Fair Oaks Farm Spring 2016

Humanity in the Food Web will repeat its trip to the Fair Oaks Farm this spring.  A great agenda is coming together, including a presentation from WILL‘s Todd Gleason! It is always a pleasure to hear that voice, and it will be a unique opportunity to have him touring the farm with us throughout the day.

6:30 a.m.-6:45 Check in and boarding

7:00 Departure for the Fair Oaks Farms in Fair Oaks, Indiana

9:00 Arrival

10:00 a.m.-2:45 p.m. Visit the Fair Oaks Farm

  • Organized tours,
  • Lunch on your own (bring a sack lunch or purchase from restaurants onsite), and
  • Free time for browsing of exhibits

2:45 Check in for return at buses

3:00 Departure for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

5:00 Arrival

Students should arrive between 6:30 a.m. and 6:45. We will meet along West Pennsylvania Avenue near the Agricultural Engineering Sciences Building. The Agricultural Engineering Sciences Building (AESB) is on the east edge of the south quad, near the ACES Library. Pennsylvania Avenue runs along the southern edge of the building. You’ll find the busses parked in the street.

This is a required class event and attendance will be taken.

The Food Energy Water Nexus

What an interesting opportunity.

The National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) hosts this week “The Food-Energy-Water Nexus” its 16th National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy, and the Environment. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a NCSE university affiliate. Given this affiliation, I am feeling pretty lucky to be here at very little cost to me.

I have been only attending the meeting for a few hours now and I am quite taken by how broad this The Food-Energy-Water Nexus Nexus really is.

  • How does two weeks of food security sound to you? This is mentioned by a panelist from Hawaii—at any given time there is a two week buffer of food within the archipelago.
  • The education session was packed with folks standing in the back of the room. I don’t think I have ever been to a curriculum session that was so full.
  • Venture capitalists hosted a panel. Data, models, and decision making are key for both organic and conventional systems. The lines between organic and conventional are decidedly blurred. I really appreciate hearing this.

From my view, on my first few hours at the conference, I am most looking forward to the NSF Director France Córdova and her remarks about the FEW Nexus. Luckily they rescheduled her talk as I would have missed it on Tuesday morning, as it was originally scheduled.

ABE 199: We are in business!

Let me use this post to welcome you and the students in ABE 199, Fall 2015, Sustainable Biosystems International to Puerto Rico!


I am very much looking forward to receiving a phenomenal group of first-year students to Puerto Rico  in a couple of days. We have some excellent tours set up. I have purchased a Go-Pro (R) camera—and a bunch of accessories—and I cannot wait to see how we document our trip. The students of ABE 199 will be guest authors for this blog over the next couple of weeks as they document the occurrences of this study tour.


I’d also like to thank the Departamento de Ingeniería Agrícola, at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, specifically  Professors Pérez-Alegría and Mathankar, for generously hosting us here during our visit. This will be the third time Dr. Pérez-Alegría and I collaborate to host students from Illinois in Puerto Rico.

Below you’ll see the phenomenal our draft agenda for the trip. It should be great.

If anyone has any questions about Puerto Rico please do not hesitate to contact me at any time.

Come to see the results of this trip during Explore ACES and Engineering Open House.

Draft Agena

Jan 4
  • Arrive SJU
Jan 5
  • El Yunque Day Trip
Jan 6
  • Las Paredes Beach or Luquillo Beach or another beach
Jan 7
Jan 8
  • Day Trip to Ponce
    • Hacienda Buena Vista Reservation has been made 1:30PM – 3 PM (1PM arrival)
    • Parque de Bombas
    • Museo Castillo Serrallés (reservation may be necessary) 9am-6pm
    • Centro Ceremonial Indigena
Jan 9
  • Coffee Production and Processing Systems Tour
    • Café Gran Batey Tour, Utuado
  • Caguana Ceremonial Ball Courts Site
  • Casa Cubuy Ecolodge
 Jan 10
  • Snorkeling Tour to Isla Icacos, Puerto del Rey, Fajardo
 Jan 11
  • Sugar Production Systems Tour
  • Agricultural Research Stations Tour, Lajas
  • La Bahía Fosforescente, La Parguera, Lajas
 Jan 12
  • (pending) Dairy Systems Tour, Hatillo or Fruit Tree Production and Nitrogen Runoff
  • Arecibo Observatory, Arecibo
  • Parque Nacional del Río Camuy, Arecibo
 Jan 13
  • Campus Work and Research Day
Jan 14
  • Flexible Day
    • Work on draft open house booth
    • Faro de Los Morrillos de Cabo Rojo
    • Mayagüez Baseball
 Jan 15
  • First Day of Spring Term, Recinto Universitario de Mayagüez
    • XX:XX-YY:YY Draft Open House Booth Presented on Recinto Universitario de Mayagüez Quad
  • Dinner with Hosts and Selected Collaborators, Restaurant To Be Determined , Joyuda
 Jan 16
  • Day trip to Old San Juan
    • El Castillo San Felipe del Morro
    • La Fortaleza
    • Viejo San Juan


Wei-Ting Liao approaches his Preliminary Exam

Please consider joining us for the open portion of his preliminary exam.

