Symposium & matchmaking (Feb 24, 2021)

On Wednesday February 24, 2021, Plant-RX, Plantum and the TKI Horticulture and Starting Materials organized an online symposium.

Plant-RX is a national initiative in the Netherlands to establish a long-term research program on plant resilience. The use of resilient crops is an important cornerstone for sustainable agriculture. Resilient plant varieties are able to continue productivity even when challenged with unfavorable and fluctuating environmental conditions or plant diseases.

The complexity of plant resilience severely hinders fundamental understanding, and also limits practical application in crop breeding. A powerful new scientific approach is needed to unravel the mechanisms underlying resilience, their potential trade-offs and their effects on agronomically relevant traits. The challenge is the translation of big data obtained in large-scale experiments to understanding the biology of resilience, a major gap that Plant-RX envisions to close. For this, a novel systems approach will be developed to link data analysis and bioinformatics to mechanistic modeling using machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) approaches.

Through this symposium participants were given a view of the state-of-the-art of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in plant science and breeding, and informed about new developments, pitfalls and limitations, and opportunities.

The symposium was followed by a matchmaking meeting for the Plant-RX initiative, (see below the program for more details).

13.00 h Welcome and opening by Guido Van den Ackerveken (Utrecht University)
13.05 h Dick de Ridder/Aalt-Jan van Dijk (Wageningen University):
“The challenge of large and complex data sets” (pdf of ppt, link to recent review)
13.20 h Klaas Vandepoele (VIB, Ghent, Belgium)
“Unravelling transcription factor functions through integrative inference of transcriptional networks in Arabidopsis” (pdf of ppt)
13.45 h Richard Morris (JIC, Norwich, UK)
“Opportunities and Challenges for AI in Plant Biology – two unfinished stories” (pdf of ppt)
14.10 h Break
14.20 h Edward Buckler (USDA & Cornell University, USA)
“AI and ML in Plant breeding 4.0”   (previous presentations on Youtube on breeding perspectives& breeding 4.0)
14.45 h Jeroen de Ridder (University Medical Center Utrecht)
“Machine learning advances in medicine” (link to relevant papers 1, and 2)
15.10 h Outlook by Kisten ten Tusscher (Utrecht University) and Roeland van Ham (Keygene, Wageningen)
15.25 h Closing of meeting
15.30 h Introduction of Plant-RX (pdf of ppt) and matchmaking sessions
15.45 h Start of breakout sessions
17.00 h End of matchmaking Plant-RX

Matchmaking sessions 15.30 – 17.00 h

The matchmaking sessions brought together principal investigators and representatives of companies that have potential interest to participate in the Plant-RX consortium. Each session was focused on a moderated group discussion on resilience and trade off challenges in specific crop groups and was hosted and moderated by a trio of a plant scientist, a data/ai scientist and a private sector representative.

The three breakout sessions were:

  • Vegetable crops
  • Potato and other arable crops
  • Flowers and Ornamentals