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Digital Ag Programs Prepare Candidates for Highly Skilled Technology Careers

A photograph of two people wearing University of Illinois branded shirts standing next to a green cornfield holding and looking down at tablet.

URBANA, Ill. – Agricultural production increasingly relies on digital tools and knowledge to address the challenges of climate change and provide resources for a growing world population. Practices such as precision agriculture, digital farming, biotechnology, and genomics involve complex data processing that requires a highly skilled workforce. 

The University of Illinois now offers a Master’s Degree in Engineering with a concentration in digital agriculture. It is an interdisciplinary program from the Center for Digital Agriculture (CDA) at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and the Departments of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Crop Sciences, and Computer Science. Students will take classes from all three departments, and they will complete a capstone course working with industry partners on real-world problems. 

The Master of Engineering with Digital Agriculture concentration is a fully online, non-thesis program. It can be completed in 12 to 18 months with full-time study, or taken part-time. An online certificate program in digital agriculture, requiring 12 credit hours of coursework, is also available. The programs are housed in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and The Grainger College of Engineering.  

“Agriculture is entering a transformative age, where advanced technology will change how we support a growing healthy population and will serve as a catalyst for collaborative work across engineering and agricultural disciplines. Increased global productivity and sustainability requires increasingly sophisticated technical innovations and a highly trained workforce to make and implement them,” says Matt Hudson, professor of crop sciences and CDA co-director. 

“This program will train graduates to succeed in technically challenging positions within the rapidly expanding and emerging field of digital agriculture.”

Hudson says the program is unique in its focus on the technical aspects of digital ag, whereas comparable programs typically focus on application and use of technology. It is targeted for working professionals in the ag industry and recent graduates in computer science fields who want to work in agriculture. Admission to the program requires a strong background in math and computer science. 

Career opportunities for graduates include, for example, agricultural data science, precision agriculture, agricultural robotics and automation, bioinformatics, computational biology, or web and mobile programming for agriculture-related industries.

To learn more about the programs, visit the Center for Digital Agriculture website. 


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