Precision agriculture center at SDSU nearing completion


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BROKINGS, S.D. (KELO) – One of the newest buildings on campus at South Dakota State University will soon be welcoming students. Work on the new Raven Precision Agriculture Center will be wrapping up soon.

By fall, students will be filling the halls rather than construction equipment.

“We have the capacity to train 450 students at a time in this particular building, that doesn’t include the students that might be in the collaborative spaces, so we could see up to 500 students at a time utilizing this facility,” department head of Agronomy, Horticulture, and Plant Sciences, David Wright said.

Agriculture is constantly evolving as technology continues to develop.

“We recognized as an institution the shortage or lack of an educational program for precision agriculture and so we started a minor in that program in 2014 and then we started the first four year degree in the nation in precision agriculture in 2018,” South Dakota Corn Endowed Dean, John Killefer said.

Ground broke on the building back in 2018 and construction started that winter.

“We had support from the state level, so we had our legislative support and then we have had the support from a number of industry and individual donors that have made this facility a reality,” Killefer said.

The new facility will bring agronomy, engineering, and other disciplines under one roof.

“We’ve brought them all together and created this whole program in precision agriculture that takes really the specific core components from those disciplines and brings them together to focus on the modern challenges of agriculture and how we can utilize the technologies of today to help advance agriculture and help not only feed our nation but the world,” Killefer said.

Once complete, the state of the art facility will house classrooms and research labs.

“This room that we are in right now is a plant sciences teaching laboratory and so this is obviously brand new so it’s a very modern facility, it’s replacing facilities that our students were utilizing that was probably closer to 50 years old,” Killefer said.

“This is one of four precision ag mapping rooms, and so what this room will have in it, it will have 36 large screen computers where students learn how to map out all the different parameters that may be represented in a field,” department head of Biosystems Engineering, Van Kelley said.

Additionally there are spaces where faculty and students can collaborate.

“Throughout this building we’ve got spots for 2 or 3 students to get together between classes and so our goal is to provide a great place for students to hang out between classes, as well as places to bring in industry,” Kelley said.

“We will be graduating students that are ready for a workforce in South Dakota agriculture as well as the region, so they will be not only understanding agriculture, how to grow plants, how to manage soils, but how to use technology in today’s farming practices,” Wright said.

And that’s good news for South Dakota’s number one industry.

“I think that the notoriety that we’ve got with this facility is an attracted interest well beyond the borders of South Dakota, even this year as we’ve started new student registration during the summer, we are seeing students from states farther away than what we would normally see and so certainly extended the reputation of SDSU, even across the region, and across the nation,” Kelley said.

Work on the building will be completed by the end of June and faculty and staff will be moving in the beginning of July.

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