Thanks to a two-year-old grant from the Rural Sustainability Initiative (RSI), Northeastern Junior College is dramatically expanding its portfolio of planting technologies and equipment as it gears up to establish itself as a premier two-year college for precision agriculture.
The RSI grant, secured by former Colorado Community College System Chancellor Nancy McCallum, gives Northeastern funds to make much-needed improvements to its campus greenhouse. It also provided enough money for Northeastern to take advantage of some “great deals” on equipment students will be able to use for hands-on learning, said Northeastern soil and crop science instructor Andy Bartlett.
“Precision ag involves the current wave of technologies and equipment that farmers have only begun to harness for optimal crop planting, growing and harvesting,” Bartlett said. “Many people think of precision ag as the use of drones for applications such as remote sensing or livestock monitoring. Our academic focus is to connect science of agronomy to this technology, especially planting technologies, which is what we believe represent the greatest practical use of precision ag innovations to date.”
The RSI grant is enabling the purchase of a new John Deere model 6145R tractor, a Kubota RTV-X1120 SxS (side-by-side) all-terrain vehicle, a used six-row planter, a new single-row classroom demonstration planter, and an enclosed “gooseneck” trailer that Bartlett said will be turned into a “mobile lab” that will store and transport hands-on learning equipment students will use in the field. Global positioning and automatic steering technologies from Trimble Navigation, along with a variety of hydraulic and electronic products will be used to retrofit and modernize the planting equipment as learning tools for students.
“Our precision ag courses are part of our production agriculture program,” Bartlett said, adding that Northeastern has offered two precision ag-specific course for the past two years. “We’re effectively growing precision ag as an emphasis within production ag, and intend to expand our course offerings as they can be supported by the equipment we’re acquiring this spring and summer. We have a tremendous opportunity to become the school of choice in our region for a two-year degree that emphasizes modern practical planting technologies.”
Bartlett said the equipment purchases planned using the RSI grant money should be completed by the start of the fall semester of the 2020-21 academic year.