J. Mark Locklear


Mark Locklear is a Project Manager and Web Developer at the Extension Foundation and has 20 years of IT experience including network administration, quality assurance, and software development. He is an Adjunct Instructor at Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College and is passionate about education and teaching students software development.


ExtensionBot: A Domain Specific Generative AI Tool for the Cooperative Extension Service


The ExtensionBot project is a groundbreaking initiative of the Extension Foundation that harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to deliver trustworthy, research-based answers to the public, drawing upon the vast knowledge and expertise of the Cooperative Extension Service. By training a large language model exclusively on data provided by land grant research institutions, ExtensionBot ensures that its responses are grounded in reliable, verifiable information. Rather than being trained on the entire internet, ExtensionBot is trained on specific data sets from Land-Grant Universities. In this case the data are primarily agriculture related (horticulture, farming…ect). This presentation will provide an overview of the project’s goals, use cases, the technology behind ExtensionBot, and the collaborative efforts and challenges of obtaining data from universities. Attendees will learn how ExtensionBot aims to enhance the accessibility and reach of Cooperative Extension resources while maintaining the highest standards of accuracy and credibility.

A big part of this project is not just building the AI Tool (ExtensionBot) but the data gathering, curating and “data wrangling” for the data sets that ExtensionBot is being trained on. I will also talk about our efforts to work collaboratively with Research Universities to provide us data but also crawling university websites when universities were not able to provide data sets for us.

Details Introduction (10 minutes). History of the project, demo of ExtensionBot and the technology behind it. Data Sources (10 minutes). We believe the strength of the project is the data behind it. I will talk about how we are gathering data from research institutions both by working directly with University IT Staff, but also by implementing automated scripts to crawl sites. Implementation (10 minutes). Who its for and how/where its used and how it can be implemented. Future of the tool (5 minutes). Where we see the project going over the next 12-24 months. Conclusion and Questions (5 minutes).