The Biological and Agricultural Engineering (BAE) department at UC Davis is part of both the College of Engineering and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. BAE integrates engineering principles with biological systems for research and education in the production, distribution and processing of biological products. The department research and educational programs focus on agricultural, aquaculture, bioenvironmental, bioinstrumentation, biomechanics, energy systems, food, forest, fiber and postharvest engineering.

Department Mission Statement

"The Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering is dedicated to the advancement of the discipline of biological engineering and to the conduct of research under its many diverse areas of application. Biological engineering or biological systems engineering is the biology-based engineering discipline that integrates life sciences with engineering in the advancement and application of fundamental concepts of biological systems from molecular to ecosystem levels. Within this discipline, our faculty members work in a range of research areas including biotechnology engineering, agricultural and natural resources engineering, and food engineering.” (2019)

Degrees Offered

The BAE department offers six undergraduate and graduate degrees in Biological Systems Engineering (EBS), including BS (Bachelors of Science), BS-MS integrated program , MS (Masters of Science), ME (Masters of Engineering), PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), and DE (Doctor of Engineering). The undergraduate program in Biological Systems Engineering is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET). Coursework and research is often seen as an integration of many other engineering disciplines such as civil engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and chemical engineering, with an emphasis towards utilization with biological systems.

Students can specialize in one of the three areas of excellence or create their own:

     1) Biotechnology Engineering

     2) Agricultural and Natural Resources Engineering

     3) Food Engineering.   

The department also offers minors in the areas of:

Department History

The department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering saw its foundations in the turn of the century at UC Davis as the agricultural extension of UC Berkeley. In 1901, the division of irrigation engineering was developed within the College of Agriculture under the Farm Mechanics program at UC Davis. This division specialized in areas known today as civil engineering, as it focused on water pumping and transport as well as principals of mining engineering. Farm shop and forge work classes were taught in fall of 1909. By 1914, a farm tractor course was developed and faculty members from UC Berkeley travels to Davis to teach. Agricultural engineering as an independent discipline wasn't officially established in the United States until 1907, when the American Society of Agricultural Engineers (Now the American Society of Biological and Agricultural Engineers) was established. In 1915, the University of California established the division of Agricultural Engineering to bring engineering research into the areas of farm mechanics. The division offered a two-year certificate program in the field.

The first engineering building on campus, Walker Hall, was constructed in 1917 to aid in the teaching of Agricultural Engineering. Classes included areas such as farm carpentry, farm mechanics, agronomy, and farm practices. In 1926, an Agricultural Engineering specialization was added to the Mechanical Engineering BS and MS degree levels from students within the College of Mechanics at UC Berkeley. This specialization required a transfer of students at the end of their junior and senior years for a six-week summer session taught at Davis. 

As head of the division, Roy Bainer helped found the department of Agricultural Engineering in 1951, followed by the development of the College of Engineering in 1962 with specializations in Agricultural Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. In the late 1960's the development of the Blackwater Tomato Harvester at UC Davis helped promote the California tomato industry while showing the importance of research and development in agricultural engineering. In 1969, the Food Engineering program was developed in conjunction with the department of Agricultural Engineering and Food Science & Technology.

Throughout the 1970's till the 1990's a wide range of new research fields were being investigated such as aquaculture, ecology, and forestry. The boom in biotechnology and these newer, more biological areas of agricultural engineering led the department to change its name to include biological engineering as the department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering in 1992. This led the department restructured its Agricultural Engineering program to Biological Systems Engineering. Up until 2011, Biological Systems Engineering was the sole biological engineering major on campus. This encompassed the areas of agricultural engineering, aquacultural engineering, biotechnical engineering, ecological systems engineering, food engineering, forest engineering, and premed/biomedical engineering. The introduction of Biomedical Engineering in 2011 refocused the department to teach less in the medical areas. The university also added two addition majors related to the concentrations within Biological Systems Engineering since then: Biochemical Engineering in 2013 and Environmental Engineering in 2018. 

