Ag Students Embrace New Broadband Technologies

The face of agriculture is changing with the advancement of internet technology, and Illinois' future farmers appear to be more than willing to embrace it.

Thousands of FFA Chapter members convened in Springfield this month for the organization’s annual statewide conference – most with handheld devices in their pockets and the power to access any agriculture information instantly.

The business of farming is booming with potential thanks to these new applications, according to Bryan Barnett, FFA chapter advisor and agriculture teacher at Winchester High School.  

Barnett said that internet technology has made a tremendous impact in Illinois agriculture. From the availability of on-demand information to GPS-guided equipment, the way farmers work is changing.

“A farmer can be out in the field and look on his phone as far as fertilizer, soil types, what chemicals to use,” he stated. “He can really look that up in a moment’s time and figure out what the problem is and the solution to it.”

Barnett tells his students that mobile apps can be a remarkable advantage in the field.

“They’re going to become more and more important as we move on,” Barnett said. “Once upon a time, information wasn’t in the palm of your hand like it is now. Farmers use this greatly on a regular basis.” 

His FFA students have had no trouble evolving with the massive changes in agriculture technology.

Alex Rueter, FFA chapter member from Winchester, said he’s impressed with the advantages a GPS-guided tractor has on his family’s land.

“It automatically steers the tractor, combine or any piece of machinery for you, so it keeps straight rows,” he said. “I’m almost positive it helps the yields.”

Sarah Sellars, Section 13 President at Illinois Association FFA, said being connected to a mobile network also benefits the business side of farming.

“They can constantly be checking the markets and be in the know about current events instead of having to wait for a radio report or a news publication.”

Cole Parker, another Winchester FFA chapter member, agreed. He added that farmers also use the internet for exploring implement sales and prices. 

Each FFA chapter member is required to keep comprehensive records of their work and finances. Barnett said the activity has become much more streamlined thanks to wireless broadband technology.

“Within our classroom, we’re blessed enough to have laptops that are equipped with wireless internet, so after a students gets done with work, they can sit down at a laptop and type in what they’ve done in their online record book,” he said. “It’s very, very convenient.” 

Dick Steffen, professor for Illinois State University’s Department of Agriculture, was at the FFA conference demonstrating how iPads can be used in farm education. He said the use of hand held technology has become a big part of his curriculum.

One example, he said, is Quizlet - an app that allows users to create and take interactive tests.

“We have a number of tools in Illinois for ag education under the state curriculum online, and we use a state testing database the teachers can use in their classes,” Steffen said. “A lot of teachers also are using precision agriculture in the classroom, not only to teach the students how to use it, but also the science behind it.”

Sellars spoke for the next generation of farmers, encouraging the continued use of broadband technology in the field.

“In the future, I see broadband in every aspect of agriculture from classroom to field,” she said. “I’d like to see it everywhere. I’d like to see more farmers using the GPS systems and internet technologies to make their farms more efficient and more productive.”

Tags: Agriculture, Broadband Illinois, education, Farming, FFA, mobile apps

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