NSFCHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Parkland College has been awarded a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation's Advanced Technology Education Program to provide improved training in precision agriculture. 

NSF-ATE projects focus on educating technicians in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. Parkland's $197,505 NSF-ATE award will support the college's new Precision Agriculture Curriculum Enhancement (PACE) Project by funding faculty release time, student internships, equipment, and travel.

This is the first NSF grant in Parkland's history for which the college is the fiscal agent and sole awardee, according to school records.

Partnering with local and regional employers, Parkland's PACE project will combine emerging technologies with agronomy to upgrade the school's existing precision ag program offerings. Project outcomes will include a more comprehensive associate's degree, new certificates, updated articulation agreements with participating universities, and dual-enrollment opportunities for area high school students.

The US needs skilled workers to fulfill the growing demand of the precision agriculture industry, including precision ag technicians, crop specialists, nutrient management specialists, precision agronomists, service technicians, and research scientists. Jobs in precision agriculture require a unique combination of technical and agricultural expertise that is not widely available for high school and college students. Enhancing precision agriculture curriculum for two-year colleges and connecting this curriculum with high schools and four-year colleges will dramatically improve the preparedness of technicians in a number of agricultural sectors.

Goals for the PACE Project were developed in conjunction with regional industries, educational partners, and principal investigators (PIs) of currently funded NSF-ATE projects that have similar focuses. With a regional shortage of precision agriculture training/education, PACE will fulfill educational and industry needs by preparing future highly-skilled technicians and creating pathways for educational advancement.

For more information on the PACE Project, contact precision agriculture instructor Jennifer Fridgen at 217/402-3662 or jfridgen@parkland.edu.