Even though George Vellidis of Tifton has made numerous impactful discoveries in precision agriculture, he remains ambitious to advance his research program. His next goal is to impact how farmers are using irrigation. (Special Photo)
TIFTON — George Vellidis has been fascinated by agricultural engineering since he was a high school student in Thessaloniki, Greece. As a professor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in Tifton, Vellidis is living out his childhood passion every day.
Vellidis, who has called the Tifton campus home since 1989, focuses his research primarily on precision agriculture since the mid 1990’s.
“It’s really gratifying to see the work that we’ve done over the past 20 years being adopted by farmers because it allows the farmer to become more efficient and stay profitable,” Vellidis said. “Seeing the transition from purely research to now knowledge being used in the industry is very rewarding.”
As a precision agriculture expert, Vellidis tries to understand the natural variability that occurs in crop fields. He is currently researching how to help farmers better measure soil moisture in their fields which will then allow them to modify their irrigation systems. This process will help optimize water use efficiently and aid in conservation.
“I love my job because I’m working to solve real problems that farmers are going to encounter, consumers are going to be concerned about and what environmentalists are already worried about,” Vellidis said.
After solving a problem, it is also Vellidis’ responsibility to relay answers to both the scientific community and the ag community so the new information can be applied. With the help of his students and colleagues, Vellidis has produced 236 publications and conducted workshops on precision agriculture in the United States and Europe.
Even though Vellidis has made numerous impactful discoveries in precision agriculture, he remains ambitious to advance his research program.
“I think my future goal is to make a significant impact in how farmers are using irrigation and to help them reduce their water footprint as much as possible,” Vellidis said.
During fall semesters, Vellidis steps back from his research responsibilities and shares his knowledge with college students. He teaches precision agriculture courses on the UGA Tifton campus and, as extra credit, his students can create a corn maze using global positioning systems and other sophisticated software.
“It’s a great thing to see the students appreciate the technology that they’ve heard about,” Vellidis said. “You see their eyes open up with excitement when they realize, ‘Hey, I can really do this. I can go out here and use all of this technology.’”
Aside from those enrolled in his fall courses in Tifton, Vellidis also enlightens international precision agriculture students through the Trans-Atlantic Precision Agriculture Consortium. TAPAC is an exchange program that sends students from UGA, The University of Mississippi and Auburn University to European colleges. In turn, European students travel to the U.S. to study in those same three American colleges. The program recently evolved from focusing on undergraduate students to also include graduate students who want to travel abroad to work on their thesis research.
For more information about Vellidis and his research at UGA, see the website http://vellidis.org.
Sarah Turner is with the University of Georgia’s College of Environmental Sciences in Tifton.