Auburn University shares $28 million grant to meet rural challenges
Auburn University is one of three universities sharing a $28 million grant from the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to create an Institute for Rural Partnership to address the causes and to explore conditions of challenges for rural areas.
The Auburn University project is an interdisciplinary effort involving the College of Agriculture, the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and the McCrary Institute for Cyber and Critical Infrastructure Security.
“This project will enable agricultural researchers to leverage manufacturing and cybersecurity engineering expertise to advance some of Alabama’s most important agricultural and natural resource sectors,” said Paul Patterson, dean of Auburn College of Agriculture and Director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station.
“This is a great opportunity for the two founding colleges of Auburn University to deepen their work together in advancing the economy of Alabama. Additionally, faculty members in Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology will explore alternative businesses that offer potential for additional growth for the agricultural sector and rural Alabama.”
Auburn’s share of the grant – $9.3 million – is for a four-year period. Others receiving funding include the University of Vermont and the University of Wisconsin.
“As part of the Land Grant’s mission to improve the lives of people in our state, this institute is the perfect intersection of what our two colleges do best,” said Steve Taylor, interim dean of Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, who previously was he is the associate dean of research for the college and head of the department of biosystems engineering. “It is only fitting on this 150th anniversary of our two Auburn colleges that we boldly move forward together through this partnership.”
The goal of Auburn’s project is to use modern technology to advance rural Alabama through poultry production and forest products, said Oladiran Fasina, department head and alumni professor of biosystems engineering at the College of Agriculture. Fasina is also a Co-Lead Principal Investigator on the project along with Greg Harris, Professor and Chair of Engineering in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.
Other principal investigators include Bill Dozier, Professor and Director of the Department of Poultry Science; Mykel Taylor, Associate Professor and Distinguished ALFA Scholar, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology; Gregory Prudy, Assistant Professor, Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineering; and Marc Sachs, McCrary Institute.
Alabama, Fasina said, is a global leader in the poultry farm and forest products sectors, with $43 billion of both sectors contributing to Alabama’s economy. Additionally, a significant percentage of the 210,000 jobs created by these two industries in the state are located in rural Alabama.
“Our interdisciplinary approach will develop technology solutions that help producers and processors of poultry and forest products to improve their competitiveness and sustainability while addressing cyber-physical vulnerabilities due to the use/adoption of modern technologies,” said Fasina.
The project also aims to reduce water pollution in rural Alabama by developing systems that manage and recycle waste streams from agricultural processing plants.
“Ultimately, we will develop case studies that demonstrate new technologies and opportunities for agriculture and forestry in the rural South,” Fasina said. “We will develop and deliver project deliverables that summarize and evaluate the project’s impact on rural Alabama to engage stakeholders and the public.”
The distribution of funding for the project will be 85% research, 10% consultancy and 5% education.