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Experimental Smart Farm (ESF) Project Scientist (Assistant Project Scientist, Step 1)

Position overview

Position title: Experimental Smart Farm (ESF) Project Scientist
Salary range: See Table 38B for the salary range for this position. A reasonable estimate for this position is $90,500.
Percent time: 100%
Anticipated start: October 1, 2023
Position duration: 1 year renewable

Application Window

Open date: September 7, 2023

Most recent review date: Friday, Sep 15, 2023 at 11:59pm (Pacific Time)
Applications received after this date will be reviewed by the search committee if the position has not yet been filled.

Final date: Friday, Aug 30, 2024 at 11:59pm (Pacific Time)
Applications will continue to be accepted until this date, but those received after the review date will only be considered if the position has not yet been filled.

Position description

The UC Merced Experimental Smart Farm (ESF) is a foundational implementation of the University of California Agricultural Experiment Station. The ESF is aimed at integrating cutting-edge technologies in agriculture such as Internet of Things, robotics, drones, and AI with sustainable agricultural practices. The facility serves as a model for scalable and replicable farming solutions. ESF focuses on three core pillars: Research, Education, and Extension. It aims to facilitate interdisciplinary research, provide educational opportunities, and extend the benefits of innovation to marginalized communities through the concept of inclusive innovation.
The primary research objectives of the Experimental Smart Farm (ESF) are to create a convergence hub that integrates advanced technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, drones, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) with sustainable agricultural practices. The farm aims to address the intertwined challenges of food, energy, and water systems (FEWS) in the context of climate change and social justice. Research at ESF is designed to be multi-disciplinary, focusing on areas like climate resilience, environmental sustainability, worker equity, and the future of work in agriculture. Through continuous monitoring and data-driven approaches, ESF seeks to advance research in technology and automation, water management, soil quality, and nutrient management
Inaugural Research Areas
• Monitoring and Modeling: The ESF will continuously monitor environmental conditions, agricultural inputs and outputs, water and energy states, and human and machine work. It will also integrate these observations for whole-farm behavior assessment.
• Agroecology: Research will focus on farm boundaries and interfaces with natural and engineered landscapes, including topics like pollinator habitat, evapotranspiration, and biodiversity.
• Future of Work: The ESF aims to connect smart technology and data fusion to critical job skills and future workforce structure, creating a knowledge and skill supply chain model.
The ESF aims to be an inclusive innovation hub, focusing not just on high-tech solutions but also on solutions that are affordable, appropriately scaled, and accessible to the community it serves. It will engage with a diverse range of partners, including small-to-medium farm producers, to co-develop sectoral innovations that are both accessible and inclusive. Through entities like VISTA F3, the ESF will facilitate cluster development and joint farmer-academic research, reflecting the diversity of its partners. It will also focus on talent development, ensuring that all communities are able to participate in the opportunities it creates.
Inclusive Innovation in Practice:
• Diverse Partnerships: The ESF will embrace the diversity of more than 4,500 small-to-medium farm producers in the region to help identify food system challenges and potential solutions. These practitioners are early adopters in sustainable and regenerative practices, fill critical gaps in food security, provide regional jobs, and are embedded in the local economy.
• Cluster Building and Innovation Capacity: the position will work with VISTA F3 to facilitate joint farmer-academic research and advance the educational, scientific, and economic development goals of F3 to improve the quality of life in Central Valley communities.
• Talent Development: the position will help VISTA F3 use the ESF to foster student engagement relevant to the broader mission of training generation of leaders.
The ESF Project Scientist plays a pivotal role in fostering collaborative research projects with faculty members across various disciplines. Leveraging the farm's unique infrastructure and data capabilities, the project scientist helps faculty to conceptualize, design, and implement research projects that align with ESF's overarching goals of sustainable agriculture, climate resilience, and inclusive innovation. One of the key responsibilities includes identifying potential funding sources to support these research endeavors. The project scientist actively engages with faculty to prepare grant proposals, leveraging the farm's multi-disciplinary focus to secure funding from diverse channels such as governmental agencies, industry partners, and academic grants. Through a well-structured seed fund program and potential backing from agencies like the NSF, the project scientist ensures that faculty have the financial resources needed to carry out groundbreaking research. This symbiotic relationship not only enriches the academic portfolio of the faculty but also significantly contributes to achieving the ESF's mission of creating a sustainable and inclusive agricultural ecosystem.
• Fostering Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Facilitate the development of interdisciplinary research projects by connecting faculty from various departments such as Agricultural Engineering, Environmental Science, Computer Science, and Social Sciences. The aim is to create research teams that can holistically address the complex challenges of sustainable agriculture, climate resilience, and social equity.

