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How Indiana Could Become 'Silicon Valley' Of Agriculture

harvesting corn

Agribusiness executives and researchers are describing Indiana as poised to become a global heavyweight in food-science research.

Elanco president Jeff Simmons says Indiana is building a roster of companies working on ways to boost food production to meet the needs of a world population projected to hit 10 billion in 35 years.

He told the first annual Governor‘s Agriculture Conference in Indianapolis the number of companies in Indiana could grow to a tipping point that transforms the state into a Silicon Valley-like magnet for agriculture research.

He used milk production as an example.

"We need 4 ounces more per cow or we need 66 million more cows [by 2050]. We believe we have to go backward on the number of cows and produce 60 percent more," Simmons said. "I would say knowing the pipelines of the animal genetic companies and the animal health companies, we can do that."

Other speakers at the conference emphasized the need for collaboration in order to boost production.

Purdue University agriculture dean Jay Akridge says Purdue‘s ag college is seeing an increasing amount of interdisciplinary work with engineers, geneticists and other researchers on campus.

"We're seeing engagement from engineering, science and technology across the campus coming together around this problem, how do we improve plants," Akridge says.

Simmons points out there is a public relations component as well. He says companies need to get the message out about genetic modification and other techniques that boost production, to compete with what he characterizes as a tiny but vocal number of activist opponents.

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