Inside Look At The Ohio State University’s Food, Agricultural, And Biological Engineering Program

Andrew Llopfenstein and Scott Shearer
Project coordinator Andrew Klopfenstein (left) and Dr. Scott Shearer show us some telemetry data from a Farmobile PUC on an iPad.

I hope you read my colleague Paul Schrimpf’s editorial that discusses some exciting changes we have on deck in the next couple months for the PrecisionAg brand.

Part of this somewhat massive undertaking, which is what marketers today commonly refer to as a “rebranding effort,” is for us editors to spend more time engaging with and covering the Land Grant Universities (as well as the various community colleges offering two-year programs and others like South Dakota State University) teaching precision farming to the next generation of John Deere field techs and ag UAV pilots.

With that in mind, back in October I accepted an invitation from longtime friends to PrecisionAg.com and The Ohio State University Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering Department (FABE) professors Dr. John Fulton and Dr. Scott Shearer to find out just what is going on down there in Columbus. We all know Central Ohio is typically Case IH country, but I learned a whole lot more from my trip to visit the guys than I originally thought I would.

Executing the Mission

After a cheery morning welcome upon my arrival from Fulton and his program manager, Kaylee Port, we grabbed some coffee and found a conference room so Fulton could set the stage for my day on campus (and boy, do I miss college!).

“We have three primary missions here in the program: education or instruction, research, and then the third which is unique to Land Grants, is the Extension Outreach arm, doing things like Farm Science Review and such,” Fulton explained in his easy going Alabama drawl, having come to Columbus via Auburn University. “And what we’re doing is, we’re creating learning communities. We’ve got a couple projects where you bring in industry, you’ve got us as academics, and then you bring those growers and agronomists into those learning communities. There’s a focus and an objective in mind, but everyone learns through the process and takes something back for themselves.”

At the time of my visit, much of the Department’s work within these learning communities was focusing on looking at different solutions for the annual Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) that produces some nasty headlines (putting farmers and applicators directly in their cross-hairs, typically) during the summer months in the Buckeye State.

“When we think about moving the needle here in Ohio, top of mind comes the Lake Erie HAB, so we focus a lot on the phosphorus and nitrogen runoff, and so when we think precision ag we think about field execution, and we also think about information that drives decisions to improve profitability, and also the placement and timing of N and P,” he says. “I think that’s a lot of our motivation right now, is helping provide solutions for that situation in Lake Erie.”

Not to mention Shearer, who I also met with briefly that morning, is doing some interesting research work around UAVs with Dayton, OH-based commercial drone outfit 3-D Aerial, and he is also working with some grad students on an autonomous tractor project that is much unlike the big, flashy Case IH robot tractor that had growers drooling on the summer show circuit.

Let’s just say Shearer’s model isn’t as easy on the eye as Big Red, but its portability, scalability, and compaction-lessening footprint should have growers just as excited once it is commercialized.

Back to the Future

After kicking around the Department’s impressive large equipment storage area and workshops, and going for a quick spin around the parking lot with project coordinator Andrew Klopfenstein, Fulton introduced me to two sophomore students enrolled in the college, Jenna Lee and Matthew Klopfenstein.

OSU students
The Ohio State University’s FABE program sophmores Jenna Lee and Matthew Klopfenstein — both of whom hope to work in digital agriculture someday — shared some thoughts on the FABE program during our visit.

Both students grew up on grain farms, got exposed to precision agriculture practices by their fathers, and now both hope to one day find a career in the industry, Lee in powered machinery and Klopfenstein in production ag with an engineering aspect to it, he says. Both are actively monitoring the Lake Erie HAB situation with keen interest, knowing they will one day likely work within many of the affected communities if they stay in Ohio.

“The issues around water are just going to continue to keep growing and growing and growing,” Andrew Klopfenstein said. “I’ve heard someone say water is the new oil, it’s not just quality it’s also quantity too, so how do we manage that in such a manner that maximizes agricultural production with less and less water? And I think it’s going to be a collaborative effort here in Ohio with the Farm Bureau and the University and all the other players working together to try and solve those problems using some immediate solutions, whether that’s putting in some tile shutoffs or biomass filters, or as well as just looking at, are we following all the rules and regulations?”

