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USDA-NIFA and NSF Invest $220M in Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes

Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a $220 million investment in 11 new NSF-led Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes. USDA-NIFA and other agencies and organizations have partnered with NSF to pursue transformational advances in a range of economic sectors and science and engineering fields — from food system security to next-generation edge networks.  

Woman on farm using Artificial Intelligence-based technology. Image courtesy of Getty Images.

Woman on farm using Artificial Intelligence-based technology. Image courtesy of Getty Images.
The new investment builds on the first round of seven Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Institutes funded in 2020, totaling $140 million.
“In the tradition of USDA-NIFA investments, these new institutes leverage the scientific power of U.S. land-grant universities informed by close partnership with farmers, producers, educators and innovators to provide sustainable crop production solutions and address these pressing societal challenges,” said USDA-NIFA Director Dr. Carrie Castille. “These innovation centers will speed our ability to meet critical needs in the future agricultural workforce, providing equitable and fair market access, increasing nutrition security and providing tools for climate-smart agriculture.”
NSF’s investment will result in AI-based technologies that bring about a range of advances: helping older adults lead more independent lives and improving the quality of their care; transforming AI into a more accessible “plug-and-play” technology; creating solutions to improve agriculture and food supply chains; enhancing adult online learning by introducing AI as a foundational element; and supporting underrepresented students in elementary to post-doctoral STEM education to improve equity and representation in AI research.
To achieve investment goals, NSF partnered with USDA-NIFA, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Google, Amazon, Intel and Accenture.
“I am delighted to announce the establishment of new NSF National AI Research Institutes as we look to expand into all 50 states,” said National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “These institutes are hubs for academia, industry and government to accelerate discovery and innovation in AI. Inspiring talent and ideas everywhere in this important area will lead to new capabilities that improve our lives from medicine to entertainment to transportation and cybersecurity and position us in the vanguard of competitiveness and prosperity.”
Building on the seven awards funded in 2020, this second round of awards expands the reach of the AI Institutes to include a total of 37 states. The new awards, each at about $20 million over five years, will support 11 institutes spanning seven research areas in AI: Human-AI Interaction and Collaboration, AI for Advances in Optimization, AI and Advanced Cyberinfrastructure, AI in Computer and Network Systems, AI in Dynamic Systems, AI-Augmented Learning, and AI-Driven Innovation in Agriculture and the Food System.
Below are descriptions of the 11 new AI Research Institutes.
The USDA-NIFA Institute for Agricultural AI for Transforming Workforce and Decision Support (AgAID). Led by Washington State University, this institute will integrate AI methods into agriculture operations for prediction, decision support, and robotics-enabled agriculture to address complex agricultural challenges. The AgAID Institute uses a unique adopt-adapt-amplify approach to develop and deliver AI solutions to agriculture that address pressing challenges related to labor, water, weather and climate change. The institute involves farmers, workers, managers and policy makers in the development of these solutions, as well as in AI training and education, which promotes equity by increasing the technological skill levels of the next-generation agricultural workforce.
This institute is funded by USDA-NIFA.
The USDA-NIFA AI Institute for Resilient Agriculture (AIIRA). Led by Iowa State University, this institute will transform agriculture through innovative AI-driven digital twins that model plants at an unprecedented scale. This approach is enabled by advances in computational theory, AI algorithms, and tools for crop improvement and production for resiliency to climate change. In addition, AIIRA will promote the study of cyber-agricultural systems at the intersection of plant science, agronomics, and AI; power education and workforce development through formal and informal educational activities, focusing on Native American bidirectional engagement and farmer programs; and drive knowledge transfer through partnerships with industry, producers, and federal and state agencies.
This institute is funded by USDA-NIFA. 
NSF AI Institute for Collaborative Assistance and Responsive Interaction for Networked Groups (AI-CARING). Led by the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), this institute will seek to create a vibrant, fully developed discipline focused on personalized, longitudinal (over months and years) collaborative AI systems that learn individual models of human behavior and how they change over time, and use that knowledge to better collaborate and communicate in caregiving environments. The collaborative AI Partners in Care developed as part of this institute will help support a growing population of older adults sustain independence, improve quality of life, and increase effectiveness of care coordination across the care network.
This institute is partially funded by Amazon and Google.
NSF AI Institute for Advances in OptimizationLed by Georgia Tech, this institute will revolutionize decision-making on a large scale by fusing AI and mathematical optimization into intelligent systems that will achieve breakthroughs that neither field can achieve independently. The institute will create pathways from high school to undergraduate and graduate education and workforce development training for AI in engineering that will empower a generation of underrepresented students and teachers to join the AI revolution. It will also create a sustainable ecosystem for AI, combining education, research, entrepreneurship, and the public at large. The institute will demonstrate foundational advances on use cases in energy, resilience and sustainability, supply chains, and circuit design and control. The institute has innovative plans for workforce education and broadening participation, including substantial leadership from a collaborating minority-serving institution.
This institute is partially funded by Intel.
NSF AI Institute for Learning-Enabled Optimization at Scale (TILOS). Led by the University of California San Diego, in collaboration with five other universities across the nation, this institute will aim to “make impossible optimizations possible” by addressing the fundamental challenges of scale and complexity. Learning-enabled optimization will be applied in several technical focus areas vital to the nation’s health and prosperity, including semiconductor chip design, robotics and networks. The research agenda is accompanied by plans for workforce development and broadening participation at all academic levels, from middle school to advanced research levels, including community outreach efforts to promote AI.
This institute is partially funded by Intel.
NSF AI Institute for Intelligent Cyberinfrastructure with Computational Learning in the Environment (ICICLE). Led by The Ohio State University, this institute will build the next generation of cyberinfrastructure that will make AI easy for scientists to use and promote its further democratization. ICICLE will transform the AI landscape of today by bringing in scientists from multidisciplinary backgrounds to create a robust, trustworthy and transparent national cyberinfrastructure that is ready to “plug-and-play” in areas of societal importance, such as "smart foodsheds", precision agriculture and animal ecology. The institute will develop a new generation of the workforce, with sustained diversity and inclusion at all levels.
NSF AI Institute for Future Edge Networks and Distributed Intelligence (AI-EDGE). Led by The Ohio State University, this institute will leverage the synergies between networking and AI to design future generations of wireless edge networks that are highly efficient, reliable, robust and secure. New AI tools and techniques will be developed to ensure that these networks are self-healing and self-optimized. Through collaboration, these networks will help long-standing distributed AI challenges making AI more efficient, interactive, and privacy preserving for applications in sectors such as intelligent transportation, remote health care, distributed robotics and smart aerospace. AI-EDGE will create a research, education, knowledge transfer and workforce development environment that will help establish U.S. leadership in next-generation edge networks and distributed AI for many decades to come.
This institute is partially funded by DHS.
NSF AI Institute for Edge Computing Leveraging Next-generation Networks (Athena). Led by Duke University, this institute will focus on developing edge computing with groundbreaking AI functionality while keeping complexity and costs under control. Bringing together a world-class, multidisciplinary team of scientists, engineers, statisticians, legal scholars and psychologists from seven universities, Athena will transform the design, operation and service of future systems from mobile devices to networks. Athena is committed to educating and developing the workforce, cultivating a diverse next generation of edge computing and network leaders whose core values are driven by ethics and fairness in AI. As a nexus point for the community, Athena will spearhead collaboration and knowledge transfer, translating emerging technical capabilities to new business models and entrepreneurial opportunities.
This institute is partially funded by DHS.

