Educating Students about Agriculture

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Agriculture is one sector which is being influenced by technology at an unprecedented rate. Today, one can say that modern farms and agricultural operations work far differently than those a few years ago, the reason primarily is owing to advancements in technology, including robotic assistance, sensors, machines, devices, and information technology. Agriculture sector now is routinely using sophisticated techniques such as temperature control and moisture sensors, aerial images, robotics, and GPS technology. These advanced technology offering tools and precision agriculture and robotic systems permit businesses to be more profitable, economical, safer, and more environmentally friendly.

However, this message is yet to reach the rural American students also considered the future of America. The students need to understand how technology can help them in the future and how they can enhance their productivity via agriculture which is being adopted at a significant rate owing to its business value. Hence, taking an initiative FFA, which is responsible for gathering nearly 70,000 of the best and brightest high school kids from across the country at its convention every year and has a fellowship of more than 650,000 individuals from across 50 states, took a pioneering step towards the creation of The Blue Room.

The entire program has gained the support of AgriNovus Indiana, which supports and promotes technological development in the state, alongside Microsoft. Several agricultural organizations representing a plethora of topics from grain to crop protection to animal health are on board to engage in discussions with FFA delegates. In the Blue Room, the commissioners and participants get to hear TED Talk-inspired speeches from key agriculture heads and technology innovators and leaders. In one such meet, Jorge Heraud, who co-founded Blue River Technologies which has been acquired by John Deere earlier this year, spoke about machine learning and the future of intelligent design in the industry. While, Blaze Curry, Team Leader for FFA, was in charge of Blue Room content and operations and observed that the participating students were deeply engaged.

The entire program has been very successful and saw students interacting with the leaders asking questions which includes comparing technological adoption to their own experiences in their home communities. For example, students asked questions like, How do certain things work if one does not have cell service or internet on the farm? and When will this be pocket-friendly for a small farmer? The entire event has been deemed successful with presenters and industry partners pleased with the turnout and quality of questions being put forth. The presenters were also astounded how students were trying to know more about a sector which has been neglected for a few decades. The President of AgriNovus, Beth Bechdol agreed that companies had a great experience, and delegates were more than able to grasp everything that had occurred, and it was also a good way for the industry leaders to have real conversations with the students on a technical level.

In the end, FFA is all about serving its many chapters with education information and opportunities that broaden its reach from the convention. The Blue Room is no exception, and from the organizers perspective, the industry reaction was overwhelmingly positive. However, such organizations need to turn this experience into teachable and hands-on experiences.