Precision Ag Simulation Lab unveiled

Dan Crisler
Dakota Media Group

By the time Lake Area Technical Institute Precision Agriculture students get into the field, they will be quite the pros in operating farming equipment.

Granted, many of them may already be well-versed anyway depending on their upbringing. But for those who aren’t, and even those who are, the new Precision Ag Simulation Lab recently unveiled to the public will give students an advantage when it comes to getting the best yield on their crops.

Funded by a $50,000 grant from the CHS Foundation, a $10,000 grant from Farm Credit Services of America and donations from others, including local businesses and Lee and Jan Schull, the lab offers students to train on eight Viper 4 interactive work stations while an instructor can display training on a master station projected out to the audience.

The lab also includes several Hawkeye spray simulators, Viper 4 Auto steer simulators, Precision Planting planter pogo sticks, John Deere work stations and a flow control station.

LATI Agriculture Department Supervisor Brian Olson said the lab has been a year in the making.

Prior to that, LATI relied, and still does, on actual farming equipment on LATI grounds to give students a sense of the vehicles.

“We had a student in class asking when they got to operate monitors. At that point, we were very limited on the systems we had,” Olson recalled.

“The wheels started turning and we wrote a grant with the help of C&R Supply in Sioux Falls. They helped us with the setup of this and the direction we wanted to go.”

Having received the $50,000 grant last April 1, Olson said LATI spent the next several months getting the lab built with equipment purchases in time for the start of the school year.

According to Olson, the lab covers enough topics that other LATI ag programs will have use for it.

“It’s going to affect pretty much our production students. Not only our precision students but also our business students,” Olson said.

Olson and agriculture instructor Justin Hagedorn expect the development of the lab to be an ongoing process.

Hagedorn said the simulation lab will open up new paths of learning and topics for ag students.

“I believe that we’re going to be able to find more and more topics to be able to teach out of this classroom,” he said. “There’s a lot of room for future expansion.”

Providing an example, Olson said the ag department is waiting on the development and delivery of another lab.

“We have a larger eight-foot long flow lab coming,” he said. “It will show from start to finish on the monitor how the flow of valves work and how they apply.”

Olson said the simulation labs will not completely replace the tried-and-true teaching methods, including how to select a nozzle and calculate gallons per acre.

“How do you do what we’ve always done in the past will still be done in the classroom. But as you come in here, you can show it on the monitor that this is what’s happening,” he said. “You’re still using all of those old calculations like speed, pressure and tip size. The monitor helps you with those calculations.”

In thanking the donors for their support allowing LATI to purchase about $85,000 worth of lab equipment, Olson made sure to note one significant fact that is likely to please taxpayers.

“From a taxpayer standpoint, we’re pretty proud that not one dollar was spent,” Olson said. “All of the (lab) money was raised through grants and donations. The Schulls gave us a couple of hundred acres to farm rent-free. We made some money off that and reinvested it here.”