Department Contacts

Department Student Affairs Officer: Sam Arcement  (

Department Chair:  Professor Bryan Jenkins (

Department Master Undergraduate Advisor: Professor Tina Jeoh (

Department Graduate Admissions Advisor: Professor Julia Fan (

Department Graduate Advisor: Professor Ruihong Zhang (

The department’s office is located in 2030 Bainer Hall.. Voice: (530) 752-0102

Notable Alumni

Robert B. Fridley - Pioneer in the field of mechanized harvesting of tree fruits and nuts, developed the first tree shaking systems for harvestingelected to the National Academy of Engineering

Bryan M Jenkins -  Distinguished professor

David S Slaughter -  Distinguished professor

Distinguished Faculty

William J Chancellor - Pioneer in the areas of soils, tillage, and traction as well as international agriculture. Developed the first computerized Agricultural Engineering Index and was, elected to the National Academy of Engineering

Roy Bainer - Founder of the UC Davis College of Engineering, president of ASAE/ASABE

Robert B. Fridley

D Ken Giles - Pioneer in agricultural spray systems, developed control systems for sprayers

Clarence F. Kelly - Expert in the field of animal environments and microclimatology, elected to the National Academy of Engineering

R Paul Singh - Pioneer in the field of food engineering, elected to the National Academy of Engineering

Harry B. Walker - Cutting edge researcher in agricultural mechanization, head of BAE department.

Notable Achievements

  • 1915 - Formation of the Agricultural Engineering program at Davis, making it one of the first in the nation
  • 1924 -  Establishment of the California Committee on the Relation of Electricity to Agriculture (CREA)
  • 1949 - Invention of the UC Blackwelder Tomato Harvester that drove the California tomato industry in the 1960's
  • 1952 - Publication of Tractors and Their Power Units as part of the first textbooks in Agricultural Engineering through Ferguson Agricultural Engineering series
  • 1955 - Publication of Principles of Farm Machinery and Agricultural Process Engineering by as part of the first textbooks in Agricultural Engineering through Ferguson Agricultural Engineering series
  • 1956 - Design of the first rollover protective structures (ROPS) for tractors
  • 1959 - First commercial testing of the Blackwelder Tomato Harvester in Clarksburg CA
  • 1959 - First publication to quantify spray drift and develop a predictive model 
  • 1960 - Predictive model for reentry prediction on Satellite 1958 d2 developed and used on Sputnik IV
  • 1961 - Farm Building Design published
  • 1962 - Establishment of the College of Engineering
  • 1965 - Patent issued for the UC Blackwelder Tomato Harvester
  • 1974 - Landmark study of energy use in agriculture published
  • 1974 - Publication of The Use of Aircraft in Agriculture
  • 1976 - Publication of Elements of Food Engineering
  • 1981 - Patent issued for squid cleaning machine that revolutionized squid processing by
  • 1984 - Publication of Introduction to Food Engineering that became the standard in food engineering.
  • 1988 - First pulse-width modulated spray control system for agricultural spraying developed
  • 1995 - Advances in Soil Dynamics volume I published
  • 1995 - First GPS controlled spray drift reduction system developed
  • 1999 - Implementation of one of the first remotely-operated lab experiments in food engineering
  • 2002 - Advances in Soil Dynamics volume II published
  • 2002 - Patent for biogasification of agricultural waste through anaerobic digestion filed 
  • 2003 - Establishment of California Biomass Collaborative
  • 2006 - Prototype fruit and vegetable harvester developed for NASA for a manned mission to Mars
  • 2009 - Advances in Soil Dynamics volume III published
  • 2011 - Patent for novel system for producting Cross-Linked Alginate Microcapsules (CLAMs)
  • 2012 - First GPS controlled weeding system developed
  • 2013 - First application of aerial spray from drones onto crops  done in the United States
  • 2018 - Smart Farm developed to lead research into agricultural automation

The department computer lab is located in 3026 Bainer Hall