be led by a team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It will focus on development of artificial-intelligence-enabled tools. It will serve as a training ground for the next generation of scientists with expertise in chemical synthesis and bioengineering.
  • The Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Fundamental Interactions will be led by a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It will incorporate workforce development, digital learning, outreach and knowledge-transfer programs to advance physics knowledge.

Visit nifa.usda.gov and search for "artificial intelligence research institutes" and nsf.gov and search for "artificial intelligence at NSF" for more information.

Faith Peppers is the communications director at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.