The Muscle

After the students departed for afternoon classes, Fulton and I made our way back into the workshops to meet with Andrew Klopfenstein, whom I had tooled around the department parking lot, a few football fields distance from the OSU football stadium, in a Case IH Quadtrac tractor. Klopfenstein manages the work spaces and all of the equipment for FABE, along with his fourth-year undergrad student and right-hand man Ryan Tietje.

Andrew explained to me how the department strives to give the students as much hands-on, practical experience with the machinery and computing technologies as possible, while also closing the loop on how different machinery tweaks can effect production and harvest.

“And we also have an autosteer lab,” he adds. “You can talk all day about auto steer, you can show YouTube videos on it, but until you’re in that tractor and you push the button and let go of the steering wheel — it’s probably even harder for the students that grew up driving the tractor a lot, because there is just something wired in our brain that the left hand needs to be on the wheel and the right hand needs to be over here, to train yourself in some respects that you can’t keep your hand on the wheel.”

Tietje, who spent the summer doing an internship with Archibald Equipment, a Central Ohio Case IH dealership where he learned, among many things, just what a challenge connectivity and compatibility is within multi-color fleets, agrees the hands-on aspect of the program is perfect for an aspiring field technician like himself.

“You hit a little bit of everything, so you’re very marketable when you graduate,” he says during a break while making some repairs to Shearer’s impressive UAV command center trailer. “I’ve had animal science classes, these precision classes, welding classes, soil science and agronomy. I mean, you name it and I probably know something about it. So that’s exactly why I chose this major and getting to work with Andrew and the department has really helped.”

And with its impressive lineup of industry partners, along with the solid guidance and networking power within industry circles provided by Fulton and Shearer at the top, FABE will continue helping young people make their mark in precision agriculture for years to come.

