Precision Agriculture is a high tech concept that relies on advanced technologies to increase efficiency in agricultural practices. Precision Ag allows farmers, cooperatives, service providers and equipment dealers to collect and use data about unique variations in a field to optimize management with regards to crops, environmental production and economics. The ag industry has the difficult task to raise more grain and livestock with a fixed amount of land that is shrinking due to urban sprawl. Precision Agriculture will help meet the demand by using technology to produce more with less.
Precision Ag is being used more and more in farming. With the increasing availability of such mapping technologies as GPS (Global Positioning Systems) and GIS (Geographical Information Systems), Precision Ag Technicians will install, operate, troubleshoot and repair precision ag systems. Technicians will also use advanced processing software to collect, visualize and analyze data. Precision Agriculture Technicians, with their specialized knowledge and skills, are of increasing importance when it comes to the future of agriculture. They regularly rely on problem-solving, basic math, people skills, communication, working directly with customers, and mechanical aptitude.
This two-year Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree program, with more than 70% of the instruction being hands-on using state-of-the-art equipment, prepares graduates for employment directly after graduation. College credit is also earned during a paid on-the-job training internship that has proven to be invaluable to our students for professional networking, building their resumes, and getting their foot in the door to make a great impression on a local employer.
Careers are most often with equipment dealers, cooperatives and farming operations. Companies in Central Iowa have indicated they have difficulty finding precision agriculture technicians or individuals with related skills in the workforce. Equipment dealers, cooperatives and service providers report that they cannot find enough qualified candidates to fill current career opportunities. And the demand is rising!
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, the 2012 median pay for Agricultural and Food Science Technicians with an associate’s degree was $34,070 per year; the job outlook for 2012-2022 calls for 3% growth in employment.
Taking our show on the road: Mobile Precision Ag Lab
Through a grant funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA), ECC has created a unique Mobile Precision Agriculture Lab. The Mobile Lab travels to area schools to help expand high school students’ knowledge and provide valuable hands-on experiences in the high-tech area of Precision Agriculture.
The Mobile Lab consists of a Case Scout utility vehicle with some of the latest, greatest Precision Agriculture technologies. It features auto steering, variable rate application, sub-inch accuracy application, and remote sensing. The Scout is accompanied by an enclosed trailer capable of displaying live feed from the utility vehicle, playing videos, and offering GIS software to create application maps.
This versatile Agribusiness program is a two-year Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree that prepares graduates for employment directly after graduation or for transferring their ECC credits to complete a baccalaureate/bachelor’s degree at a university. This program includes three paid on-the-job training internships that have proven to be invaluable to our students for professional networking, building their resumes, and getting their foot in the door to make a great impression on a local employer.
THE ELLSWORTH EXPERIENCE
- ECC is one of only two Iowa community colleges that offers a Precision Agriculture program.
- ECC’s agriculture students maintain a 133-acre farm near the College, where they experience hands-on learning at its best.
- Some of the Precision Ag equipment used by our students belongs to the College and some is out in the community, giving ECC students the opportunity to work on many models and systems while also networking with community business leaders.
- The College offers generous scholarships and financial aid packages … there are many agriculture scholarships available, including the Bob & Arlene Hamilton Excellence in Agriculture Scholarships, which cover nearly a full year’s tuition and fees!
- What students appreciate about ECC is our smaller class sizes, which results in more one-on-one attention from the instructor and greater classroom success.
- Our Ag Science Club is a blast … activities include involvement in Iowa and National Postsecondary Agriculture Students (PAS) leadership conferences, field trips, service projects, parties, and more.
- Professor Kevin Butt has been teaching agriculture at ECC since 2004. He has been recognized nationally as one of four Outstanding Postsecondary Agriculture Education Teachers in the United States.