Who We Are

The Agricultural Autonomy Institute (AAI) at Mississippi State University (MSU) was officially established by the State of Mississippi’s Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL) as a university-level institute in June of 2023.

AAI reports to both MSU’s Vice President (VP) for the Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED) and its VP for the Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine (DAFVM). Seed funds for three years’ operation of AAI were provided by the Robert M. Hearin Foundation in October of 2022, but expenditures did not begin in earnest before AAI’s official recognition by IHL


AAI will establish Mississippi as the “Silicon Valley of Agricultural Autonomy.”


AAI’s mission is to advance economic opportunity in Mississippi by:

(a) attracting manufacturers in the Agricultural Autonomy industry to Mississippi

(b) advancing opportunities for Agricultural Autonomy research and startups in Mississippi

(c) developing and training an Agricultural Autonomy workforce in Mississippi

(d) AAI will also establish MSU as a leader in Agricultural Autonomy


In addition to the activities specified below, AAI will seek funding from private and public sources to sustain its operations.

(a) To attract industry, AAI will cultivate relationships with established and emerging companies in agricultural equipment and Agricultural Autonomy to demonstrate the strategic advantages for them to locate research, manufacturing, distribution, and service centers in the state as well as to sponsor research and development (R&D) in Mississippi. The R&D would focus on MSU-developed intellectual property (IP) and testing of company-developed IP.

(b) To advance research and startups, AAI will build programs for Agricultural Autonomy startups that involve attracting investors and collaborators to market IP developed at MSU as well as competitions to propose startups based on student IP created through design courses, graduate research projects, and other projects. AAI will also target funding opportunities and assist in the development of research proposals and administration and execution of research projects.

(c) To develop an Agricultural Autonomy workforce, AAI will work to develop (i) undergraduate and graduate Agricultural Autonomy courses and curricula in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and the Bagley College of Engineering (BCoE), and (ii) training programs in robotics, electronics, and computer programming with the MSU Extension Service (MSU-ES) and community colleges. These education and training opportunities will be critical to workforce activities in research, manufacturing, distribution, and service of Agricultural Autonomy equipment and systems.

(d) To establish MSU as a leader in Agricultural Autonomy, AAI will extend knowledge and resources through social media, popular press, and scientific publications.

AAI Scope

1. The scope of AAI’s considerations for R&D and educational activities includes terrestrial and aerial autonomous systems as well as teams of these systems. In some cases, these activities may extend to maritime systems, but only insofar as the applications are directly relevant to agricultural production.

2. The scope of AAI’s considerations for applications includes production agriculture, post-harvest processing, and agricultural research such as phenotyping for breeding operations. This scope includes plant and animal agriculture. In some cases, the scope may include logistical operations, but only insofar as those applications are directly relevant to agricultural production or processing.

3. The scope of AAI’s considerations for technologies includes the development of tools and methods for solving problems in agricultural production, processing, and research. This scope does not focus on the long-term use of these tools for research purposes. This scope includes technologies like sensors and sensing, analytics to include classical and geospatial statistics as well as machine learning and artificial intelligence, mechatronics, broadband communications, and cybersecurity. However, these technologies are only in scope when they are directly related to integrated systems for Agricultural Autonomy.


As MSU’s newest university-level Institute, AAI is jointly administered under the MSU Office of Research & Economic Development (ORED) and the MSU Division of Agriculture, Forestry, & Veterinary Medicine (DAFVM).

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