Syngenta to open lab at UI Research Park

Syngenta to open lab at UI Research Park

CHAMPAIGN — One of the largest agriculture companies in the world is opening a digital innovation lab at the University of Illinois Research Park.

Switzerland-based Syngenta announced the lab Thursday, with hopes to open it by this summer. It has already leased the 1,600-square-foot space.

"As an international leader in agriculture, it's an honor that they've selected Champaign for their new digital innovation center," Research Park director Laura Frerichs said.

The lab will employ four full-time employees and 15 to 20 student interns.

It will create prototypes, tackle data challenges and look for new insights, according to Jim Mellon, Syngenta Crop Protection's head of research and development information systems.

"Stuff we don't know how to do that we want to get cross-disciplinary people (working on)," Mellon said. "We don't want just computer geeks, but we want people who know crop science, agriculture, even chemistry, civil engineering, environment, GIS (geographic information system), things like that."

Syngenta looked at Silicon Valley and other locations to open its digital innovation lab, but chose UI's Research Park because of the strong student talent in a variety of fields.

"We first approached this from a talent-acquisition (angle). Where are the best students coming from that have a chance of knowing about agriculture?" Mellon said. "We want a marquee university, but also a strong computer science program, strong ag engineering. This fit the bill."

Syngenta is also partnering with UI's National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

"They're the grown-ups, the pros that help us scale our applications, so you can go from prototype to potentially scaling for the enterprise," Mellon said.

Syngenta also chose the UI Research Park because it's close to farmers.

"We want to bring them in to the innovation process," Mellon said.

"It's right in the heart of our customer base," said Bill Danker, Syngenta's domain head of seeds research and breeding.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
annabellissimo wrote on February 24, 2017 at 4:02 am

This article describes Syngenta as "Switzerland based..." but isn't Syngenta owned by China or isn't China (a Chinese company) the majority owner? And the article describes it as an "agricultural company", but isn't it actually a genetic modification and genetic engineering company?