Fox Valley Technical College building specialized skills
Fox Valley Technical College's Board of Trustees recently approved the state's only Precision Agriculture program, a new offering designed to train the next generation of agribusiness and agronomy professionals.
The concept of precision agriculture takes data collected from industry equipment and generates prescribed maps for fields through the use of GPS technology and related software.
This innovative method of farming results in better tilling, planting, and harvesting due to variable rate applications.
Each soil and topographic makeup on any given parcel of land is unique, and precision agriculture pinpoints these distinctions to optimize the growing experience for stakeholders of production agriculture.
"Precision agriculture is the 21st Century management tool for production Ag," says Mike Cattelino, associate dean of FVTC's Manufacturing and Agriculture Technologies division. "This technology enables agriculture professionals to become better micro-managers of their own soil."
Service Motor Company (SMC) in nearby Dale has been a strong proponent of the new offering, validating the need for advanced skills in farming.
"The whole landscape of agriculture is changing rapidly," notes Jim Sommer, president of Service Motor Company.
He added, "Fox Valley Tech focuses on technology, which is needed to advance today's agriculture industry by lowering costs and increasing productivity. Essentially, ag professionals now need to be visionaries when it comes to crop management, production, farm operations, and more to meet the intricacies of an ever-changing industry."
One current challenge in the industry calls for more partnerships like SMC and Case IH uniting with FVTC to address a skills shortage in agriculture. The organizations continue to work in collaboration with FVTC's agriculture programs to shape the college's longstanding tradition of nearly 65 years as one of Wisconsin's training leaders.
SMC and Case IH officially ventured into a new partnership in 2010 with FVTC by providing the state's largest technical college with a plethora of new equipment over a 10-year span.
"The company is more engaged with us than ever before," adds Cattelino. "The Sommer family and its staff helped us blueprint the precision Ag program based off of recent experiences they've encountered within the industry. It's a model working relationship."
FVTC's Agriculture Center is currently undergoing an expansion due to the passage of the April 2012 public referendum, which advanced several facility-related projects for the college by nearly a 2-1 margin.
The center's 7,600 square-foot expansion supports a nearly 87 percent growth in full-time equivalent students in FVTC's agriculture-related programs since 2008.
The completion is set for September, in time for students this fall to experience the added learning labs, not only in agriculture, but in horticulture and outdoor power equipment as well.
In addition, strong graduate placement rates reaffirm the steady growth and need for newer programs that require advanced skill sets.
For example, all 37 graduates of FVTC's Agribusiness and Science Technology program over the past three years landed careers, and all 12 graduates from last year's class in the Agriculture Power Equipment program earned new jobs as well.
Cattelino says it's an exciting time to be involved in agriculture. "With so much technology at one's fingertips, the possibilities are endless in an industry that will never go away."