Lamar Community College (LCC) Precision Agriculture students are learning the latest and greatest in agriculture education, all for a fraction of the cost that four-year universities charge.
LCC offers a 28 credit hour certificate for its Precision Agriculture program, an approach to farming and animal agriculture that seeks to optimize the use of resources and minimize waste. Students can complete the certificate over two semesters and can learn how to use a variety of technologies that can improve their farming practices, reduce costs and preserve the farm environment for longer periods of time. The College also offers broader agriculture associate degrees in agriculture business as well as soil and crop science.
Arosha Loku Umagiliyage, LCC’s precision agriculture instructor, said that the program at LCC is unique and competitive as it has a smaller class size, allowing students to more actively engage with the technology.
“Most of the precision agriculture programs, if you check with the four-year colleges, try to focus more on theoretical knowledge and a more research-based approach,” Umagiliyage said. “Our program is trying to give more hands-on experience to the students and by giving them that, they can play and learn with the technologies like satellite positioning systems, auto-steering, geographic information systems (GIS), unmanned aircraft systems for remote sensing, variable rate technologies which we use for the application of chemicals and so forth.”
The program is in its second year, and while it is still a new program, students get the opportunity to learn how to use the most current technologies to optimize their farms, including drones, special sensors, variable rate technologies and more.
“When we talk about precision agriculture, we’re talking about the application of the right input, in the right place, at the right time, using the right amount using the right technology, we try to manage each crop production input in a site-specific manner to support more productivity and sustainability,” Umagiliyage said. “By doing that, we can reduce the waste, increase the profits and maintain the quality of the environment.”
LCC Precision Agriculture students take a variety of courses including those covering applied information technology in agriculture, soil science, unmanned aircraft systems and global positioning systems for geographic information systems. Two elective courses in this program will also provide the knowledge necessary to pass the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 107 aeronautical knowledge test to obtain a Remote Pilot license. As of 2018, the field was growing as much as 10 percent annually, with an average starting salary of above $50,000 for precision agriculture technicians.
Precision agriculture courses at LCC have limited space and are now enrolling for fall 2021. Visit lamarcc.edu to learn more about how to register for the program.