Last summer, when we were in the midst of planning for our August PrecisionAg Innovation Series conference, we got an order for several attendees representing South Dakota State University.
While it’s not unusual to receive multiple registrations from the same organization, the registrations had come in without attendee names specified. When we checked in with Nicholas Uilk, ag systems technology instructor at SDSU who had placed the order, he explained that students would be coming, chosen as a reward for achievement that semester.
I was keen to catch up with Nicholas when he arrived with his students at the conference, and I found out some even more exciting news. SDSU was in the final stages of preparation in the creation of a four-year degree in precision agriculture.
So I’m writing this from a hotel room in neighboring Minnesota after spending the better part of an afternoon at the Brookings campus, where a Board of Regents vote was a last hurdle to kicking off the degree this fall.
I was impressed with what they’ve accomplished for a number of reasons. First, the commitment to the creation of the degree started at the top. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, very little gets done at an organization without top-down commitment. Precision ag initiatives have suffered in many organizations as “pet projects” or the passion of a few individuals. When things get tough or people leave, momentum is threatened and often, programs get diminished or even shuttered.