Oct. 6 was a historic day for the future of agriculture in South Dakota.
That was the day a crowd of supporters gathered on the South Dakota State University campus to celebrate the groundbreaking for a world-class precision ag facility. The $46.1 million Raven Precision Agriculture Center will open in August 2021. Construction will begin next spring.
“Precision agriculture has revolutionized the way we farm and is still in its infancy. We can only imagine what innovations we will be using five years from now,” said Ryan Wagner, president of the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council. “This world-class facility will generate widespread benefits for farmers throughout the state and its economic impact will be tremendous. It will be a game changer, not only for South Dakota, but for the entire agriculture industry. South Dakota Corn is proud to be support this incredible project.”
The building will have 129,000 square feet of floor space and be large enough to house modern precision farm equipment. The facility will provide collaborative learning spaces for student design projects and flexible space so scientists from a variety of departments and industry can collaborate in research and education.
Lon Stroschein of Raven, a South Dakota company that develops and manufactures precision agriculture equipment and systems, said the facility will have a positive impact on the next generation of precision ag professionals.
“We felt strongly that we needed to invest in this partnership with SDSU–not only for the workforce that it will help develop, but also for the collaboration and innovation that it will bring to the field of precision agriculture,” said Stroschein, Raven’s director of corporate development. “What we are doing here really matters.”
SDSU is the first land-grant university in the country to offer both a bachelor’s degree and minor in precision agriculture. Cole Berkley, a precision ag student, said the center will help the university continue to provide a high-quality education to students so they are well-prepared to meet the growing demand for work in precision agriculture.
“The faces of the next generation in agriculture are here at SDSU already,” said Berkley, who spoke at the ground-breaking ceremony. “By improving the learning of this generation, we are improving the future of agriculture in South Dakota. Employers look to SDSU for their strong and well-rounded agricultural students. Now they can select students to work in the vast field of precision agriculture with great confidence.”
The idea of building a precision ag facility had been discussed for several years and became reality under the leadership of SDSU President Barry Dunn. He said this project is tangible proof that the people of South Dakota are willing to imagine the future and SDSU’s place in it.
“As president, I spend a lot of time thinking about what this place needs to be, not just now but long after I am gone,” Dunn said. “There is no doubt that what we have done here will position SDSU to change the world for many years to come.”
The Legislature approved the project during its last session. Rep. Lee Qualm said the facility is an exciting development for South Dakota agriculture.
“The Raven Precision Agriculture Center will be used to develop new technology that will bring jobs to South Dakota and help the best farmers and ranchers in the world do what they do best,” Qualm said.
The project is expected to generate a significant economic boost for the agriculture industry. Precision agriculture has the potential to add $1 billion to agriculture profits in our state over 10 years. It could generate an additional $35 million in state and local taxes and support more than 1,000 jobs.
South Dakota farmers are among the nation’s leaders in adopting the latest precision ag technology and equipment to improve their operations, become more efficient and become better stewards of the land. The state’s farmers raise 800 million bushels of corn and 270 million bushels of soybeans annually while becoming more sustainable.
“Farming is vastly different than it was 50, 20 or even 5 years ago,” Wagner said. “What new innovation will we be using 5 years from now? We all know what the industrial revolution did for our nation. Now, we’re witnessing the precision ag revolution.”