The need for college agricultural precision ag degrees appears to be increasing rapidly as nearly every farming operation will have adopted some precision ag technology and use forms of global position equipment in the near future. The bigger farms have already adopted the technology. This is why education in precision ag is expanding, too.
The Ohio Board of Regents recently approved Clark State Community College’s Associate of Applied Science degree in precision agriculture, allowing the college to begin enrolling students to the two-year program and to start classes in August.
The associate degree is the first of its kind in the state of Ohio and one of about a dozen nationwide, as reported by Katie Wedell with the Dayton Daily News.
Growers need help similar to consumers who must have regular help and information for their home computers. Recommendations on what to buy, how to use equipment to its fullest ability, repairs of precision equipment and interpretation of data collected are just a few aspects of possible job responsibilities for precision ag college degree graduates.
“Clark State has positioned itself as the state leader in precision agriculture and will train the workforce that will transform farming in Ohio and beyond,” said Amit Singh, vice president of academic affairs at the college, as quoted by Wedell.
What seems a little unusual is that Clark State Community College is the first in Ohio when about 12 other programs have already been established in the nation. Ohio is recognized as a leading agricultural state. As noted by the Clark State President Jo Alice Blondin, one in seven jobs in Ohio is in agriculture and total numbers are increasing.
A big attention-getter to potential college students and so many others is all the talk about the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for data collection and the interpretation of data collected. Clark State wants to be an important hub of UAV/drone research and development. A college representative will travel to Florida this month with several other Springfield and Dayton, Ohio, community and business leaders to attend the International Conference on Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
A shortage of persons to better analyze data is the talk in the precision ag industry. As noted in Wedell’s article, the community college curriculum “will blend together traditional agriculture studies with state-of-the-art geospatial technologies, including the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for data collection.”
Many in the agricultural industry and especially agronomists have been quick to note that precision ag numbers crunching, analysis of various wavelengths of light and off-site data collection cannot provide all the answers for farmers to lower production costs and increase yield or profit. In almost all situations, there needs to be some field time looking at exactly what is happening when a field situation is detected. And a trained, experienced consultant can then provide the final answer and recommendations.
Clark State currently has other agricultural curriculum. The college hopes to have 10 to 20 students enrolled in the new precision ag program in the fall.
The college will not be educating students strictly for production agriculture positions because students are to be prepared for jobs analyzing precision data for such things as golf course management and other business possibilities.
One of the hard parts in educating students in precision ag is finding knowledgeable professors and keeping pace with the rapidly changing industry. Clark State announced it is working with industry partners, including the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center and SelectTech Geospatial Advanced Manufacturing, to develop the curriculum and provide hands-on learning experiences for students. Those type of partnerships are almost mandatory for any college curriculums and guest teachers, who are involved in the business and inventing of new products.