BY: CURIS ZOLLER, ASSOCIATE DEAN OF AEROSPACE & AGRICULTURE
The agriculture industry has grown exponentially over the past few years. Even with forecast of current downtrends in economic prosperity for agricultural operators, the need to produce in order to meet the growing demands in crop consumption continue to surpass our ability to create production systems that are also environmentally friendly. Northland’s team of subject matter experts have focused on the latest farm operations technology in efforts to identify the key technical proficiencies required to help our partners realize the greatest yields possible. In doing so, we have also worked hard to share these results industry wide.
Innovations in technology have had impacts across all industries. Agriculture is no different. It wasn’t too long ago when sceptics were convinced that autosteer technology was a trend that wasn’t worth your time or money. It only took one trip down the field to realize that it was a tool that made production agriculture much more efficient along with minimizing the long days in the tractor. Today, you might have a hard time having breakfast in the morning without some conversation about the latest software in unmanned systems and how this technology is supporting efficiencies on the farm. The American Farm Bureau has forecast that farmers using these new technologies to monitor their crops could see a return on investment as much as $12 dollars per acre for corn, $2.60 per acre for soybeans, and $2.30 per acre for wheat. The real challenge in applying the latest innovations effectively is completely contingent on knowing what to use. Sometimes, equally important, is knowing what technology not to use. Although the potential for return on investment is extremely high, it can only be realized once the systems required to support the growers are in place and properly trained. This is the real puzzle that educators and farmers alike are working hard to solve.
Northland launched the Precision Agriculture Equipment Technician (PAET) training program this Fall. Through partnerships with local implement manufacturers and dealers, as well as input from several operators in the region, Northland’s team was able to build a training program that is focused on the state-of-the-art technology that exists in the fields today. Although the PAET program is just beginning, Northland has been flying unmanned aircraft systems in Roseau county for the past two years. Programs developed with support from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and other state, federal, and regional partners, have allowed Northland to launch into unmanned technology and support applications that few others have ever done before.
There is no contesting that the agricultural industry will need to continue to grow in order to meet the consumption demands of the ever growing global population. We also know that this can only be accomplished through innovations in using the precious natural resources that have been afforded to us. Technology such as precision applications equipment and unmanned aircraft systems are examples of two innovative technologies that when paired have great potential to increase outputs while still managing our precious natural resources. Through great stewardship and education, Northland is committed to continuing our efforts in identifying the latest technology and ensuring that the it is relevant for today’s operators. If you are interested in finding out more about the training programs, or how to become a partner with the agricultural programs at Northland, please feel free to reach out to Curtis Zoller, Associate Dean by phone at 218.683.8829 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.