The Ohio Board of Regents has approved Clark State Community College’s Associate of Applied Science degree in precision agriculture, allowing the college to begin enrolling students to the two-year program and to start classes in August.

“One in seven jobs in Ohio is in agriculture and there is a projected growth of 16% by 2018 in this field. Our great hope is that students will be able to stay in the area.”

— Jo Alice Blondin,
Clark State

The program is the first of its kind in the state and one of about a dozen nationwide.

“Clark State has positioned itself as the state leader in precision agriculture and will train the workforce that will transform farming in Ohio and beyond,” said Amit Singh, vice president of academic affairs at the college.

“One in seven jobs in Ohio is in agriculture and there is a projected growth of 16% by 2018 in this field,” Clark State President Jo Alice Blondin said. “Our great hope is that students will be able to stay in the area.”

The curriculum will blend together traditional agriculture studies with state-of-the-art geospatial technologies, including the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for data collection.

Students will be prepared for jobs analyzing precision agriculture data in various fields, including crop production, pest control and even golf course management.

Better data analysis leads to cost savings and increased production yield according to Larry Everett, professor of agribusiness and horticulture who has helped develop the new program.

His wife and fellow-professor Susan Everett said new technology allows for farmers to make real-time adjustments in response to soil, weather or other condition changes instead of waiting until the next planting season to evaluate data.

“I am so very proud of our faculty who have worked tirelessly on this program,” Blondin said. “Their relationships with industry and, of course, our students are what will make this program successful.”

Clark State is working with industry partners, including the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center and SelectTech Geospatial Advanced Manufacturing, to develop the curriculum and provide hands-on learning experiences for students.

The idea for the program was inspired in part by the work being done at the UAS Center, Blondin said, and the region’s efforts to establish it as a nationally designated test site.

Even though the center wasn’t selected as one of six national sites by the Federal Aviation Administration, she said the area is still poised to be an important hub of drone research and development. A Clark State representative will travel to Florida this month with several other Springfield and Dayton community and business leaders to attend the International Conference on Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

The college hopes to have 10 to 20 students enrolled in the new program in the fall.

Classes will initially be held at Shull Hall, where Clark State’s current agriculture program is housed along with the Global Impact STEM Academy.

Global Impact and a consortium of other high schools have applied for a state Straight A grant in hopes of renovating the former Springfield South High School. If that money comes through, the precision ag program could move there as well.

The college was awarded $1 million recently as part of the state capital improvement budget to develop a Food and Bioscience Training Center at that site.

Blondin said the STEM school and the precision agriculture program make great partners, offering a two-year degree path for the high school students, who can also earn credits toward a four-year degree at partner schools Wright State or Ohio State universities.

Students interested in enrolling in the precision agriculture program should contact Clark State’s admissions department at 937-328-6028.