WHIN Awards Grant to Ivy Tech for Expansion of Agricultural Programs
By Shelley Swearingen – March 25, 2020
The Wabash Heartland Innovation Network recently gifted the Ivy Tech Lafayette campus with a $900,000 grant to improve & expand their current agricultural program. This grant has far reaching implications for the growth and well-being of our community. I recently had the opportunity to discuss this with Kraig Bowers: Agricultural Program Chair at Ivy Tech Community College Lafayette.
What are your thoughts/feelings on the recent grant given to the Ivy Tech Lafayette campus by the Wabash Heartland Innovation Network?
“Indiana West Advantage partnered with Ivy Tech Community College – Lafayette in applying for this WHIN Impact Grant and we are thrilled about the opportunities this will provide not only for our students, but also for the agriculture industry in our greater community.”
What does this grant mean for the Ivy Tech Lafayette campus?
“Specifically, this grant will fund a full-time faculty member to serve as the program chair and instructor for our Precision Agriculture Equipment Technology program. Additionally, it will fund the addition of a high-tech dedicated lab space to be added on to the Bane Agriculture Technology Center, to house experiential learning opportunities in precision agriculture. The grant funding [from] WHIN, along with the generous donations from industry partners, will also mean the addition of state-of-the-art precision agriculture equipment, simulators, and software. This will include a mobile Precision Agriculture Lab that we will use for educational opportunities at regional campuses, high schools and local community events. Industry partners also provided support for students to get their start in this field by providing scholarships to incoming students. We are very grateful to our lead sponsors Bane-Welker Equipment, Co-Alliance, Beck’s, Farm Credit Mid-America and Stan Mithoefer for all of their pledged support.”
Could you describe what ‘precision agriculture’ means?
“At its core precision agriculture uses data to respond to variability with specific agricultural management practices. Through the use of a variety of digital sensors and communication between sensors, computers, and equipment, farming practices can be made more efficient, profitable, and mitigate environmental impacts. Students working in the precision agriculture space may be working with hardware on farm equipment or working with the software that operates those pieces. At the same time it requires working with sensors and analyzing the data those sensors collect to inform decision making of agricultural practices.”
In an interview with local tv station, WLFI, Andrea Schwartz mentioned a shift in interests for advanced manufacturing, engineering, and applied science students. Can you elaborate?
“Through market research conducted by IWA and Ivy Tech Community College Lafayette funded by a WHIN Planning Grant, it was determined that job growth in precision agriculture would be 21% over the next three years. However, 70% of employers indicate difficulty in finding new hires with the correct training and skill. The average starting salaries reflect the high demand and low supply for employees with these skills, ranging from $45,000-$53,000. Due to this, students have been actively seeking opportunities to be trained for these high-tech positions. The Impact Grant will allow us to meet the demand of both students and area agricultural businesses.”
Could this mean expansion of the current agricultural program at Ivy Tech?
“The current programming will expand by offering a separate Precision Agriculture Equipment Technology program. Students will have the opportunity to earn an Associate of Applied Science and in the process earn a Technical Certificate of either Precision Agriculture Specialist, Precision Agriculture Technician, or Agriculture Equipment Service Technician. As part of this program, students will be embedded in the precision agriculture industry by completing internships with area precision agribusinesses. It also means expansion in the form of additional faculty and a new learning laboratory.”
Is there any other information you would like to share with the local farming community related to the grant (or otherwise)?
“We plan not only to offer educational opportunities on campus, but also to create training opportunities around the region via the mobile Precision Ag Lab. WHIN strives to make this region the global epicenter for digital agriculture and we view community engagement for learning as a vital piece of that process.”
Geswein Farm & Land Real Estate is committed to the betterment of our community. By keeping ourselves educated in current trends and innovation, we are able to inform our clients & neighbors of new potential opportunities. WHIN recently held a conference at the Ivy Tech Lafayette Campus. #yourlandman Johnny Klemme shares key takeaways in this previous post: https://prairiefarmland.com/2020-whin-ag-summit-a-success/.