Agriculture, Innovation, and the Environment

Lead Instructor(s): 

Markus Buehler


Jun 19, 2017 - Jun 23, 2017

Course Length: 

5 Days

Course Fee: 





  • Registration opening soon

It is highly recommended that you apply for a course at least 6-8 weeks before the start date to guarantee there will be space available. After that date you may be placed on a waitlist. Courses with low enrollment may be cancelled up to 4 weeks before start date if sufficient enrollments are not met. If you are able to access the online application form, then registration for that particular course is still open.

This course has limited enrollment. Apply early to guarantee your spot.


By 2050 the earth's population will likely reach 9.5 billion people, requiring an 80% increase in agricultural production. Achieving this will require innovative technologies to make agriculture more efficient and optimize existing inputs.

The course offers a unique perspective by focusing on three areas of agricultural innovation; a) macro / micro aspects of environmental impacts including climate, weather, and microbiological, b) the application of advanced technologies, such as new materials, in agricultural processes, and c) the use of data and modeling to improve yield by enhanced precision and predictive power.

The course will cover a variety of aspects ranging from the big picture and motivation, fundamental scientific aspects, as well as environmental considerations (e.g. macro-micro climate, air quality), macro-micro water issues, and specific topics such as water-soil interactions, biomaterials in agriculture and environment, and foliar disease. Techniques covered include computing and big data, analytics, sensing and data assimilation, risk modeling, microbial dynamics, genomics, and synthetic biology. This course offers a unique interdisciplinary experience, bringing together faculty from many related areas. It’s the only place you can get such a concentrated and comprehensive view of this emerging field.

Takeaways from this course include:

  • Understanding the critical role of interdisciplinary innovation in creating the agricultural technologies of the future for the next round of productivity gains
  • Understanding the current and potential role of biomaterials in agriculture
  • Understanding of nano-scale relevant to agriculture
  • Understanding the role of computation in materials design for agricultural applications
  • Highlighting the essentials of advanced technology such as drones, robotics, and remote sensing technology
  • Understanding the principles of spatial design of experiments and the use of relevant data
  • Exploring infrastructure, mathematical models, and software in a laboratory setting
  • Appreciating the important role of climate, weather, and microbiology and ways to mitigate negative consequences

Who should attend:

This course is designed for people in roles/titles such as VP, director, or manager of R&D; general management with technical background; research scientist or engineer; government administrators (U.S. or overseas); as well as people in academia such as university professors or graduate students.

Industries that would benefit from this course include chemical, machinery, environmental, commodity production (agricultural), seed manufacturing, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, venture capital, and agricultural non-profits including cooperative.

Earn a Professional Certificate in Innovation and Technology

Agriculture, Innovation, and the Environment may be taken individually or as a core course for the Professional Certificate Program in Innovation and Technology.

Program Outline: 

2016 Outline

DAY 1 – Jun. 13

8:30: Introduction to the course, formation of groups
Markus J. Buehler, Faculty Director
Department Head, Civil and Environmental Engineering; McAfee Professor of Engineering; Director, Laboratory for Atomistic and Molecular Mechanics

8:50: Exchange:  Attendees provide informal introductions to colleagues

9:00: Big Picture: National and international perspective
Sally M. Schneider, Deputy Administrator, USDA ARS

9:50: Break

10:00: Big Picture: Food security and sustainable resource management in the context of climate change
Dennis McLaughlin, H.M. King Bhumibol Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Noon: Lunch

1:00: Big Picture: Future microbial threats to agriculture and humans
Martin F. Polz, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

2:00: Big Picture: Atmospheric Effects and Climate Change
Dan Cziczo, Associate Professor – Dept. of Civil and environmental Engineering.

3:00: Break

3:15: Technical: Water, soil, infrastructure
Ruben Juanes, Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Director, Henry L. Pierce Laboratory for Infrastructure Science and Engineering

5:00: Adjourn

5:15: Reception

DAY 2 – Jun. 14

8:30: Big Picture: USDA NIFA and Cyber-physical Systems
Daniel Schmoldt, National Program Leader, Division of Agricultural Systems

9:30 - Technical — RNAi and biological frontiers
Daniel Griffith Anderson, Samuel A. Goldblith Professor of Applied Biology, Chemical Engineering and Health Sciences & Technology, Department of Chemical Engineering

10:30: Break

10:45: Technical — Irrigation and Rainfall
Ross E. Alter, Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Eltahir Research Group, MIT

Noon: Lunch

1:00: Technical — Disease transmission and fluid mechanics
Lydia Bourouiba, Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Career Development Assistant Professor; Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Associate Faculty, Institute for Medical Engineering and Science

3:00: Break

3:15: Technical — Disease transmission (continued)

4:00: Laboratory Demonstration – Civil and Environmental Engineering

5:00: Adjourn

DAY 3 – Jun. 15

8:30: Technical — Bioengineering and biomaterials
Robert S. Langer, Institute Professor, Professor of Chemical Engineering, Professor of Biological Engineering, Professor of Mechanical Engineering

10:30: Break

10:45: Technical
Roger Beachy, Chief Scientific Officer, Indigo Agriculture, First Director of USDA NIFA.

Noon: Lunch

1:00: Technical — Biomaterials in agriculture, silk-based materials, and food preservation
Benedetto Marelli, Paul M. Cook Career Development Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

2:00: Big Picture, The MIT Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab (J-WAFS)
John H. Lienhard V, Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Water and Food, Director – J-WAFS

3:00: Break

3:15: Technical — Biomaterials in agriculture, silk-based materials, and food preservation (continued)

4:00: Laboratory Demonstration — Civil and Environmental Engineering

5:00: Adjourn

Optional informal dinner (Harvard Square)

Group meetings (scheduled by each group, about one hour, 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm)

DAY 4 – Jun. 16

8:30: Technical: Advanced materials design
Markus J. Buehler, Faculty Director

10:30: Break

10:45: Related Laboratory - Molecular dynamics modeling and simulation

Noon: Lunch

1:00: Technical — Introduction to Geospatial Systems, GIS, and Cyber-Security
Abel Sanchez, Research Scientist, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Executive Director,MIT Geospatial Research Center

3:00: Break

3:15: Technical — Introduction to Spatial Design of Experiments / Computing Infrastructure for GIS

4:30: Lab tour of Koch Institute

5:00: Adjourn

Group meetings to prepare for Friday discussion (scheduled by each group, about two hours, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm)

DAY 5 – Jun. 17

8:30: Technical — Precision agriculture, root mapping
Cameron Dryden, General Manager, Northrup Grumman AOA Xinetics

9:15: Technical — Precision agriculture, demonstration for areal sensing (GIS and Image Processing) and Computer Lab

10:30: Break

10:45: Group discussion and short presentations

11:45: Wrap-up & certificates
Markus J. Buehler, Faculty Director

Noon: End of program

Course Schedule: 

This course meets 8:30 am - 5:00 pm Monday through Thursday, and 8:30 am - Noon on Friday. There will be group work on Wednesday and Thursday evenings (see course outline).



This course takes place on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Fundamentals: Core concepts, understandings, and tools (30%) 30
Latest Developments: Recent advances and future trends (40%) 40
Industry Applications: Linking theory and real-world (30%) 30

Delivery Methods: 

Lecture: Delivery of material in a lecture format (70%) 70
Discussion or Groupwork: Participatory learning (10%) 10
Labs: Demonstrations, experiments, simulations (20%) 20


Introductory: Appropriate for a general audience (40%) 40
Specialized: Assumes experience in practice area or field (20%) 20
Advanced: In-depth explorations at the graduate level (40%) 40