NSF AI Institute for Dynamic SystemsLed by the University of Washington, this institute will enable innovative research and education in fundamental AI and machine learning theory, algorithms and applications specifically for safe, real-time learning and control of complex dynamic systems. The core motivation for this institute is to integrate physics-based models with AI and machine learning approaches, leading the way towards data-enabled ethical, efficient, and explainable solutions for real-time sensing, prediction, and decision-making challenges across science and engineering.
This institute is partially funded by DHS.
NSF AI Institute for Engaged LearningLed by North Carolina State University, this institute will advance natural language processing, computer vision and machine learning to build narrative-centered learning environments, embodied conversational agents, and multimodal learning analytics to yield transformative advances in STEM teaching and learning. This institute will serve as a nexus for in-school and out-of-school STEM education innovation, empowering and engaging diverse learners and stakeholders to ensure that AI-driven learning environments are ethically designed to promote equity and inclusion.
This institute is fully funded by NSF.

NSF AI Institute for Adult Learning and Online Education (ALOE)Led by North Carolina State University, this institute will advance natural language processing, computer vision and machine learning to engage learners in AI-driven narrative-centered learning environments. Rich AI-driven virtual agents and powerful multimodal sensing capabilities will support learners and yield transformative advances in STEM teaching and learning. The institute will serve as a nexus for in-school and out-of-school STEM education innovation, empowering and engaging diverse learners and stakeholders to ensure that AI-driven learning environments are ethically designed to promote equity and inclusion.

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