Welcome to the UC Berkeley Center
for Next Generation Food Systems!

The overall mission of the center is to optimize societal food production, quality, and food safety/security in the era of pandemics and beyond.
The UCB team is led by Tarek Zohdi and consists of
Rebecca Abergel, Ana Claudia Arias, Francesco Borrelli,
Lee Fleming, Simo Makiharju, Mark Mueller,
Khalid Mosalam, Ethan Ligon, Ricardo San Martin,
and R. Paul Singh.
Welcome to the UC Berkeley Center
for Next Generation Food Systems!

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UC Berkeley team advances food systems in new $20M research center

Campus expertise in simulation technologies will play a key role in the new AI Institute for Next Generation Food Systems

August 26, 2020 by Kirsten Mickelwait

A new research center funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will aim to improve U.S. food systems to address such issues as pandemic-driven food system security and safety; improving crop yield, quality and nutrition; decreasing energy and water resource consumption; and increasing production and eliminating food waste.

The NSF today announced the award of $20M over five years to create the USDA-NIFA AI Institute for Next Generation Food Systems (AIFS), one of five AI institutes established to accelerate research and support the U.S. workforce. The center is led by a team at UC Davis in partnership with researchers from UC Berkeley, Cornell University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the UC Division of Agricultural and Natural Resources (ANR) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Each of these institutions has a proven track record of excellence across such areas as artificial intelligence (AI), simulation, food system sciences and engineering.

“Berkeley has extensive expertise in simulation technologies, which can be applied to create virtual food systems that will leverage the monumental leaps in high-performance computer simulation, AI and machine learning,” said Tarek Zohdi, professor of mechanical engineering and  head of the 10-member UC Berkeley team. “This new effort will be centered around the concept of the ‘Digital Twins’ of physical reality — digital replicas of complex food systems that can then be inexpensively and safely manipulated, improved and optimized in a virtual setting.”

The UC Berkeley researchers include members of the Center for Next Generation Food Systems, coming from across campus with collective expertise in high-performance computing, advanced manufacturing, pathogen propagation, contact tracing, decontamination, autonomous systems and technology transfer.

According to the USDA, in 2018 37.2 million people lived in food-insecure households in the United States. The World Health Organization estimates that 600 million — almost 10% of the global population — fall ill and 420,000 die every year after eating contaminated food. And while there is more than enough food produced in the world to feed everyone on the planet, about 690 million people worldwide go to bed hungry each night. The overall mission of the center is to optimize global food production, quality and security in the era of pandemics and beyond. With the fifth-largest economy in the world, California is affected by all of these themes. Topics: Mechanical engineeringResearchRobotics & AI

UC Berkeley team partners in new $20M AI food systems research center


September 1, 2020 by Berkeley Master of Engineering

On August 26, 2020, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced it will be funding a new food systems research center in partnership with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The award of $20M over five years will aim to improve US food systems to address issues such as pandemic-driven food system security and safety; improving crop yield, quality and nutrition; decreasing energy and water resource consumption; and increasing production and eliminating food waste.

The USDA-NIFA Institute for Artificial Intelligence for Next-Generation Food Systems (AIFS) brings together researchers from six institutions: UC Davis, UC Berkeley, Cornell University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of California division of Agricultural and Natural Resources (ANR), and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Each of these institutions has a proven track record of excellence across such areas as artificial intelligence (AI), high-performance computing, food system sciences, and engineering.

At UC Berkeley, professor of mechanical engineering Tarek Zohdi (UC Berkeley hub-PI) will lead a team of ten researchers from the UC Berkeley Next Generation Food Systems Center— Rebecca Abergel, Ana Claudia Arias, Francesco Borrelli, Lee Fleming, Simo Makiharju, Mark Mueller, Khalid Mosalam, Ethan Ligon and Ricardo San Martin — with collective expertise in high-performance computing, advanced manufacturing, pathogen propagation, contact tracing, decontamination, autonomous systems, and technology transfer.

When asked about the timing of this effort, Zohdi shared: “Bringing all of the modern high-performance simulation, artificial intelligence and machine learning tools developed in high-tech sectors to the food industry is long overdue. This center is being grounded at the right place and at the right time.”

He continued, “With the ongoing pandemic and fire-destruction, food-security and safety is a top concern in California and the nation.”

Vice Chancellor for Research Randy Katz expressed enthusiasm for UC Berkeley’s role: “Through NSF support and a powerful consortium of intellectual leaders in diverse fields of expertise, we are incredibly excited to bring an engineering-research approach to one of the great societal challenges of the 21st century: a sustainable, safe, and energy efficient food system.” College of Engineering Dean Tsu-Jae King Liu added, “This multi-university collaboration with the USDA will have a transformative impact on food production and distribution systems, to improve health and quality of life for all.”

The center’s objective focuses on the creation of digital replicas of complex food systems, so-called “digital twins,” which can be safely manipulated and optimized in a virtual world and deployed in the physical world afterwards, reducing costs of experiments and accelerating development of new technologies.

The NSF National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Institutes program is a joint effort of the National Science Foundation (NSF), US Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science & Technology Directorate (S&T), US Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), seeking to enable such research through AI Research Institutes.