Why you want a CS + Agriculture degree

4/1/2024 Kavya Puranam

Written by Kavya Puranam

CS + X series by Women in Computer Science at Illinois

Innovating Agriculture Using the Power of Programming

As we look to feed a growing global population, the intersection of technology and agriculture has become more important than ever. Climate change is predicted to be detrimental to food production. With crops failing and animals not getting the care they need, the world depends on people who care to step in and find solutions. The seemingly opposing fields of cutting-edge technology and age-old agriculture techniques can be combined at the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences (ACES).

Are you excited by both technology and nature? Do you have an innovative spirit and care about improving the environment? If so, these majors offer a unique opportunity to blend your interests and make a difference in the world! Let’s look at the intersection of Computer Science and Crop Sciences and Computer Science and animal Sciences.

What does CS + Crop Sciences mean?

CS + Crop Science closes the gap between agriculture and technology by creating a program to teach students to understand and apply tools to both. Students can analyze and visualize crop data such as soil health, water, weather, and pests by taking the courses offered in this major. Students start by taking introductory Computer Science and crop science courses. After a background in crop science has been established, students learn applications of technology in crop science in Applied Statistical Methods 1 (CPSC 440) and Introduction to Spatial Analytics (CPSC 444). These courses teach additional programming languages, such as R, for data visualization.

What does CS + Animal Sciences mean?

CS + Animal Sciences is a unique major that prepares students to learn about technology and animal sciences. This combination teaches students about sensor technology, data analysis, and predictive analytics to improve the well-being of animals. Students can explore animal sciences in depth by choosing higher-level electives in applied and basic animal sciences. One set of courses focuses on human and animal interactions, and the other focuses on the genetics and biology of animals. These courses aim to equip students with a good understanding of animal science to apply technology to problems facing the industry.

Undergraduate Research

CS + Crop Science

As a CS + Crop Sciences student, I had an opportunity to explore crop sciences-related interests through research with the Department of Crop Science. I worked in a “wet lab,” where I tested and analyzed bacteria and other chemicals for plant pathology. I have also had the opportunity to try computer-assisted experiments using MATLAB to analyze photographs of infected pumpkins. Through both of these experiences, I learned skills for both parts of my major. Many more interesting experiments are occurring at the Department of Crop Science, and they are always open to having freshmen join and learn more! Some labs require CS skills doing research with drones and field robots. With a background in agriculture and programming, students can work on digital agriculture and use cutting-edge technology to work on making agriculture sustainable. Learn more about the Center of Digital Agriculture here.

CS + Animal Sciences

CS + Animal Sciences also has unique opportunities to get involved in research! To better understand diseases commonly affecting animals and animal physiology, the Department of Animal Science participates in innovative research on data analysis and statistical genomics. Students can also work with sensor technology and machine learning to understand animal behavior patterns and find solutions for animal management. Explore research labs in the Center of Digital Agriculture and the Department of Animal Sciences to learn more about what innovations CS + Animal Sciences students can work on.


ACES scholarships are known to be very generous due to the numerous alumni, corporate partners, and supporters. CS + Crop Sciences also benefits from the special Climate Corporation Scholarship awarded to those pursuing a CS + Crop Sciences Degree. This scholarship is the first to award students for pursuing a CS+X major. The Climate Corporation awards $1,000 in the first year and up to $10,000 for those who maintain a 3.4 GPA or higher in later years. By awarding this scholarship, The Climate Corporation hopes to encourage students to work with innovative technology for agricultural companies in the future.

Future Prospects

A degree in either CS + Animal Sciences or CS + Crop Sciences opens numerous possibilities for a student’s future. One field you can venture into is Bioinformatics, as you can use plant and animal biology basics to analyze and interpret biological data. Similarly, those who pursue these majors can go into Data Analytics and Biotechnology. The application of what you learn in this major is endless! It does not limit you in any way to topics in agriculture either. There isn’t much data on where students work after graduation because these programs are only a few years old. However, there are several companies that students are well-equipped to work with. Some of the biggest agricultural companies, such as John Deere, Bayer (Climate Corp), Cargill, Corteva, and Tyson, actively seek out people in these majors because they are the most prepared for issues facing the Agricultural industry.

While on the surface, CS + Crop Sciences and CS + Animal Sciences seem like two very different subjects, together, they answer intriguing questions about the natural world and how to find solutions to pressing environmental issues. By combining a passion for Computer Science with the fields of Crop Science and Animal Science, students will be equipped with the tools to create meaningful change on a global scale.

Interested in learning more? Check out these resources:

Articles courtesy of the Illinois Women in Computer Science student group at The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

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This story was published April 1, 2024.