The CAIA-CCI SW Node Agricultural Cyber Road Trip introduced participants to the Agricultural Research and Extension Centers (ARECs) which serve as testbed sites for the Virginia Tech SmartFarm Innovation Network®, as well as CAIA and CCI, to new VT CALS faculty and faculty from other VT colleges affiliated with the VT Center for Advanced Innovation in Agriculture. The program emphasized agricultural technologies and cyberbiosecurity at three AREC stops including Shenandoah Valley ARECHampton Roads AREC, and Alson H. Smith Jr. AREC and the CCI Hub in Arlington, VA.

cattle at SVAREC
Calan feeding system at Shenandoah Valley AREC

At the Hampton Roads AREC stop, descriptions of research at four different ARECs was presented. While invitations were distributed through CCI to every CCI node Director and various CCI-affiliated faculty at several institutions, no CCI-affiliated faculty from other institutions were able to participate. However, this tour was highly successful at increasing awareness and interest in cyberbiosecurity among the traveling new faculty as well as those faculty at each location. Overall, there were 13 new faculty who traveled on the tour and [estimated total] 25 faculty who engaged in the discussions at the ARECs.

Feedback (listed below) from these events illustrated that educational and experiential moments increased awareness and understanding of the importance of cyberbiosecurity in agricultural research and the importance for educating faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, policy makers, farmer/producers, agribusinesses and other life science-based industries about their role in protecting the future of food and agriculture through cyberbiosecurity.

  • Increased knowledge about CCI and Center for Advanced Innovation in Agriculture and how individual faculty saw their fit in these organizations
  • Increased knowledge of cyberbiosecurity, from nearly no awareness to some recognition of how important it is throughout agriculture for protecting our food supply
  • Increased recognition of use case studies for economics, cyberbiosecurity, sensor development, more
  • New partnerships with colleagues from CCI-affiliated universities and across VT – discovering expertise, instrumentation, and equipment availability
  • Awareness of translational research through ARECs
  • Facilities that are available on/near campus and across the state that can be valuable for research, education, and outreach
  • Networking and building professional relationships – new project ideas and collaborations were generated during these events
  • Increased awareness of how to reach stakeholders of relevance
  • Collaborations for graduate education opportunities

"I found many projects during this trip, and I believe, we are going to make a strong collaboration.  Also, after knowing all the facilities, I can imagine to build some of my own projects which I am going to develop soon." - Azahar Ali, School of Animal Sciences

"Actually travelling to the AREC to see the facilities in person will help me better envision where I can do work/who I can collaborate with when writing grants." - Brianna Posadas, Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education 

"While information about the ARECs can be obtained online and sending emails, traveling in-person to some of the ARECs adds another layer of information regarding driving distance to these sites, which is something that necessarily needs to be kept in mind when doing work at these sites. Additionally, the in-person introductions are invaluable. Even if we need to work virtually in the future, having met someone in person before makes a big of difference." - Marta Lima, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences

"The trip substantially increased my understanding of cyberbiosecurity, from almost none." - Wei Zhang, Agricultural and Applied Economics 

written by Susan Duncan and Becca Emery; photos by Becca Emery