Center for Digital Agriculture

Meet Christina Tucker

Meet Christina Tucker, CDA’s Director of Operations and Associate Director of Education! She brings over a decade of experience and expertise to the table, helping our center continue to transform how we feed and support a growing global population through collaboration, innovation, and technology.

For the last several years, she has served as the Assistant Director of Education for CDA and AIFARMS. She is also an instructor in the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences’ Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at the U. of I. Read on to learn more about her work, leadership goals, and interests.

As our population grows, the advancements needed to feed the world on the same or less land are critical. CDA plays an influential role in this space for research and education. After being involved in the center’s educational activities for the last two years, I’m excited to take the next step and get more involved with the overall vision of the center. The multidisciplinary approach of CDA and the success of these academic and industry partnerships will be vital to feeding the world sustainably for years to come.

I grew up on a beef and tobacco farm in central Kentucky. All of my degrees specialize in Agriculture and Biological Engineering. I was exposed to this field early on as five of my aunts, uncles, and cousins completed the program at the University of Kentucky, where I, too, received my BS and MS degrees. This degree is a great combination of my love for agriculture and my passion for problem-solving. In 2020, I received my PhD from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

I’ve always had a knack for innovation as well. I spent my undergraduate career heavily involved in the ASABE ¼ Scale Tractor Team – serving as team captain for two years and co-advising the winning team in 2012. I learned a lot from this experience, including working on and being a part of multidisciplinary teams and project management. I’ve also participated in the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program, an entrepreneurial training program for people in academia focusing on customer discovery, translating technologies, and many other skills I can apply to this position.

I’m very proud of our progress in educational activities over the last two years, from launching the first 100% online Master of Engineering in Digital Agriculture program to growing our Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. I helped write a grant to secure the NSF REU site to support ten students a year, and we have additional grants pending to continue to grow the program. In addition, we have also increased our reach with recruitment for the REU program, built partnerships with new MSIs, and expanded our collaboration with Tuskegee University.

I want to increase active participation among CDA faculty affiliates and help support them in developing new grant proposals that further build on CDA focus areas. I plan to continue my work in the education realm, including the new Digital Ag in a Box project, the AI Foundry, M.Eng in Digital Ag, and the REU program. I want to continue to expand our recruitment and outreach efforts for these programs and grow our partnerships with MSIs across the country – we have current REU collaborations with HBCUs and an HSI. Next, I would like to form a new collaborative partnership with a Tribal Serving Institution (TSI).

I’ve been involved with the ETMA 311 Humanities in the Food Web course for several years, first as a teaching assistant and now as an instructor. ETMA 311 is an advanced composition gen ed. The Humanities in the Food Web course explores how we feed our growing global appetite for food, fuel, and fiber without becoming trapped in a web of unintended consequences. Students have to take a systems approach to write a research paper about a problem in the human food web and develop a solution to the problem. The topics covered in this class intertwine with CDA’s research activities and attract students from across campus. I also teach an Intro to AutoCAD class in the ETMA curriculum.

I enjoy cooking new recipes, smoking meat in my pellet smoker, gardening, and canning food I grow. My husband and I consider ourselves foodies, and our travels tend to center around food. When traveling, we like to find the places the locals eat, the top BBQ places, and the top donut places to try out in that area. I have a flock of 22 backyard chickens and growing that I love to show off! I have equipped my coop with cameras to watch them from my phone

I would like to visit all 50 states and eventually own a farm with cows, chickens, a donkey, and goats.

As cliche as it is, my mom is my hero. My dad worked off the farm, and my mom stayed home to raise us kids and care for the farm. She led the day-to-day operations, including managing the cattle, while Dad managed growing the hay and tobacco outside his full-time job. The number of women leading farms today has grown tremendously, but it was an even more male-dominated field when I was a kid. I’ve always been proud of her – she even provides consultation and advice on cattle to several local farmers. She has always been my number-one supporter.

I have three cats who love to join my Zoom meetings and be the stars of the show. Being from KY, I appreciate a good bourbon. I carry on the family tradition every year and make 12 different homemade candies for the winter holidays.