New faculty profile: Zhou Zhang focuses on artificial intelligence to support sustainable agriculture

Zhou Zhang joined the Department of Biological Systems Engineering as an assistant professor in March 2019.

What is your educational/professional background?
I grew up in Tianjin in Northern China and attended Beihang University in Beijing earning a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering and master’s degree in Instrumentation Engineering. I obtained my Ph.D. degree in 2017 in Civil Engineering at Purdue University. Before joining UW–Madison, I was a postdoctoral scholar at University of California, Davis.

How did you get into your field of research?
I like coding and playing with data, and I am passionate about using data science to solve agricultural problems.

What is the main goal of your current research program?
My main goal is to use artificial intelligence (AI) techniques for sustainable agriculture. Specifically, I am 1) creating advances in remote sensing techniques to permit data acquisition from multi-sensors across multi-platforms, and 2) using data science techniques to analyze the “big data,” and 3) ultimately helping producers with decision-making tools, such as crop mapping, automated phenotyping and yield prediction. If you are interested in more details about my research, please refer to our lab website at

What attracted you to UW–Madison?
A highly reputed university and department of biological systems engineering; multi-disciplinary research environment; friendly people and a beautiful campus.

What was your first visit to campus like? What is your favorite campus spot?
I presented my research and exchanged ideas with different people. Also, I enjoyed the time at the Union Terrace with beer and ice cream. The Union Terrace is a great place.

What are you most enjoying so far about working here?
I enjoyed working and chatting with my colleagues inside and outside my department. They have helped me settle in and are always patient with my questions.

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? If so, please describe how.
My research focuses on using AI to help improve the sustainability aspects of agriculture. I am interested in combining the data science and advanced sensing techniques to create systems that make more efficient use of farm inputs, leading to improved agricultural productivity and environmental quality.

What’s something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter at parties?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) will help farmers make the most of every acre.

What are your hobbies/other interests?
Biking and traveling.