BROOKINGS, S.D. — Raven and South Dakota Corn Utilization Council representatives, donors, lawmakers and supporters joined South Dakota State University officials on Saturday afternoon to break ground for the SDSU Raven Precision Agriculture Center.

The $46.1 million facility will be constructed just south of the Animal Science Complex on the corner of Medary Avenue and North Campus Drive. State lawmakers approved the center earlier this year, and Sioux Falls-based Raven Industries donated $5 million for the project.

SDSU instructor Nic Uilk said Saturday that the building “will not only impact the future of SDSU, but will change our ability to serve this state, this region, and, we believe, agriculture worldwide. New technologies will be developed right here where we stand today that will allow farmers to be more profitable and ensure the success of future generations to come.”

South Dakota Corn Utilization Council President Ryan Wagner said the new facility “will position South Dakota as the Silicon Valley of precision ag.”

“The facility will be a game-changer not only for South Dakota, but for the entire agriculture industry, and it’s economic impact will be tremendous,” Wagner added. “Precision ag has the potential to add $1 billion to agricultural profits in our state for the next 10 years and could generate an additional $35 million in state and local taxes, all while supporting more than 1,000 jobs.”

Lon Stroschein, Raven director of corporate development, said Raven’s sense of obligation to give a $100,000 gift to SDSU for the facility soon turned into an opportunity to make a $5 million investment in agriculture.

“We’re here because we need to recruit talent like SDSU needs to recruit students. … We believe that the precision ag program is going to be built somewhere, and we knew if we didn’t act fast and we didn’t become part of the solution, it was going to be built somewhere that isn’t in Brookings, South Dakota,” Stroschein said.

SDSU is the first land-grant university in the country to offer both a bachelor’s degree and minor in precision agriculture. 

Students learn while participating in a collaborative program focusing on both the Department of Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science, and the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering within the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. The precision agriculture curriculum also incorporates other programs from across the university.

The building will have 129,000 square feet of floor space. Final construction plans are in-progress. Some ground work is expected to begin this fall, with construction starting in the spring of 2019.