Agricultural Geospatial Technology

FarmerWhat is Geospatial Data?

In this week’s Episode of ATETV, we were re-introduced to Dan Miller, a student at Kirkwood Community College, studying Precision Agriculture and Agricultural Geospatial Technology.

According to the Kirkwood website, “Agricultural Geospatial Technology students prepare to work in the emerging geospatial technology industry…The two-year program includes courses in computers, GPS, ArcView and data collection, in addition to agronomy and agriculture economics.”

As part of this program, Dan is taking a class called Geospatial Data Collection, which introduces students to GPS and spatial data, and the many applications these technologies have in the field of agriculture.

GPS or Global Positioning Systems are an integral part of today’s farming industry. The technologies, which pinpoint locations via satellite-based remote sensors to within a meter of any given location, help farmers adjust for the fact that any area of land can contain wide variations in soil types, nutrient availability, erosion and soil moisture..

And as Dan and other Kirkwood students are learning through their own “real-world” projects, there are ample ways to apply these geospatial data collection processes. Here are some of their projects, described in students’ own words:

Produce Relocation. “Our family operates a vegetable farm for which we provide produce for many local grocery stores [as well as] for Wal-Mart. In the past, record-keeping has been through paper hand-drawn maps. But this paper method makes it difficult to manage fertilizer, yield and pest-control systems. [My project] will determine where the best place to plant is to plant our vegetables next year…through soil sampling, making boundaries and recording past plantings.”

Addressing the Iowa Flood. “I’m going to plot out corn crops in areas that were affected by the recent floods in Iowa. I hope to document the area lost to the flood and identify problems with areas that remain as crop ground.”

Creating a Map of Iowa Lake. “I am going to be working with the staff of Iowa Lake [to create] a detailed map for use by fishermen. I will walk around the lake and get a boundary layer and will use my boat to map and identify structures with the lake. I also will be laying a grid over the lake of 10-yard by 10-yard squares and taking the depth of the water.”

Dan Miller told ATETV that he’d like to take his GPS experience back to his own family’s farm. But as he also notes, his Geospatial Data Collection class has opened his eyes to other job options as well – for example, positions in the fields of construction or natural resources, or other positions in the agricultural industry.

To learn more about precision farming and GPS applications, check out this backgrounder from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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