Precision ag grads: Where are they now?


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Adrienne Lipinski, Reporter

On the corner of Medary Avenue and Campus Drive North, sits the new Raven Precision Agriculture Center, the home center to many majors and minors, one being precision agriculture.

In fall 2016, the major was added to the SDSU catalog and students could officially declare their precision ag major. The minor was added in the 2014-2015 school year. 

Precision ag consists of two aspects; equipment and agronomy. The equipment side of the major is used for crop production and collecting data with the equipment or technology used. The agronomy side involves using the data collected and figuring out the next step.

“Precision ag is kind of a marriage between the two by connecting the equipment side and agronomy side,” said Nicholas Uilk, precision ag instructor. “Equipment has sensors on it that are measuring variability within the field. We then use that data to guide our agronomy decisions.”

Raven, the company that the new center is named after, has been collaborating with SDSU for many years through job fairs, industry events, guest speaker lectures and more. The company recruits very heavily from SDSU, and usually Raven has six to eight interns plus many full-time hires. 

When recruiting, Raven looks for students who have a passion for agriculture, experience, and that are capable, driven and willing to take on responsibility.

“We are very confident that SDSU students from the precision ag program have a very good base knowledge, and that’s a hands-on experience in working with different technologies and understanding the agronomy side as well,” said Shane Swedlund, an engineering manager at Raven Applied Technology.

Since the addition of the major, 30 students have graduated from the precision ag program. Their education and passion for agriculture has pushed them into countless jobs and opportunities. The fall enrollment was at 83 students in the precision ag program. 

The Collegian caught up with three graduates from the program to see where they are today and how their time at SDSU molded their careers.


John Stubbendick

Stubbendick was the first noted graduate of the precision ag program from freshman to senior year. His passion for the agriculture industry stemmed from his dad’s farming operation in Syracuse, Nebraska. He knew he wanted to be in agriculture, but he didn’t want to be a mechanic, and ag business didn’t really excite him.

He was a freshman in 2015 and at that time, the precision ag major wasn’t available, but the minor was. During that time, drones were very popular and the potential for applications got him interested in the precision ag minor. 

When researching potential colleges, he found SDSU. Stubbendick met with Uilk and started talking about classes and after that interaction he decided. 

Even though the official major requirements weren’t publicly available, his adviser knew the rough class outline, so he followed the rough idea. The following year, the major was made official and Stubbendick made the switch.

He saw a need for people to know more about the computer side of agriculture and the need to find and analyze data and put it to use for farmers. 

“From personal experience with my dad, the older guys need help explaining new technology for them a bit, looking at monitors or iPad, those things don’t rationally make sense to the guys who grew up every day manually fixing things,” Stubbendick said. 

After graduation in 2019, Stubbendick worked for AgriVision Equipment Group out of Hamburg, IA for five months. He then switched to his current role as an agronomic financial consultant at Platte Valley Equipment. Making the decision wasn’t easy for him, but he saw more opportunities for him at Platte Valley Equipment. 

In his current position he helps a smaller section of growers for a financial analysis of the field, determines which fields are most profitable and why, then helps determine how to improve the lesser profitable fields. 

Stubbendick kept all his old notebooks and sometimes references them when working through different parts of his job. Earlier this year, he and a coworker were putting together a video on a John Deere sprayer that had individual nozzle control which uses pulse width modulation technology, something he remembered being discussed in several of his classes. There were individual lights on each of the nozzles and they were trying to time the nozzle lights to a song. But, they couldn’t get the timing just right, and it was late at night so they couldn’t call anyone for help. He sat there trying to figure out how to work the sprayer when suddenly Uilk’s voice came into his head from one of the classes he took on how he could adjust what was needed to make it work. 

It was just one instance of how his time at SDSU contributed to his life now. 

“Being two and half years out, I can say pretty well that this is what I wanted to do in the industry,” Stubbendick said. “Working with growers, getting the technology working and getting to see a variety of farm equipment, it’s a thrill. I can’t really think of anything else I’d rather be doing.”


Ally Ringeisen

Ringeisen graduated last May with a double major in precision ag and agronomy with minors in ag business and sustainability. 

The Sherborne, Minnesota native enrolled at SDSU because of the campus atmosphere and layout. Right out of high school she got an internship at NuWay-K&H Cooperative, where she experienced the precision side of agriculture. She enjoyed the information and analytics behind it so much that she decided to double major. 

“Greg Carlson and Uilk left the biggest impression,” Ringeisen said. 

For her, Carlson’s 440 course was one of the key classes that impacted her career today because it helped her dive deep on management and how to manage acre by acre. 

Since her graduation five months ago, she started a position at WinField United in the company’s two-year associate program. This program allows her two experience two different positions. Currently, she is at Allied Cooperative in Wisconsin. In April she’ll be transferred to another position that is yet to be determined. 

She originally was supposed to be an intern at WinField, but because of COVID-19 her internship was canceled. They then offered her to come to an informational session about the two-year program and got the job.

Ringeisen is now working on optimizing operational efficiencies, helping grow dispatching uniformity across all locations and creating a precision ag program. After her program is up, Ringeisen hopes to continue working at WinField, but if that does not work out, she wants to work for another retailer in the Midwest. 

“Make sure you interview for jobs and find something that you like. You got to start somewhere,” Ringeisen advises college seniors. “No job is permanent, you can always find a different one.”


Tyler Carda

Carda was a fall 2018 graduate who majored in precision ag and agronomy. He grew up in Chelsea, South Dakota.

“I chose SDSU knowing that the SDSU curriculum was some of the best in the area and my strong passion for agriculture,” Carda said. 

He started college majoring in agronomy with minors in ag business and precision ag. When CAFES announced the addition of the major, Carda talked with his professors and advisors on switching. With many of the classes he had already taken overlapping with the major requirements, it was an easy choice for him to change his major to precision ag.

“I had a strong passion for understanding more about the equipment side and the fine details of what precision ag is and how it impacts everyday modern agriculture.” Carda said. “And what I can do myself to help farmers better their yields and practices.”

Carda said it was the best decision to come to SDSU and major in precision ag based on the knowledge he gained and connections he made with so many people. 

He keeps in contact with professors like Uilk and Doug Prairie and will often call to get help answering questions. Prairie even helped him build a research planter a few years ago. 

After graduation, Carda started working as a research agronomist for Pinnacle Agriculture. He was also acting as the local precision ag specialist for a few locations including north central and northeastern South Dakota doing prescription writing, working with fertilizer and data analysis. 

After two years, Pinnacle was bought out by J.R Simplot. He now works for their seed company, Innvictis Seed Solutions, as a product specialist for the northern half of the United States. 

The biggest challenge Carda has faced has been working through tense or rough face-to-face interactions with farmers when working through problems. However, he said his background knowledge that SDSU provided him has helped him work efficiently through these issues and focus on the task. 

“My advice to current freshmen is to look outside of the box and participate in clubs or activities,” Carda said. “The networking you start as a freshman can help you gain a full career post-graduation, and you can always reach out to those people to understand different aspects of the industry.”



John Stubbendick was a 2019 graduate from SDSU’s precision agriculture program. He works as an agronomic financial consultant at Platte Valley Equipment.