Details here:

Title: Social and Engineering Perspectives on Optimal Farm Management and Reliable Grain Supply Chain Networks


Key decisions for optimizing the timing of culture tasks and farming outputs are affected by spatial-temporal changes of weather-related events and other conditions. The underlying information sources used today, such as local communities and government institutions, help farmers schedule culture tasks, but the updates of this information may be delayed, anecdotal and low in spatial resolution. The objectives of the study are to build a framework to support farming decisions based on the information in real-time social webs to identify opportunities and risks in supply chain networks between farmers and markets. Our central hypothesis is that we can extract agricultural information for targeted locations from social and news media to suggest optimal culture task decisions. The corollary hypothesis is that we can apply complex network analysis to evaluate the characteristics and performance of grain supply chains. These intentions contribute better farm management strategies.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

208 AESB

8:30 AM

ASCENT Committee Meeting, Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA


It is great to be in Seattle, WA for my first time. I have heard so many things about this great city, and it seems that our Federal Aviation Administration Project has dropped us right in the middle of the city for our meeting—well maybe not the center of the city. I cannot see the Space Needle from here. I hear that is for tourists anyhow. (Maybe some other time.) I wish I had more time.


We are in a great spot though. The Skyline Room in the Museum of Flight has a phenomenal view of the King’s County International Airport (perhaps the smallest international airport I have seen—I suppose they must fly to Canada) and the fall colors are just starting to reveal themselves on the hill beyond.

The Federal Aviation Administration is targeting production of 13 billion gallons of alternative jet fuels by 2030. This involves the investigation of new developing feedstocks, new conversation technologies, certification of these technologies, environmental certification of products, social factors, logistics, life cycle costing, and land use change. It is a massive project. The ASCENT—the Aviation Sustainability Center—is a research consortium led by Washington State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology involving 16 university partners including 31 total projects. Our work here in Illinois focuses on supply chain logistics of biomass feedstocks within what has become known as the MASBI region (as previously defined by the Midwest Aviation Sustainable Biofuels Initiative) is a small portion of the ASCENT 001 project, which also includes participation from the Volpe Transportation Center, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Argonne National Laboratory.

It seems that the participants here at the ASCENT meeting are strongly motivated to see alternative jet fuels (biofuels) on the market in the near future. A few processes are going through certification and if so, any one of these, or several, may soon be powering jet plane carrying you—especially on an international flight.

Agricultural residues like corn stovers are an especially attractive feedstock in the Midwest. They are available and some folks would love to move them off of their fields, as they can accumulate after several years of no-till farming. We are also considering the use of winter cover crops, dedicated energy crops, and forest residues. There may be numerous environmental impacts beyond beneficial greenhouse gas balances, notably some potential surface water quality improvements depending on the feedstock.

The real question is whether this can be economically attractive. The room here today is dominated by agricultural economists, if I am not mistaken, although certainly the aviation industry is well represented. It will be very interesting to see the development of this research and development unfold over the next few years.

Fair Oaks Farm

Looking forward to a great trip to Fair Oaks Farm. This trip will mark the second time we have taken the trip. I believe many in our Humanity in the Food Web course are genuinely looking forward to the trip to the Disney World of Farming. I am sure we’ll create some new perspective on food and agriculture, or maybe the Boy Scouts of America, I am not sure which. Apparently 500 scouts are camping out on the Fair Oaks Farm today!

The Fair Oaks Farm Adventuire Center

Hello World!

Welcome and thank you for visiting our new website.

The Laboratory for Biological Modeling Analysis and System Simulation (BioMASS) will be migrating its website to this location over the coming weeks as we reinvigorate our web presence. We are always seeking new ways to disseminate news about our research, research we are following, interesting happenings in and around our lab, or elsewhere on the Illinois campus. If you have any suggestions regarding how we can communicate or things we should be discussing, we’ll be eager to hear about it, so feel free to comment.

As you might expect, there are several ways you can get in touch with us. Luis F. Rodríguez is our lab director and he’ll be happy to talk to you at any time. You can also follow us on BiomassLab on Twitter.

Most important of all, if we can help you in any way let us know. We’ll be looking forward to working with you.