When you think of agronomy, what do you think? Principal Crop Scientist Kofi Dzotsi is hoping to expand people’s perception of what agronomy means. At CIBO Technologies, Kofi is helping to validate existing crop models and to develop new ones. This work involves a multi-disciplinary approach that brings together methods developed across STEM fields.
What brought you to CIBO?
“It was CIBO’s technology. CIBO’s crop modeling platform includes models whose development started at Michigan State University. The company is truly a knowledge hub, continuously building upon scientific research it conducts over time to address real-world problems. I knew CIBO’s platform was a powerful piece of science and engineering, and there is a wide range of applications that can be based on it. I joined CIBO because I believe there are lots of things I can offer to make this technology even better.”
What is one thing that would surprise people about your field of work in agriculture/data?
“One thing that surprises people is the number of advanced mathematical, statistical, and systems analysis methods that have been adapted to agricultural sciences. Agriculture has not been traditionally a maths-oriented field. However, methods developed in other disciplines (e.g., biology or engineering) have been adopted by a certain group of scientists to make agricultural decision-making more efficient. When most folks think of agriculture, they imagine soil science or crop science, but actually, there is much more to the field. Mathematical modeling, for example, is widely used in agricultural sciences to support decision making.”
How did you get into your line of work?
“It was during my last year at the School of Agronomy in Togo, West Africa that I became interested in crop modeling. I attended a seminar on systems dynamics during which the speaker demonstrated a different perspective on analyzing crop growth using simulations—that was very different from what is usually done in traditional agronomy. The speaker explained how systems analysis methods developed in industrial engineering could be applied to agricultural systems to enhance the decision-making process. By considering crop growth, for example, as occurring in a system and placing the problem to solve at the center of the system, one can develop multi-disciplinary solutions using simulation models as tools. I was fascinated by this approach and decided to continue my studies in systems analysis and crop modeling.”
What are your primary responsibilities at CIBO?
“I contribute to the development of new crop models, along with testing and validation of existing crop models. My work involves expanding the capabilities of our crop models to include other data science techniques. I help make the crop model outputs more useful to our customers.”
What is your most memorable moment at work?
“My favorite times at work are when I get together with other colleagues from different backgrounds to work on projects. We dig deep into solutions and try to find the best and practical ones. I love deep scientific curiosity. Once you start digging into details, you can find things you don’t expect. I love doing that. It keeps the scientific curiosity alive. Working with people with different backgrounds gives you the opportunity to hear different points of view and try methods you may not have thought of on your own.”
“You don’t always find this level of scientific curiosity and collegiality at other companies. CIBO encourages employees to deep dive into issues and find impactful solutions.”
What do you find most rewarding about your work here?
“I get to work on the most pressing issues in agriculture of our time and collaborate with very clever people from diverse backgrounds and points of view. It’s rewarding because sometimes you see problems or solutions only from your perspective. Someone who brings a different perspective to an issue can help you learn from their expertise—and broaden your views.”
What kinds of things do you think we should be doing to encourage more people to pursue a career in science?
“I think Universities should offer courses that prepare students for careers that aren’t necessarily academic. A significant proportion of students in the agricultural sciences may not want to stay in academia—they might be interested in a career in the private sector, for example. The jump from school with a degree in science to a non-academic environment is not trivial. Helping students bridge that gap very early on would go a long way.”
What advice would you give to young people interested in a career in science?
“It’s a common perception that science is very abstract and theoretical. Students might think that pursuing a career in science outside of academia is hard—but this is not necessarily true.”
“I think it would be useful for young people interested in a career in science to do an internship with a company that they like. It’s important to read job descriptions to get a feel for the kind of positions available, the kind of skills companies are looking for, or even unresolved issues they might want to tackle through entrepreneurship—all these while still in school. They can then re-shape their academic programs to suit the current requirements of the job market better.”
What are your hobbies and do they influence your work?
“In my spare time, I enjoy going for runs and pretending like I’m preparing for marathons. I also love reading popular science books because they help me learn techniques to distill science into easy-to-understand and interesting stories.”
What do you hope to see in your field in the next 10 years?
“The digital ag sector is slowly emerging. While the ag sector is a bit resistant to new technologies, I hope to see a high adoption rate of these technologies in the near future. I want the agriculture sector to accelerate its transition to the digital age and catch up with other industries.”
Why are you excited about CIBO?
“In terms of the digital ag sector that CIBO is part of, I believe one hundred percent in the company. I think CIBO has the best technologies, the best platform, and the right strategy. This combination really gets me excited!”
Do you want to join the CIBO Technologies team? Browse and apply for open roles at https://www.cibotechnologies.com/careers/
About Kofi Dzotsi
Kofi Dzotsi is a Principal Crop Scientist at CIBO Technologies, a science-driven software startup. Prior to CIBO, he worked for The Climate Corporation as a crop simulation modeler and quantitative researcher. He holds a degree in agricultural engineering and agronomy from the University of Lomé along with an MS and Ph.D. in agricultural and biological engineering from the University of Florida.