by Elizabeth A. Tomlin
Farming has changed by leaps and bounds and, thanks to technology, there are many more aspects and options to consider. That is what students attending the 2nd annual Farming Your Future discovered.
“Agriculture has changed, there are a lot of new and exciting things going on, both in technology and science,” said Tina Douglas, member of the Herkimer BOCES School to Careers Agriculture Committee and volunteer at the event.
Many career options, some demonstrating new technologies, were on display for students to investigate.
Drones used in farming caught the attention of many students.
One of the drones Erick Haas, Integrated Solutions Specialist at Cazenovia Equipment, displayed and demonstrated a DJI Phantom 4 Pro, with a Sentera NIR sensor mounted on it.
“The drone flies autonomously taking both standard RGB photos, and IR photos,” explained Haas. “We can then put the photos into software called FieldAgent, where it will give us a Normalized Difference Vegetative Index map (NDVI).”
This displays a “crop health map,” giving the farmer immediate data.
Haas explained that the software organizes the map into separate zones allowing the farmer to apply a “recipe” of fertilizer to be applied into each zone.
He can load the recipe into a sprayer and the sprayer automatically changes the rate of the product being applied into each zone.
“This gives the farmer maximum efficiency,” said Haas. “Why put extra fertilizer onto parts of the fields that don’t need it?”
Haas says interest in ‘Precision Ag’ is the highest it’s ever been.
“This technology isn’t about pretty maps and cool features. It’s about collecting actionable data that can give the producer the power to make educated decisions, not just assumptions.”
Herkimer County Soil and Water Resource Conservationist Rachel Radicello was also explaining to students how technology has impacted her field of agriculture and provided tools and equipment for students to see how surveying technology works.
“At the Soil and Water Conservation District and Natural Resources Conservation Service we provide technical assistance to landowners and help them develop conservation plans for best management of their agricultural land, stream banks, forest stands, and wildlife habitat,” Radicello explained. “Often this involves surveying to design best management practice projects.”
Radicello allowed a hands-on activity for students, increasing their interest.
“The laser level has increased the efficiency and accuracy of our work,” she said. “For example, it requires only one person to run it, whereas older models of the equipment (without a laser) required two or more people to run.”
Radicello said as technology continues to develop with other tools, such as GPS devices, elevation tools and mapping software, it allows people in that agricultural field to “create better designs more efficiently.”
Computer systems in tractors and heavy equipment were another interest-sparking component of the event.
“The Farming Your Future event seemed to spark a lot of interest in the Ag industry,” commented John Lehmann of Clinton Tractor. “It was great seeing all the kid’s faces light up when they saw the New Holland equipment demonstration followed of course by allowing them access to each piece. The interest in farming is evident, we just need to continue in our pursuit to educate our youth on new technological advancements — as well as farm safety procedures — to ensure a successful future for our great industry.”
Herkimer County Dairy Princess Connie Louise Fraiser, who was advocating the dairy industry at the event, pointed out that there’s more technology being used in the farming industry all of the time.
“It’s a great asset to the industry for the future,” said Fraiser. “The good thing is that the schools are using the S.T.E.M. program which fits perfectly with the industry and technology. The Farming your Future event is a great opportunity for students to see their options.”
“I think it is important to thank the vendors that take their work day to come share their time and knowledge with the students,” said Douglas. “We have a great BOCES committee that are excited to learn about Agriculture themselves. There are so many careers that are in support of the farmer and the production of food, hopefully the teachers can take the resources provided to help the students explore more. Looking ahead, they can take classes in high school or at BOCES to help them get to career paths that excite them.”
Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol, a beef farm owner, spoke to the students about his life-long love for farming and the many career opportunities available in agriculture. “Chase your dreams!” Maciol advised them.
Maciol said as advocates of agriculture, we are responsible for informing young people about options available to them.
“It’s our obligation to insure we’re providing all of the career opportunities agriculture has to offer to our kids, so that they can make good decisions when it comes to choosing the path — not only to their future — but also ours. Without future farmers, there is no future.”