From code to plate

Nine ways computer science and ag-tech are helping feed America’s 326 million hungry mouths

Understanding the land

Making the most of every acre involves knowing what’s going on under the soil’s surface. Everything from soil chemistry to water levels and the health of individual plants is useful data for farming. Programmers help farmers using sensors in the ground and drones in the sky. Better data means more efficient irrigation, less fertilizer, and higher yields.

CS USED: GIS (Geographical Information Systems), autonomous vehicles, remote sensing

FIND OUT MORE: Watch a National Geographic video on YouTube about remote sensing and drones in farming at

From code to plate

Just the best!

Computer vision is a field of CS devoted to teaching computers to recognize images in the same way that people do. By installing cameras and computer vision systems on food production lines, computer scientists can help sort the good produce from the bad, and remove defective products before they’re packed and shipped.

CS USED: Machine learning, computer vision, robotics

FIND OUT MORE: See if Google’s neural networks can recognize your drawings at

From code to plate

Code wranglers

In the same way you might use an app or a smartwatch to stay fit, farmers are using tech to gather a wealth of data from their animals, such as the movement of herds and the health of individual animals.

CS USED: Data science, embedded systems programming

FIND OUT MORE: Check out the same technology used with wildlife at

From code to plate

Understanding the sky

Even in today’s high-tech world, crops need basics such as sunshine and water to grow. Computer scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service work with some of the most powerful supercomputers and the most accurate simulations in the world to help pick the best times to plant and harvest.

CS USED: Simulations, computer modeling

FIND OUT MORE: Check out to play with a real-time weather simulation of our planet.

From code to plate

All about trust

Most of us don’t even think about the technology behind how we pay for groceries, and that trust is all thanks to cybersecurity. Americans make more than 120 billion electronic transactions per year, and cybersecurity experts keep that system safe. They’re constantly checking for flaws in code, running penetration tests, and keeping one step ahead of cybercrime.

CS USED: Cybersecurity, ethical hacking, penetration testing, social engineering

FIND OUT MORE: Learn about cybersecurity on YouTube at

From code to plate

Crossing the country

Getting stuck in traffic on the way to school is one thing, but it’s even worse if you’ve got a trailer full of perishable vegetables. City planners and freight companies are turning to real-time data and simulations to find the quickest route from A to B.

CS USED: Simulation and modeling, real-time data analysis

FIND OUT MORE: Try out a real traffic model at

From code to plate

Stocking the shelves

How much bread does your local store need? How much milk? Does that change on weekends or holidays? What if it’s a really hot day, or if a storm is coming? The supply chains that bring you what you need are incredibly complex, and without the help of data scientists, these questions are impossible to answer.

CS USED: Database engineering, logistics engineering

FIND OUT MORE: See how store shelves stay stocked even after an epic hurricane at

Living smarter

From coffee pots to plant pots (yes, really), objects in our homes are getting brainier thanks to the Internet of Things. Although they look like the regular appliances they’re replacing, inside every smart device is a tiny computer. They might be connected to controls, that let you start your A/C from the Internet, or to sensors, that let you see exactly what temperature the food in your oven is, from anywhere in the house. Creative coders come up with the cool ideas that make this work.

CS USED: Embedded systems programming

FIND OUT MORE: Meet the plant pot that keeps your leafy friends healthy at

From code to plate

Creative cooking

With the help of a massive library of all the world’s recipes, right down to the chemistry of which foods taste good together, data scientists are teaching IBM’s Watson supercomputer to cook. By looking at what flavors and ingredients have been used together before, Watson tries to “predict” new combinations that might work well – and the results are often surprising. Watson is now predicting financial markets and helping doctors diagnose illnesses.

CS USED: Natural language learning, expert systems, neural networks

FIND OUT MORE: You can try generating some recipes based on ingredients Watson predicts might go well together at

Recommended for you

Share This