SAFER AG Workshop

November 9 to 10 | Urbana, IL

This workshop is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

More than 80% of agricultural digital technologies are currently in the research and testing phase. This provides a unique opportunity to evaluate and address potential safety concerns to labor and the environment before the widespread adoption of these technologies.

Before widespread adoption, these four areas need to be investigated:

  1. Understanding the risk associated with agricultural robotic technology. This includes risk of injury, financial risks, insurability, risk potential for different scales of technology, and evaluating risk due to continuous software improvements.
  2. The role that regulation and standards will play in the adoption of safe digital technologies. This includes examining what local, state or federal laws and policies could hinder (or benefit) adoption of autonomy in agriculture, existing standards and gaps within standards, how are manufacturers implementing standards, and what are safety critical IP that need to be encouraged to remain in public domain.
  3. Review existing research efforts (and gaps in research efforts) to investigate the role that new digital technologies play in farmworkers safety and health and documentation of injuries and fatalities associated with new technologies.
  4. Workforce implication of new technology adoption, including training needs, cultural implications, impact on labor supply and rural connectivity.

Our conference aims to bring together representatives from farm operators, academia, industry, and governmental interests to discuss and provide current information; gaps in knowledge; and research needs that connect to issues such as risk, insurability, regulations and policy, workforce, and societal implications.


This conference is at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

National Center for Supercomputing Applications
1205 W Clark Street, Urbana, IL 61801


Day 1 – November 9

8:30 – 9:15 AM CSTWelcome and Overview — Safety & Risk Issues in Automated AgricultureSalah Issa (Univ. Illinois)
John Shutske (Univ. Wisconsin)
9:20 – 10:05 AM CSTOccupational Safety Research needs in Autonomous Robotics in AgricultureDawn Castillo (NIOSH)
Jennifer Lincoln (NIOSH)
10:15 -11 AM CSTAutonomous Robotics Risk in Agricultural Settings PanelMike Keenan (Gallagher)
Kelly Sandner (CNH Industries)
Alex Foessel (Balanced Engineering)
11:15 – 12 PM CSTExploring the workforce impacts of greater automation and technology usage in food and agricultureMark White (Univ. Missouri)
Michael Pate (Utah State)
12 – 3:45 PM CSTFarm of the Future Demonstrations + Boxed LunchesDennis Bowman (Univ. Illinois)
4 – 4:45 PM CSTRegulating and Establishing Standards for Highly Automated Agricultural Machines in AgricultureJoe Flaugher (John Deere)
Jeff Jurgens (AEM)
Todd Howatt (AGCO Corp)
4:45 – 5:00Closing Remarks – What are the expectations of day 2Salah Issa (Univ. Illinois)
John Shutske (Univ. Wisconsin)
5:30 – 7:30 PMSocial and Networking Reception at Hamilton Walkers (201 N Neil St, Champaign, IL 61820)

Day 2 – November 10

The second day of the conference will be a workshop with sessions starting at 8:30 am and ending by 5 PM. There are four track options to attend:

  1. Research Needs (Occupational Safety)
  2. Regulations and Standards
  3. Risk Management
  4. Societal Implications

Each of the four tracks will be led by discussion facilitators and cover the research needs and gaps in each of the four tracks. To guide the discussion, a list of questions will be prepared in advance and shared with the attendees. Notes will be recorded for each track and will be used to generate white papers on agricultural safety and health for digital robotics with companion articles published in the Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health.

This workshop is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.