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Syngenta opens doors to Digital Innovation Lab


The Syngenta Digital Innovation Lab is ready to roll at the University of Illinois Research Park. During an open house Tuesday, faculty members, students, industry leaders, government officials, Syngenta customers, and company leaders toured the lab and exchanged insights regarding the future of digital innovation in agriculture.

Bringing together the resources of a global agribusiness, the intellectual capital of a major research institution and the business mentality of a tech start-up, the Syngenta Digital Innovation Lab at the University of Illinois Research Park represents the first of three planned sites in Syngenta’s global digital innovation lab network.

“We are excited to embark on this chapter in our digital ag journey,” said Dan Burdett, global head of digital agriculture at Syngenta. “The Syngenta Digital Innovation Lab supports an excellent opportunity to collaborate with dynamic students and researchers from a diverse cross-section of disciplines.”

The Syngenta Digital Innovation Lab provides a forum for students in computer science, biology, physical sciences, and other related subjects to apply their specialized expertise—and cutting-edge technology—to address some of agriculture’s most pressing challenges. Data analytics, cloud technology, mobile applications, and smart farm technology are among the platforms students will use to explore and test disruptive ideas in pursuit of solutions to complex issues.

Establishing the Syngenta Digital Innovation Lab builds on an existing industry relationship with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois, a collaboration that has yielded notable success for the Syngenta plant breeding program.

“The NCSA’s specialized expertise in high-performance modeling, simulation and Big Data has helped deliver on some of our key business challenges,” said Bill Danker, domain head of seeds research and breeding at Syngenta. “For example, collaborating with the NCSA has resulted in the development of an improved predictive algorithm to compute genetic allele data sets with greater scope and speed.”

Syngenta recently appointed Brandon Dohman as full-time site director of the Syngenta Digital Innovation Lab, with plans to recruit additional professional staff members and student talent.

Syngenta has been a leader in digital agriculture since the company’s introduction in 2000 of AgriEdge Excelsior, a whole-farm management program that helps farmers use their crop inputs, land, water, and resources more efficiently. Most recently, Syngenta has aggressively leveraged data analytics in its plant breeding program, which has resulted in improved seed varieties and recognition from experts within the advanced mathematics community.

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