Clark State Community College has been appointed the hub for education on Precision Agriculture in Ohio, further bolstering Springfield’s connection to the rapidly expanding drone industry.
The college will house the new Ohio Center for Precision Agriculture. It will serve as the clearing house of information in the industry, said Dr. Larry Everett, professor and coordinator of the precision ag program for Clark State and director of the new center.
“Agriculture is the No. 1 profession in Ohio,” Everett said, and precision agriculture is a fast growing industry in the Miami Valley.
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Precision agriculture uses technology such as sensors on drones to gather information on each crop or animal and uses that data to create specialized plans for items such as fertilizer and pest control.
“You’re not wasting materials and you’re not going to harm plants,” Everett said.
Students in Clark State’s two-year program learn how to collect and interpret data from farms, he said, so farmers save money and have less of an impact on the environment.
“You’re saving seeds and pesticides,” he said.
Clark State was recently awarded a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for the Precision Agriculture program. It will use the grant money to update its technology, attract high school students to the program and develop a new Precision Agriculture Technician degree, Everett said.
“The opportunities are just wide open,” he said. “We tell students, find out what you really love to do and there’s probably an opportunity for you to do that.”
One in seven jobs in Ohio are related directly or indirectly to agriculture, Clark State leaders said, and the state faces a shortage of skilled agriculture workers.
High paying jobs are available for Clark State graduates with a precision agriculture degree, he said.
It’s a growing industry, said Frank Beafore, executive director of SelectTech, a company that builds unmanned aerial systems that can be used in precision agriculture.
“It’s going to explode exponentially,” Beafore said of the opportunities for precision agriculture locally.
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There is a growing need for workers who’ve been trained on how to use the technology, he said.
It’s an exciting time for students who plan to pursue farming as well.
“I like the new technology,” said Richard Jenkins, a recent graduate of Northwestern High School in Clark County.
Jenkins plans to one day own a farm of his own.
“There’s so much to learn about stuff like that,” he said. “And it’s always good to know.”
He plans to use precision agriculture to make his farm successful in the future, he said.
The program has been offered at Clark State for three years, Everett said, and will continue to grow.
“It changes all the time and it’s a pretty exciting time to be in agriculture,” he said.
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