• Grant Acquisition and Funding Support: Actively identify and pursue diverse funding opportunities to support faculty-led research projects. This involves preparing compelling grant proposals, facilitate collaborations with internal and external stakeholders, and managing the application process to secure financial backing from governmental agencies, industry partners, and academic grants.

• Project Implementation and Oversight: Provide the necessary resources and support for the successful implementation of faculty-led research projects. This includes ensuring compliance with regulatory standards, facilitating access to ESF's unique infrastructure and data capabilities, and offering project management expertise to ensure that research objectives are met within the stipulated timelines and budgets.
Job Overview:
The ESF Project Scientist will play a critical role in overseeing the research activities, managing the team, and ensuring the project's success. The project scientist will work closely with multiple stakeholders, including farmers, researchers, technology providers, and governmental agencies. The role requires a unique blend of expertise in agriculture, technology, and project management, with a focus on funding acquisition and regulatory compliance.

Research Facilitation (40% Effort)
• Oversee the integration of technology into sustainable farming practices.
• Facilitate interdisciplinary research activities.
• Ensure data collection, analysis, and interpretation align with project goals.
• Facilitate collaborations with external research organizations and technology providers.
Extension and Community Outreach (20% Effort)
• Promote "inclusive innovation" to ensure the benefits of the project reach marginalized communities.
• Develop and implement community outreach programs.
• Liaise with local and governmental agencies to extend the impact of ESF.
Educational Initiatives (15% Effort)
• Develop and implement educational programs related to sustainable agriculture and technology.
• Engage with academic institutions to integrate ESF research into curricula.
• Organize workshops, seminars, and training programs.
Funding and Compliance (15% Effort)
• Identify and apply for research grants and funding opportunities.
• Ensure compliance with regulatory standards and ethical guidelines.
• Manage the project budget and financial reporting.
Team Management and Stakeholder Engagement (10% Effort)
• Manage a multidisciplinary team of researchers, technologists, and farmers.
• Liaise with stakeholders, including technology providers, government agencies, and local communities.


Basic qualifications

• Ph.D. in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering or related field.
• Expertise in water management, soil quality, and nutrient management.
• Strong skills in data visualization and processing, preferably with R.
• Experience in managing multi-disciplinary projects.
• Strong publication record in peer-reviewed journals.
• Commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Preferred qualifications

• Experience in Geospatial Analysis, Cyberphysical Systems, and Environmental Monitoring in the context of agriculture.
• Strong communication skills for stakeholder engagement.
• Experience in extension activities and community outreach.

Application Requirements

Document requirements
  • Curriculum Vitae - Your most recently updated C.V.

  • Cover Letter

  • Research Statement

  • Diversity Statement

Reference requirements
  • 3 required (contact information only)
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Campus Information

As a University employee, you will be required to comply with all applicable University policies and/or collective bargaining agreements, as may be amended from time to time. Federal, state, or local government directives may impose additional requirements. This includes the University of California Policy on Vaccination Programs:

The University of California is an Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer and invites applications from all qualified applicants, including women, minorities, veterans, and individual with disabilities, who will enrich the teaching, research and public service missions of the university. All qualified applicants will be considered for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, age or protected veteran status. For the complete University of California nondiscrimination and affirmative action policy, see: UC Nondiscrimination & Affirmative Action Policy (

The University of California, Merced, is the newest of the University of California system’s 10 campuses. With over 9,000 undergraduate and graduate students (, UC Merced provides outstanding educational opportunities to highly qualified students from the heart of California, the nation, and abroad. The campus has special connections to nearby Yosemite National Park; is on the cutting edge of sustainability in construction and design; and supports the economic development of Central California. The Merced 2020 Project doubled the physical capacity of the campus, and enhanced academic distinction, student success, and research excellence (

UC Merced is a smoke & tobacco free campus (

Job location

Merced, CA