ABAC to benefit from ‘4-D Farm’ Grant

Staff Report

Wednesday, June 7th, 2023

An exciting project aimed at matching the rich agriculture heritage of the region with ground-breaking technology has received a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and will be developed on a 90-acre farm on the campus of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.

The goal of the Digital and Data-Driven Demonstration Farm, or “4-D Farm”, is develop production systems able to leverage renewable energy, automation, intelligence, and human capital to meet the increasing food and fiber needs of the world’s population. ABAC faculty will partner with the University of Georgia and Clemson University on the project. The work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

“The project is a great opportunity to showcase and build upon the agricultural operations at ABAC,” said Dr. Alex McLemore, an assistant professor of agricultural engineering at ABAC. “We will be able to enhance our teaching and student engagement by implementing modern agricultural technology systems beyond what we currently have.”

Research will be done on Emerging Technology Development Sites. Once it is determined which management practices and technologies work best, they will be introduced to the ABAC farm set up with the latest technology. For instance, sensors will be placed throughout the farm to collect data on projects such as precision technologies that improve crop emergence and production, pest management, and harvest efficiency and tracking.

The 4-D Farm will also place an emphasis on issues such as monitoring crop health through the use of satellites, soil and water conservation, improving efficiency and precision of material application for protection and nutrition in crops and livestock.

“The possibilities that can result from this project are exciting,” said ABAC President Tracy Brundage. “The information gained from it will benefit the industry, especially small and medium-size producers. It also reflects our mission of providing students with an opportunity for experiential learning, which gives them an advantage as they move into their careers.”

The farm demonstration site will also be used to provide hands-on educational content for students, train educators and extension agents, and host FFA and 4-H events.

“There is a major shift happening in the industry with the increase of data collection,” McLemore said. “This project will enhance the agricultural technology management program’s educational outcomes.”

Scott Pierce, ABAC’s Director of Sponsored Programs, said the participating schools share common interests of advancing methods to provide advantages for the agricultural industry. Their partnership, he said, was key to obtaining the grant.

“The project is a great example of what we can do here in South Georgia when we work together,” Pierce said. “Here at ABAC, we have the people, skills, and facilities to make precision agriculture development a reality. Our partners at UGA and Clemson have the ability to create new solutions. This new support from NIFA will take a big step towards meeting our food and fiber needs in the future.”

For more information on the project, contact Pierce at scott.pierce@abac.edu, McLemore at amclemore@abac.edu, or Dr. Erin Porter at eporter@abac.edu.