Bridging Academia and Industry – Agtech Research at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research
As a state-supported entity, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) occupies a unique niche in the field agricultural research. Unlike academia, IALR researchers do not train students, and unlike industry, IALR cannot manufacture, promote, and sell a product. Instead, researchers have the ability to partner with academia and venture into new areas without the constraints of often unavailable, highly competitive grant funding. IALR scientists also team with industry, capitalizing on knowledge of fundamental research and guided by industry principles of robust IP, ownership, scale-up, and shelf life. Focus areas include plant biostimulant and biocontrol development and research, advanced imaging and robotics, analytical chemistry, and controlled environment agriculture in partnership with Virginia Tech. Utilizing this “toolbox” along with expertise from researchers with diverse backgrounds, the IALR research division seeks to develop new business opportunities and university collaborations as well as to stay at the forefront of new trends in agricultural technologies.
Dr. Scott Lowman is VP of Research at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) in Danville, Virginia. He and his team are focused on developing and integrating advances in biology and technology to improve plant productivity. As a biologist focused on plant-microbe interactions, he seeks to identify promising microbial biostimulant and biocontrol agents that increase plant growth and health while safeguarding the environment. Technology, such as computer vision and data mining, is used to gain accurate, precise, and timely information to determine the effectiveness of these treatments. In the field, his team utilizes unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to capture visual, multispectral, and thermal images to evaluate plant health. In the lab, his team utilizes IALR’s custom built SMART table robotic imaging platforms for dynamic phenotyping. By capturing plant images by the minute, the SMART tables are able to quantify plant growth and health with incredible detail. Scott earned his undergraduate degree in Biology from Virginia Tech, his master’s degree from the College of William and Mary, and his Ph.D. from Virginia Tech. Prior to joining IALR, Scott co-founded Lynchburg Grows, a 7-acre urban farm in the heart of Lynchburg, Virginia. Now in its 17th year of operation, the non-profit farm supports a 100-member vegetable subscription program while providing opportunities for people with special needs to share their talents while learning life changing job skills.