Assistant professor of biosystems engineering is working to improve food production through precision agriculture technology
Where are you from, and what led you to the UT Institute of Agriculture?
I grew up in a city called Nanjing in China. I went to college at Yangzhou University and got my B.S. degree there. In 2012, I came to the U.S. to pursue an M.S. degree in Ag and Bio Engineering at the University of Illinois. I continued to obtain a Ph.D. in Ag and Bio Engineering at the University of Florida from 2015 to 2018. I was fortunate to receive a job offer from UTIA right after graduation. I was excited about the research and teaching opportunities my position and the Institute could provide, and I love the city, the weather and the beautiful mountains around this area. So, I joined UTIA without any hesitation in early 2019.
What is your main research focus, and why it is important?
My main research focus is to develop sensing and robotic systems for precision agriculture. The goal is to provide automated monitoring systems and robotic systems to help farmers manage their farms more efficiently. In addition, I am hoping my research will contribute to the improvement of food production and the mitigation of many environmental issues.
What got you interested in precision agriculture?
I had a chance to attend the student robotics competition at the American Society of Agriculture and Biological Engineers (ASABE) annual international meetings when I was a first-year master’s student. The experience got me interested in agricultural robotics. From there, I started to learn more about robots, sensors and cameras in agriculture and eventually became a researcher in precision agriculture.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Interacting with students has always been my favorite part.
Which of your accomplishments brings you the most joy and personal satisfaction?
On the research side, spending time to solve a challenging problem probably gives me the most joy. Getting research proposals funded is probably up there, too. On the teaching side, the most enjoyable thing is to hear good feedback from students.
We understand that you and your students are working to develop AI solutions for agricultural challenges in the Smart Ag Lab. Can you share any updates on this effort?
Our team is developing multiple products to help monitor animal welfare, e.g., broilers, beef cattle and dairy cows. The main efforts have been made to develop camera-based systems and audio-based systems to detect early symptoms of welfare problems. We are also working on several sensing and robotics systems for crops, including cotton, nursery products and tomatoes.
What do you like to do outside of work and/or what is a fun fact about yourself that your colleagues and students wouldn’t know?
I like cooking, hiking and playing basketball. Recently, I started to learn golf and I have been enjoying it.