From handheld GPS units to auto-guided tractors and remote-controlled Segways, a select group of high school students and agriculture educators got hands-on experience with the future of the industry this week as Northwest Missouri State University hosted the third annual AgriVision Equipment Group Precision Agriculture Summer Academy.

The three-day summer academy incorporates hands-on activities with state-of-the-art equipment and networking with industry professionals to advance the knowledge of students and agricultural educators in precision agriculture technologies. Students explore precision application, remote sensing, geographic information systems and data collection and management in the agriculture field.

“With the ever-changing technology in agriculture, it exposes not only the high school students to that technology, but it exposes the ag teachers as well, and that’s important because they can take it back into the classroom,” Rod Barr, the director of Northwest’s School of Agricultural Sciences, said. “We’re exposing students to the latest technology, and they take it back to their school and make a difference in the industry.”

Twenty-four high school students who recently completed their sophomore and junior years and are active members of a 4-H club or FFA chapter were selected to participate along with their agriculture teachers. Participants receive a scholarship that covers the cost of lodging, food, materials, supplies and tuition. Madison FFA Member Tyler Buck along with Advisor Joni Fields attended.

Northwest agriculture students also played an active role in the summer academy, mentoring and leading groups of students through activities. Holly Hatfield, a junior from Kirksville, Missouri, who is majoring in agriculture education, agronomy and horticulture, was among those Northwest students.

“It’s important to get high school students on campus because it provides them the opportunity to think about coming to Northwest,” said Hatfield, who didn’t grow up on a farm but developed her passion for agriculture by participating in her local FFA and 4-H groups. “AgriVision has supplied us with everything we need to teach them that this is an opportunity. This is a place they can come and learn and a place they can return and work for the future of agriculture.”

James Shughart, an agriculture teacher at Harlan Community School in Iowa, said he appreciated the opportunity to learn farming trends and methods that he can take back to his classroom, and his students may then apply those things on their family farms.

“It gives me different opportunities to take back to my students in the classroom, and it gives them chances to have hands-on immersion in precision agriculture, which is something we don’t have in our curriculum back home,” Shughart said.

Northwest began its partnership with AgriVision Equipment in 2015 to enhance the profession-based experiences agriculture students receive at the University and in the region. AgriVision Equipment proactively collaborates with Northwest by participating in its Career Day and Mock Interview Days, and its employees serve on advisory committees.

“When we started talking about precision agriculture and where it’s headed, some things that we talked about three years ago are now happening,” Barr said. “With this growth and the expertise that they have and they put forth, we’re truly appreciative of their time and their financial support of this academy.”