Partnership Puts MU at Forefront of Precision Ag Tech

Working toward earning his Precision Agriculture Technology Certificate from the University of Missouri, Bo Young understands the importance of implementing precision practices on the farm. Young, who is also a climate activation specialist with The Climate Corporation, works with farmers and producers, helping them incorporate Climate FieldView technology in their operation.

Young and The Climate Corporation are now partnering with MU Extension and the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) to bring important technology and datasets to the CAFNR Agricultural Research Centers.

“I really think precision agriculture is everything,” Young said. “We’ve been tasked with feeding a growing population with fewer resources, and that means we have to be smarter about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. We have to make farms more profitable. Precision agriculture allows us to manage our inputs and get the most out of the data we receive.”

Young began working with The Climate Corporation in early 2019 and helped facilitate the partnership with MU in June. He was able to equip 12 of the Research Centers with iPads and hardware for their farming equipment, and those Centers are currently working on collecting data. While the partnership is still in the beginning stages, Young said they have already been able to collect some early data.

“At the Forage Systems Research Center (Linneus) we selected a 30-acre field and took a total of 30 soil samples,” Young said. “We took those samples to the soil testing lab on the MU campus, got results back and uploaded them to the Climate software platform. We can now easily see where there are deficiencies, and we’ll be able to make improvements and adjustments as we move forward. We’re also going to use the data to create variable-rate prescriptions and track their success.”

That platform gives Research Center superintendents the analytical tools to make smart farming decisions on the fly, Young said.

“The data will allow us to analyze what actually impacted yield; what worked and what didn’t,” he said. “You get really valuable insights into what’s really going on.”

The partnership also serves individuals looking to earn the Precision Agriculture Technology Certificate, through CAFNR’s Agricultural Systems Management (ASM) program. The CAFNR Agricultural Research Centers are spread throughout the state, so the data describes the unique features for the regions those Centers represent. Individuals working toward the certificate will now be able to use that live data in class.

“One of the Grand Ideas in our strategic plan is focused on the digital age of farming. We’re excited to begin this partnership as the first step, and start looking at the data we’ll gather from these tools,” said Shibu Jose, CAFNR’s interim associate dean for research. “This is the future of farming. We’re hoping to use the insights that we gain from this data to make better production decisions.”

Precision agriculture is a key part of the ASM curriculum. Industry leaders want students, who could be possible future employees, to have a deeper understanding of precision agriculture. Leon Schumacher, ASM program chair, Kent Shannon, MU Extension field specialist, and former instructor Brian Robertson, went right to work a few years ago to develop an MU educational certificate to meet those demands.

They took their two existing precision agriculture courses and created two more, both of which go more in-depth into precision agriculture practices. With four courses, ASM, which is a program located within the Division of Food Systems and Bioengineering, now offers a Precision Agriculture Technology Certificate. The certificate not only gives students the opportunity to add to their resume, it gives them a deeper and hands-on approach to precision agriculture. There is also a chance to network with industry leaders.

“The idea behind a certificate at Mizzou is that you take 12 credits that are focused in a specific area,” Schumacher said. “It’s different than a minor. A minor is for a degree program. A certificate allows a student, in a degree program, to actually differentiate and show on their transcript that they have a very focused area that they have studied.”

While the partnership is in the beginning stages, all parties are excited about the opportunities that could come from working together.

“This partnership puts the University of Missouri at the forefront of agriculture technology,” said Rob Kallenbach, interim associate dean, Agriculture and Environment Extension. “Technology co-developed here, coupled with strong relationships statewide, gives us an unprecedented opportunity to shape the digital age of Missouri agriculture.”

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