SST Software, an industry leader in precision agriculture, is now offering a precision ag certification program. The SST Precision Ag Certification Program is an intensive, 10-week training course for preparing precision ag technology specialists. The program covers data management, service provider offerings, emerging products, and analysis reports.

Bill Richardson, Director of Training & Education at SST Software, states, "It all starts with understanding how the key elements of spatial data management are essential for building a successful precision ag program. That's the foundation. Then, the precision ag specialist needs to become proficient on various hardware and software components. Finally, they need to be competent to manage and oversee a precision ag program. This entails knowing how to effectively evaluate and implement technologies in such a way that value is created for both the service organization and the grower." 

Since the 1990s, Richardson has been overseeing SST's training classes. The company's clients have often asked for a more formalized training program through which they could send or acquire new hires. SST has designed the precision ag certification program to meet this growing need. Companies may send a person of their choosing for certification training or sponsor a scholarship.

"We began addressing the needs for a precision ag certification program some years back," says Richardson, "But our desire was for this program to be the industry standard for gaining an enterprise level understanding of how agricultural spatial data benefits the grower and service provider."

Before launching an official certification program, SST decided to test the concept as an internship, allowing for evaluation and refinement of the program. Approximately 70 persons participated in five internship courses. Matt Waits, CEO of SST, states, "The content and demands for each successive course were intensified until we felt it would truly represent what we deemed as being a certification program."

SST sees the certification program as being the ideal bridge between graduating university and entering the world of production ag. Graduates from past programs are now leading some of the nation's most successful precision ag programs. Austin Marlett, a 2013 graduate, states, "The program offered hands-on experience with many applications and technologies that I never learned about in school." Cale James, another 2013 graduate, adds, "Most students have a limited knowledge as to how precision ag actually works, and this opportunity is a great way to learn in-depth, industry application of precision ag. The learning curve is challenging, but it is definitely worthwhile!"

Richardson claims that a precision ag GIS system must have a set of underlying rules in place, starting with the field boundary, or organizations will run into trouble down the road. "That's the importance of this certification program," he continues, "It's not just about becoming acquainted with SST's suite of software. Our applications are only a portal into a robust technological system that provides valuable information services for the farmer. We are in the process of opening up this system as the agX Platform. As certified specialists become a part of that system, they develop a deep understanding of the key components needed for value-added services and how to implement them in the broader scope." Caitlan Jeffrey, a recent graduate, states, "Not only did we see what precision ag has done worldwide but also where precision ag is going."

SST believes that a key component for a successful program is a system to keep certified specialists up to date. Brandon Buie, developer of SST's distance training, states, "The technology evolves so fast that we needed a way to continually feed training to the certified specialists while also testing their knowledge so as to keep their certification status current and to develop them in various areas."

To meet this need, SST is working with other industry partners in the development of a new online training platform, slated to go live later this year. This training platform will provide continuing education and testing to certified specialists. Companies that are agX compliant will also be able to add courses to the online training library.

Graduating students or organizations interested in the SST Precision Ag Certification Program are encouraged to visit the website at www.sstsoftware.com/certification