Clark State Community College has been awarded a $402,378 grant from the National Science Foundation for the Precision Technologies: Integrating Agriculture and Geo-Sciences project. The funds will be available beginning July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2019, and support Clark State’s Precision Agriculture degree program.
“This NSF grant represents a confirmation of the cutting-edge and future-focused work that Clark State began three years ago when we developed Ohio's first Precision Agriculture degree program,” said Clark State president, Dr. Jo Alice Blondin. “This grant also gives Clark State a strategic step forward in taking our Precision Agriculture program to the next level.”
The goals of the Precision Technologies program include growing the pipeline of precision agriculture students, increasing retention by expanding career and transfer options, address changing industry needs in precision agriculture and prepare faculty to respond to the rapidly growing applications of precision technology.
“We are facing a shortage of skilled agriculture workers in the state of Ohio, where 1-in-7 jobs are related to agriculture,” said Aimée Bélanger-Haas, Dean, Business and Applied Technologies for Clark State. “We look forward to growing the pipeline of Precision Agriculture students by introducing curriculum into high schools, provide experiential learning opportunities for students and create new Precision Agriculture ‘Iron’ degree option that addresses the need for precision agriculture technicians.”
In 2015, students in the Clark State Precision Agriculture Program began flying unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) as part of the curriculum. The program is designed to prepare students for employment with companies using geospatial technologies, including geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS) applied to agricultural production or management activities, such as pest scouting, site-specific pesticide application, yield mapping or variable-rate irrigation.
Earlier this month, the FAA made changes to the rules applying to operating UAS. Blondin said the changes will benefit Clark State students enrolled in the Precision Agriculture program. “The biggest advantage seems to be the fact that it would be easier to fly UAS now,” she said. “You only need a remote pilot certificate by passing an aeronautical knowledge test. If anything, it should make our program more attractive if we make flying an important part of the curriculum.”
The UAS market is projected to be an $82 billion industry with a potential to create approximately 100,000 jobs over the next 10 years.