What led you to agriculture?
When I was young, I hiked with a group of hikers in the city I grew up. The group leader pointed to a plant called Chromolaena odorata and said something like, “have you ever noticed the invasive species all over the mountain. It costs a lot of money to control them. You should study how to handle it. It will make an impact.” What he said planted a seed in my head, and eventually, I chose agriculture and study plants.
What is your favorite thing about focusing on agronomy?
Make an impact on people’s daily life. Everyone has to eat. Think about the job I get involved in, which can help provide enough food to people’s tables or help growers grow food sustainably, which motivated me to focus on agronomy.
What is one thing that would surprise people about your field of work?
Growers’ work is hard to do. They need to make many operation decisions daily, and each decision may affect their end-of-year profit. As a quantitative agricultural scientist, providing some sort of solution for growers to better the farming practice means I need to find out and understand something which growers may not be aware of on their farm fields, and present the solution to the growers. This process can be challenging but fulfilling when I help the growers solve the problems.
What kinds of things do you think we should be doing to encourage more people to pursue a career in science?
I think it is important to understand we live in a world that is strongly influenced and governed by physics and mathematics. And we try to explain and improve this world with more and more data we acquired using physics and math principles. To understand how to improve the world, we need to understand how the world works; to understand how the world works, we need to learn the languages of physics and math, which are numbers, coding, computer science, and data science, etc. I believe helping more people realize there is a necessity to be familiar with how to use those tools to see through and navigate the world, the more people will start to pursue a career in science.
What brought you to CIBO?
My background is crop modeling, and I always want to find a group to work with that has a strong focus on crop modeling and emphasizes data science. So when I saw some very talented crop modelers in my industry join CIBO, I started to realize CIBO is the place I have been looking to join.
What are your primary responsibilities at CIBO?
My primary responsibilities in CIBO include collecting agronomic data from various academic or industry sources to validate the SALUS model, and later on, helping with model development.
What do you find the most rewarding about your work here?
Working at CIBO provides me the opportunity to work with some of the most talented colleagues in crop modeling, data science, computer vision, and computer science to solve tough agricultural problems, while with a very supportive environment where everyone helps each other and works as a team to achieve the same goal.
About James Han
James Han is a Quantitative Agricultural Scientist at CIBO, a science-driven software startup. Prior to CIBO, he worked in data science for Lindsay Corporation, Monsanto Corporation, DuPont Pioneer, and Climate Corporation. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Plant Protection and Integrated Pest Management from the South China University of Tropical Agriculture, an MS in Grassland Science from the South China Agricultural University, along with an MS and Ph.D. in Agronomy from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.