Raven Precision Agriculture Center breaks ground Saturday



Taylor Moline

South Dakota State is the first university in the nation to offer a four-year degree in precision agriculture. This Saturday, the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering is breaking ground on its new $47.6 million Raven Precision Agriculture Center.

The groundbreaking will take place south of the Animal Science building at 1:30 p.m. Game day attire is encouraged for the event, as the Precision Ag Bowl and Hall of Fame Game against Indiana State is to follow.

President Barry Dunn will be leading the groundbreaking celebration. He will be supported by various deans, students, donors and representatives who supported the project.

The building will house the offices and space to conduct research for faculty from the Department of Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering and the Department of Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science.

It will also have classrooms, laboratories and space for scientists from other departments and industries to collaborate in research and education.

“The most exciting thing about this new building is having the ability to have agronomists working side-by-side with ag and biosystems engineers,” said Nic Uilk, an agriculture and biosystems instructor.

A fleet of side-by-side ATVs with satellite guidance systems and other precision technologies have already provided hands-on learning opportunities in precision planting and spraying.

“Students get a unique blend of agronomic sciences, engineering and data management with a big dose of hands-on experience,” said John Killefer, dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental sciences.

They are then required to integrate their multidisciplinary knowledge from those classes into problem-based learning through senior-level crop production courses and a capstone course in integrated resource management.

A large volume of mapping data was being accumulated by the department which created a need for the precision agriculture major.

“Precision ag is on the tip of the iceberg and the market is getting ready to explode, and SDSU and the new Raven Precision Agriculture Center is going to be vital in this process,” Uilk said.

The construction for the 129,000 square foot building will begin in the spring of 2019 and is predicted to be ready for use by the fall of 2021.