Leave a Reply

Professionals Stories
Interseeding Cover Crops
ProfessionalsA 3-Step Approach to Interseeding Cover Crops
July 18, 2017
As growers continue to search for opportunities to create healthier soils and increase yields, more trusted advisors and farmers are Read More
Grower Services & SolutionsVantage South Atlantic Announces Mid-South Expansion
July 10, 2017
Vantage South Atlantic announced that it has joined Trimble Agriculture’s global network of independent Vantage partners to provide farmers, advisors, Read More
BASF Maglis Grower Tablet
ProfessionalsPatience Needed: Lessons for Getting New Tech onto the Farm
July 6, 2017
A popular joke within the tech industry was trotted out at GAI AgTech Week in Boston, MA, speaking volumes about Read More
Deere R4023 cab
Business ManagementOpinion: Reality vs. Hype in Precision Agriculture
July 6, 2017
I think there is a certain word that can accurately describe much of the precision ag and/or ag tech industry right Read More
Trending Articles
Yield Data Image
Data ManagementYield Data: More Than a Pretty Picture
July 13, 2017
It is mid-July, which, for the Australian cotton industry, means that picking is still going on for some growers. A Read More
BASF Maglis Grower Tablet
ProfessionalsPatience Needed: Lessons for Getting New Tech onto the Farm
July 6, 2017
A popular joke within the tech industry was trotted out at GAI AgTech Week in Boston, MA, speaking volumes about Read More
PrecisionAg Vision Conference
EventsPrecisionAg® Vision Conference: Focused on the Future
June 13, 2017
PrecisionAg® is pleased to announce the return of its PrecisionAg Vision Conference, October 10-12, 2017. Based on overwhelmingly positive response Read More
Gavin Newsom Forbes AgTech-Summit
ProfessionalsAgTech Summit Aiming High for Modern Farming Solutions
June 12, 2017
THRIVE AgTech, in partnership with SVG Partners and Forbes, is hosting the third annual Forbes AgTech Summit June 28-29 in Read More
Quantix Drone Farmer
DronesTop 10 Most Intriguing Technologies in Agriculture
June 3, 2017
This may be a bit of stating the obvious here, but we’ll throw it out there anyways: as much as Read More
Farming iPad
Data ManagementOpinion: ROI or Die in Precision Agriculture
May 12, 2017
The thought of $3.50 corn for the foreseeable future seems pretty disheartening. However, if you look at the precision ag Read More
Latest News
Industry NewsLindsay Corp. Names Dow’s Timothy Hassinger New C…
July 19, 2017
Lindsay Corp. has  announced the appointment of Timothy Hassinger as president and CEO and a member of its board of Read More
InfoAg 2015
Events2017 Awards of Excellence Winners Announced
July 18, 2017
PrecisionAg Institute is pleased to announce its Awards of Excellence winners for 2017. Honorees of this year’s prestigious award are Read More
Interseeding Cover Crops
ProfessionalsA 3-Step Approach to Interseeding Cover Crops
July 18, 2017
As growers continue to search for opportunities to create healthier soils and increase yields, more trusted advisors and farmers are Read More
Rod Weimer and Paul Schrimpf
Excellence AwardsPast Recipients Of The PrecisionAg Awards Of Excellence
July 18, 2017
Since 2007, the PrecisionAg Insititute has sponsored the annual Awards of Excellence program. Here's a list of the past winners. Read More
Data ManagementEFC Announces FieldAlytics, Adapt-N Expanded Integratio…
July 17, 2017
EFC Systems is pleased to announce an expanded integration between its FieldAlytics product and Agronomic Technology Corp’s Adapt-N nitrogen recommendations Read More
Data ManagementOpinion: Benchmarking in Precision Agriculture is Big S…
July 17, 2017
Benchmarking has become a buzzword in precision agriculture recently and before we get too excited with all of the profound Read More
Yield Data Image
Data ManagementYield Data: More Than a Pretty Picture
July 13, 2017
It is mid-July, which, for the Australian cotton industry, means that picking is still going on for some growers. A Read More
Industry NewsQuick Rewind: Ohio Dealer Talks Deere-Precision Plantin…
July 12, 2017
A few weeks ago I took a quick trip south down I-71 to Central Ohio (for you non-Buckeyes, I-71 runs Read More
DronesSentera Launches Versatile Quad Sensor for Drones
July 12, 2017
Fully Customizable Filters on Sentera Quad Sensor Allow for Unique Crop Health Detection Capabilities Sentera introduces the latest update to Read More
Hortau Irrigation Management Software
Sensors/IoTHortau Named Finalist for CogX Artificial Intelligence …
July 10, 2017
Hortau was recently named a CogX Award finalist in the Best Artificial Intelligence Product in Agriculture category. The awards were Read More
Grower Services & SolutionsVantage South Atlantic Announces Mid-South Expansion
July 10, 2017
Vantage South Atlantic announced that it has joined Trimble Agriculture’s global network of independent Vantage partners to provide farmers, advisors, Read More
Ag Retailer and Grower WinField United
Decision Support SoftwareAgronomic Technology Corp Surpasses Daily Nitrogen Reco…
July 6, 2017
Agronomic Technology Corp, a leader in agricultural field modeling for soil, water, crops, and fertilizer, for the first time surpassed Read More
Precision IrrigationDealership Celebrates 25 Years in the Irrigation Game
July 6, 2017
25 years ago, Bobby Kempenich had an idea. An idea to launch a business that combined his knowledge of irrigation Read More
BASF Maglis Grower Tablet
ProfessionalsPatience Needed: Lessons for Getting New Tech onto the …
July 6, 2017
A popular joke within the tech industry was trotted out at GAI AgTech Week in Boston, MA, speaking volumes about Read More
Deere R4023 cab
Business ManagementOpinion: Reality vs. Hype in Precision Agriculture
July 6, 2017
I think there is a certain word that can accurately describe much of the precision ag and/or ag tech industry right Read More
Events2017 agBOT Challenge Winners Announced
July 6, 2017
Driverless robotic machines entered the fields of Gerrish Farms in Rockville, IN in June 2017. Universities and entrepreneurial teams showcased Read More
gomez-featured
ProfessionalsCommitment to Ag Innovation: Q&A with DuPont Pionee…
July 5, 2017
Editor’s note: PrecisionAg.com contributor Amy Wu often writes about women in ag technology. Recently, she interviewed DuPont Pioneer’s Nadilia Gomez, research scientist, Read More
LAP
InternationalLAP and ABPSAP: Advancing Precision Agriculture in Braz…
July 5, 2017
In this article, I would like to highlight two important entities of precision agriculture in Brazil. The first of these Read More