Agriculture Industry and Education Partnership Yields Results

Aug 29, 2023

Joe Airheart shows a student how to use planter technology
How many college students can say they built an entire planter during college? Students in Mitchell Technical College’s Precision Agriculture Technology program can now say they have thanks to a partnership with Agtegra Cooperative’s Innovation Center. The partnership started last fall on Mitchell Tech’s campus.

Building planters is nothing new to Joe Airheart, Agtegra Agronomy and Innovation Center Location Manager in Huron, South Dakota. Having been with the cooperative in a variety of roles since 2008, he has been working directly in the precision technology field for the last 11 years. He and his team at the Innovation Center install precision hardware in equipment ranging from planters to sprayers, liquid fertilizer systems and more.

Joe has sat on the Precision Agriculture Technology program advisory board at Mitchell Tech for the past nine years. In this role, he provides the program with industry insight and aids in idea development for program curriculum. This connection to the program helped kickstart the idea of incorporating a part of the Innovation Center’s business into Mitchell Tech’s classrooms, and after a conversation at a career fair between Joe and Devon Russell, Program Director/Instructor of the Precision Agriculture Technology program at Mitchell Tech, the planter build project came to fruition.

“Devon has always wanted to bring his students up to Huron for a day so they can see what we do here, but that would have been such a small window for students to really see everything we do,” explains Joe. “This project collaboration allows students to gain hands-on experience and be a part of a project from start to finish.”

Utilizing the precision technologies used at the Innovation Center, Agtegra provided Mitchell Tech with the materials needed to build the planter. Starting with a 24-row Harvest International planter bar, students equipped the planter with Precision Ready 9000 series row unit, hydraulic hoses, vacuum fans, Yetter SharkTooth Row Cleaners with Residue Commander, vApply Base In-Furrow Starter System and Precision Planting products DeltaForce (automated downforce control system), FurrowForce (closing system) and vSet2 with vDrive (seed meter with electric drive system).
“This is a real-world project that Agtegra’s Innovation Centers do regularly, so if our students go directly into the precision ag field, they’ll be a step ahead of everyone else because of this experience,” says Devon.
From driving to Mitchell to provide instruction and guidance during the build to assisting students with quality control checks once completed, Agtegra’s Huron Innovation Center team has been a part of the project from start to finish. Service Manager Braxton Steffen, Assistant Manager Patrick Wetzel and Equipment Technician Stacey Eddy, in addition to Joe, collaborated with Devon on classroom instruction to the students.
“What excites me the most is the opportunity to give the Mitchell Tech students real-life, hands-on experience with precision equipment,” says Joe.

Students within the program have appreciated the skills they have learned from the planter build. Student Carter Robertson is excited to use these skills on his family farm located near Parker, South Dakota.

“My favorite part about the planter project is seeing how fast something like this can be put together when you have a whole classroom working on it,” says Carter. “All the trades I’ve been learning at school will get me ready for troubleshooting in the field and on the farm.”

For students planning to farm after graduation, the planter build has helped equip them with insight on how they can implement technology back home.

“My favorite part about the project has been getting to put together a planter from scratch and seeing how the Precision Planting technologies work together,” says Kaden Klumb, student from Ethan, South Dakota.

Around 30 students played a part in building the planter during the 2022-2023 school year, which was completed this spring and later sold to a farmer. Now, a new planter bar is back on Mitchell Tech’s campus, ready for students to start working on.

This experiential learning partnership is the first of its kind for both Agtegra and Mitchell Tech’s Precision Agriculture Technology program and provides students with a hands-on experience they may not have been able to achieve during school before.

“This type of project is not something we could do every year or replicate on this large of a scale without this partnership,” says Devon. “We really appreciate Joe and Agtegra for bringing us this opportunity.”

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