Precision ag center opens

Jill Fier/Register

BROOKINGS – South Dakota State University officials and supporters, politicians, students and ag industry representatives gathered Saturday afternoon to celebrate the grand opening of the new Raven Precision Agriculture Center on campus.

Above, junior precision ag major Rosalyn Madsen, center, cut the ribbon in front of the nearly 123,000-square-foot, $46.1 million center as other dignitaries look on. Below, former South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard holds the door as visitors enter the new building for tours and SDSU ice cream, and the standing-room-only crowd listens to remarks from SDSU President Barry Dunn at the ceremony.

John Killefer, South Dakota Corn Endowed Dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, said the new facility is an innovative ecosystem “that will not only impact the future of SDSU, but will also positively impact our ability to serve this state, the region, and … educational hands-on experiences which will lead our students to feeding and sustaining a hungry world.” 

Dan Rykhus, president and CEO of Raven Industries, said agricultural leaders have to figure out “how to produce more crops using less inputs, and to do it with a shrinking labor force. And we know that precision ag is a part of that equation, and that’s why we’re so excited to see this building and this program taking form and training students and doing important research today.” Raven invested $5 million in the facility.

“The new Raven Precision Agriculture Center gives myself and my peers the ability to gain hands-on experience with new technologies and full-sized equipment in state-of-the-art learning and lab settings,” Madsen said.

The new center features spaces to house modern precision farm equipment, 15 teaching labs, 12 research labs and 22 collaborative spaces, according to a press release from the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. “Scientists from a variety of departments and agricultural industry partners can collaborate in research, education and outreach activities. The ability to participate in experiential learning with both peers and industry mentors will prepare our students for lifelong careers that support economically and environmentally sustainable agriculture,” Killefer said in a statement.

In 2016, SDSU became the first land-grant university in the country to offer both a bachelor’s degree and minor in precision agriculture. SDSU introduced a minor in precision agriculture in 2015. As of May 2021, 36 students have graduated with a degree in precision agriculture. Currently, 82 students are enrolled in the precision agriculture major, and 57 students have declared precision agriculture as a minor for the Fall 2021 semester. The building hosts just under 500 students studying agricultural and biosystems engineering, agricultural systems technology, agronomy and agricultural science for hands-on laboratory and classroom experiences, the press release said.

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Jill Fier/Register

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