Farm Horizons, Dec. 2015

The new age of agricultural technology

By Gabe Licht

Agricultural technology has grown significantly over the past 20 years, as have the number of agricultural jobs and the individuals interested in those jobs.

Some of that technology includes GPS-guided equipment, precision planting equipment, precision fertilizer application and soil sampling, and genetically enhanced seed allowing better pest control while using fewer chemicals.

“Most of these technologies were available 20 years ago, but didn’t get perfected and implemented until the last 10 years when commodity prices allowed farmers to invest in them,” said Curt Fettig, an agriculture instructor at Ridgewater College.

Of all those technologies, genetically enhanced seed has probably made the biggest impact, Fettig said.

“The average yield on corn in Minnesota this year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s latest numbers, is over 180 bushels per acre, which is a record,” Fettig said.

A close second is precision agriculture with GPS, according to Fettig.

“The size and automation of GPS-guided equipment has allowed equipment to become larger and more efficient,” Fettig said.

With more advanced technology, more individuals are choosing to study agriculture to ensure they are able to utilize that technology.

“Enrollment has doubled here at Ridgewater over the last 10 or so years,” Fettig said. “Many of the new technologies aren’t understood by other family members, so the next generation of farmers are going to college to learn it.”

Technology has changed how agriculture is taught, as well.

“New classes have been added and existing courses are constantly being updated with new information,” Fettig said. “We also now operate a school farm where students can use the technologies hands on. We also bring industry experts in to teach us or go out for industry training.”

Fettig is seeing more young people interested in agriculture, which is a growing field.

“It’s an exciting time in agriculture for young people and there are more professional-level jobs with excellent salaries than ever before,” Fettig said. “But, there are still more jobs than there are people to fill in many areas of agriculture.”

Ridgewater is bringing its students together with industry leaders and potential employers during the Ag Career Fair and Technology Showcase Friday, Dec. 4.

The career fair is for agricultural business students and interested farm operations students, to help them network with businesses in the industry for employment and/or income opportunities.

The technology showcase is for students to network with business representatives for product information.

Morning events include visiting with more than 40 agriculture industry exhibiters and networking with industry representatives.

Students will also be able to attend 30-minute presentations by industry professionals; choose a classroom with the companies they are interested in; and attend livestock, dairy, and crop production presentations.

All morning events are open to the general public.

In the afternoon, students will be able to go through job interviews.

Farm operations students will be able to attend a presentation by Tom Ryan, of Winfield Solutions. He will talk about attaining 300 bushels of corn per acre using technologies and tools.

Interested high school students, parents, and members of the general public who would like to attend the morning event are asked to register at

Contact Fettig at (320) 222-5267 or with any questions.

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