South Dakota State University is investing resources in a new $55 million building that will be home to the nation’s first four-year degree program in precision agriculture.
The degree is growing rapidly. In 2016 there were only eight students in the major now there are now 57 students majoring and 90 students minoring in the program.
Technological advancements in the agricultural industries prompted the decision to create the program and establish a new facility to help the major continue to grow.
Despite waiting on approval from the South Dakota Legislature, the project is already receiving industry support.
First Bank and Trust and Farm Credit Services each donated half a million dollars. Raven Industries also gifted a historic $5 million donation toward the facility.
“We think that having a community on campus where all those ag missions come together is a great thing for SDSU, but it’s also a great thing for the industry,” said Director of Corporate Development at Raven Industries Lon Stroschein.
The facility will house faculty from two departments: Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering and Agronomy and Horticulture and Plant Science.
“In the way it is designed, it’ll have faculty from different departments that will be side by side and there is also a lot of collaborative spaces for students to work in so they can work on projects,” said Don Marshall, interim dean of the College of Agricultural and Biological Sciences.
The new building will give SDSU the opportunity to keep up with the advancing technologies in the agricultural industries.
“In our old ag engineering building, the doors aren’t even big enough to get modern equipment inside,” Marshall said.
The proposed budget will include funds for the new precision ag building and renovations to the first and second floors of Berg Agricultural Hall.
Marshall emphasized having good facilities is vital for obtaining grants and attracting students and faculty to the university.
A graduate in ag business and economics from SDSU himself, Stroschein said the university is setting itself apart from the nation with the new program.
“SDSU is, without a doubt, leading the way in establishing not only SDSU, but South Dakota as the leader in precision agriculture – and why not? Of course they should do that,” Stroschein said.
Marshall believes the facility will provide the means for the program to reach its full potential.
If approved by the Legislature, the building will be located north of the Dairy Bar and south of the Animal Science Complex.