Ivy Tech Community College Wabash Valley announced on Wednesday that it has received a $1.2 million grant from the Economic Development Administration to retrofit a building to be used for its Precision Agriculture Equipment Technology Center of Excellence.
The renovation will take place in an Ivy Tech warehouse area in the rear of the former Doughmaker’s Building at the southern Vigo County Industrial Park. “When the building was acquired in 2012 a portion of the building was identified for potential growth for the right programs to align with workforce needs,” said Chancellor Jonathan Weinzapfel. “Both Precision Ag and Diesel Heavy Truck Technology, will be housed in this area and will fill a workforce gap in Indiana.”
“This EDA grant moves us one step closer to making this dedicated space a reality for a successful regionally-focused Precision Ag and Diesel workforce training initiative,” Weinzapfel added.
Ivy Tech gained approval in 2015 from the Indiana Commission on Higher Education to begin offering new degree programs to complement current offerings in agriculture, electronics, computer technology and diesel technology programs.
The EDA grant will help fund renovations to provide training in geospatial technology related to crop planting, fertilization, harvesting, and other farming operations. “With these skills, the project will strengthen Indiana’s position as a global leader in workforce development, job creation and workplace advancement for the agriculture industry,” Weinzapfel said.
The need for new agriculture training is great. Indiana is seeing an increase in the average age of its farm workers from 49 in 1950 to now approaching the age of 60. U.S. Department of Agriculture data indicates that farm output over roughly that same period of time increased 2.7 times, Weinzapfel said. The aging workforce forecasts the need for an influx of workers to take over both traditional and emerging roles in the sector.
“One area in agriculture that this is occurring is in geospatial technology to drive efficiencies in crop planting, fertilizing and harvesting. It is estimated that 95 percent of current farm implement equipment sold today comes with GPS/GIS pre-loaded from the manufacturer,” said David Will, dean of the School of Technology. “But, all members of the agriculture sector are not equipped to utilize this new technology.”
The value of GPS/GIS equipment allows for more efficient operation, optimal planting, harvesting and improved productivity, Will added. “For example, under traditional land management practices, a farmer would apply fertilizer to the soil at a pre-determined volume suitable for the entire field,” he said. “With GPS/GIS data and technology, precision application decisions can be made, acre by acre, resulting in less fertilizer being applied, and reducing the potential for fertilizer run-off into local streams and rivers.”
While Precision Ag is a new enough field to not have codes tied to annual salary earned, the field is tied to several different employment categories in agriculture including farmworkers and laborers, crop, nursery, and greenhouse (median salary of $22,430); agricultural equipment operators ($33,520); and farm equipment mechanics and service technicians, which is most closely related to the job training of precision agriculture ($36,310).
Diesel Technology career opportunities, also are plentiful in the Wabash Valley. According to Ivy Tech’s EMSI data, there are 499 projected annual job openings in the field of Automotive Technology in Indiana, which includes the specialized field of Diesel Technology.
Darin Kohlmeyer, chair of the Precision Ag program explained that the degree program has three pathways – each leading to a specific field in Precision Agriculture “Students will have the opportunity to earn three different 34 credit hour technical certificates – Agriculture Equipment Service Technician, Precision Agriculture Specialist, and Precision Agriculture Technician – all with proven job opportunities in the region. Each will also lead directly to an Associate of Applied Science degree,” he said.
A 34-credit hour technical certificate in Diesel Technology can also be earned on the way to acquiring an Associate of Applied Science degree in Automotive Technology.
“The time is right for Ivy Tech Community College to lead this effort,” said Ivy Tech Wabash Valley Regional Board Chair Lori Danielson. “This federal funding will accelerate Ivy Tech’s innovative educational programs and create opportunities for the agriculture industry throughout the region and state. We are thankful to the EDA for this funding.”
For information about the Precision Agriculture Program at Ivy Tech Wabash Valley go to https://www.ivytech.edu/precision-agriculture. Diesel Technology can be found at: www.ivytech.edu/automotive-technology.
About the U.S. Economic Development Administration (www.eda.gov)
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.
Ivy Tech Community College is the state’s largest public postsecondary institution and the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana. It serves as the state’s engine of workforce development, offering affordable degree programs and training that are aligned with the needs of its community along with courses and programs that transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association.