SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – South Dakota’s soybean growers take the challenge of helping to feed a growing global population seriously. The organization sees the advancement of precision agriculture key to increasing food production and protecting the environment while sustainably managing resources.
“Looking at the big picture, precision agriculture is the answer,” says Jerry Schmitz, a Vermillion farmer and SDSA President. “New technologies help a decreasing number of growers maximize production of crops and livestock on fewer acres, while at the same time protecting and preserving precious resources for future generations.”
To advance innovation, research, outreach and education in the field of precision agriculture, South Dakota State University became the first land grant in the nation to offer a four-year Precision Agriculture major in 2016. Recently, the university launched a campaign to construct a $55 million Precision Agriculture Teaching and Research Facility.
To support SDSU, members of SDSA voted unanimously for the following resolution during their annual meeting: SDSA encourages the South Dakota Legislature and Board of Regents to advance the development of cutting-edge Precision Agriculture Technology programs and facilities at the state’s land-grant University.
“We value support from groups like the South Dakota Soybean Association,” says Bill Gibbons, Interim Associate Dean and Director of South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station. “This resolution shows that South Dakota’s producers are forward thinking and looking beyond next year’s profit and loss statement. These growers are thinking about their children and grandchildren’s ability to sustainably and profitably farm into the future.”
Designed to bring students, faculty and researchers from numerous departments within the University together under one roof, the modern Precision Agriculture Facility will drive integrated research, collaborative innovation and provide students with hands-on training.
“Basically, we are equipping students for the next decades of progress in agriculture technology. Our graduates will meet the grand challenges of food production and resource management,” says Daniel Scholl, Vice President of Research and Economic Development at SDSU.
SDSU’s commitment to precision agriculture is a direct response to industry demand, explains David Wright, Department Head of the Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science Department.
“Our vision is to train agronomists who not only understand the science and challenges of growing crops, but also how to help farmers implement and maximize precision agriculture technology,” Wright explains.
When designing the Precision Agriculture major, the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences took a highly collaborative approach, working with colleagues in the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering to develop a degree that spans several disciplines. Within the classrooms, laboratories and machine bays of the new Precision Agriculture Facility, students from the Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science Department will learn together with students from the Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering Department.
“Precision agriculture is multi-faceted – its benefits reach into every aspect of crop and livestock production, as well natural resource stewardship. Agriculture needs students with expertise in the fields of engineering, computer science and agronomy as well as a clear understanding of how these disciplines work together to create solutions that will maximize yields and profits on the farm,” says Van Kelley, Department Head of the Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering Department. “This new facility will aid in our ability to work across departments and colleges.”
Students’ response to the new major was immediate, filling class sections. Industry response echoes students’ enthusiasm. A few days into the New Year, Raven Industries announced a $5 million donation to SDSU Precision Agriculture Teaching and Research Facility.
“This new facility is unlike any other in the U.S. It will aid SDSU in delivering a highly educated precision agriculture workforce to the region and beyond, who will support farmers in the use of technology today and into the future,” Wright says.
To learn more about how SDSA supports South Dakota’s soybean growers today and into the future, visit www.sdsoybean.org.