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NDSU Launches Agribusiness & Data Analytics Program with NIFA

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Farming meets big data! NDSU launches an innovative program, bridging agribusiness with analytics to tackle food security and train diverse future leaders.

A new, innovative, interdisciplinary graduate program in Agribusiness and Data Analytics is starting at North Dakota State University. The program is supported by a $262,500 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Spearheaded by Dr. Sandro Steinbach, NDSU associate professor of agribusiness and applied economics, Dr. Cheryl Wachenheim, NDSU professor of agribusiness and applied economics, and a team of distinguished faculty, this initiative aims to transform agricultural management and economics education by focusing on big data analytics.

The program director, Steinbach, said, “This innovative program is a significant leap in bridging agribusiness with data analytics. It’s a critical opportunity to advance ag tech and big data education at NDSU, equipping students with skills essential for today’s agricultural challenges.”

The program will create a supportive and inclusive environment that fosters learning and encourages the development of new ideas. By providing hands-on training and opportunities for practical application, the program will equip individuals with the skills and knowledge necessary to tackle the complex challenges faced by the agribusiness industry.

Colleen Fitzgerald, NDSU vice president of research and creative activity, noted, “This award is noteworthy and timely as it addresses multiple current research and teaching priorities for NDSU, including ensuring food security and opening opportunities for women and underrepresented groups.”

Integral to this endeavor are Anne Denton (NDSU professor of computer science), Kerianne Lawson (NDSU assistant professor of economics), Simone Ludwig (NDSU professor and chair of computer science), Ruilin Tian (NDSU professor of finance), and Mingao Yuan (NDSU assistant professor of statistics), who bring a rich mix of expertise, fostering an interdisciplinary approach by melding agribusiness with data analytics.

Cheryl Wachenheim said NDSU supports and fosters interdisciplinary collaboration. The team includes innovative and dedicated faculty from five departments dedicated to training students with unlimited potential in a growing field.

The program’s primary objective is to train seven USDA National Needs Fellows to address the shortage of experts in the field. The curriculum, a meticulous blend of theory and application, is designed to meet the evolving needs of the agribusiness sector, emphasizing data analytics. A commitment to diversity and inclusion underpins the recruitment and training process, ensuring a rich, collaborative learning environment.

This initiative extends beyond the classroom, offering experiential learning through hands-on research and industry collaborations. The aim is to bridge academia and the practical world, enriching student expertise and fostering real-world impact. Knowledge generation and dissemination are essential, with efforts to share insights through publications, conferences, and outreach, contributing to the broader field of agribusiness.

As Greg Lardy, NDSU vice president for agricultural affairs, points out, “This project will create an opportunity to attract new individuals into the agriculture workforce. The combination of connecting industry experts with students to build new talent is a winning formula for ensuring continued AgTech excellence in North Dakota.”

This program highlights NDSU’s commitment to leadership in interdisciplinary agricultural sciences, inclusive education, and preparing students for impactful decision-making in the industry through hands-on research projects.

Steinbach is the Director of the Center for Agricultural Policy and Trade Studies at North Dakota State University. In his role, he focuses on agricultural policy and trade. Additionally, as a Challey Institute Scholar, he brings expertise in business management and applied data analysis, with research interests in health and environmental economics.

Wachenheim is a professor in the Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics at NDSU. She received her M.S., doctorate in Agricultural Economics, and MBA from Michigan State University. She taught at Illinois State University from 1993 until joining NDSU in 1998. She teaches undergraduate courses in agri-sales, agricultural finance, and macro- and micro-economics, and team teaches a graduate course in strategic marketing and management. Cheryl’s research interests focus broadly on stakeholder assessment and the livestock and meat industries.

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