Agriculture research facility slated for Hillsborough could attract AI companies

A University of Florida official says a new research facility slated for Southeastern Hillsborough County could turn the area into the "Silicon Valley" of artificial intelligence for agriculture.

Developers were recently invited to submit proposals for the $20 million Center for Applied and Artificial Intelligence.

It would be built near the University of Florida/IFAS Research and Education Center in the Balm area.

Officials say it could bring more than 100 jobs and draw AI companies and related industries to locate nearby.

Researchers are already at the neighboring UF/IFAS facility working on drones, robots, and other technology to help farmers compete with crops from other countries produced with cheap labor.

READ: Venice-based ministry vows to continue sending weekly aid to Haiti despite U.S. warning amid violence

"Anytime we can identify cost-saving opportunities using AI, we have to embrace it," says Kenneth Parker, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Grower's Association. "There's no other way to stay in business than to try and reduce costs in today's environment."

Officials say they hope to open the center within three years. It's already received funding from the federal government, the state, and Hillsborough County.

"It’s so important, I think, even from a food safety standpoint, that we are growing our food in the United States," says Jack Rechcigl, director of the University of Florida/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center.

As growing our food becomes more challenging, farmers turn increasingly toward technology and in Southern Hillsborough County, the growing season is about to begin for AI.