A partnership between Hinds Community College and Mississippi State University on a program to tie its agriculture programs to emerging technology is poised to help grow jobs in Mississippi and protect the environment.
“Today gives us a unique opportunity to feature a new program in Precision Agriculture at Hinds Community College,” Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse said on Thursday as program directors at each institution signed off on the agreement. “It is one that we are extremely proud of.
Precision Agriculture gathers an array of technological advances to create topographic maps to help farmers and farm families to decide what to plant and where, irrigation strategies, pest control and more. The list of what’s employed includes computers and Global Navigation Satellite Systems as well as unmanned aircraft vehicles, remote sensing, global positioning geographic information systems and variable rate technology.
Gov. Phil Bryant, on hand for the ceremony, said today’s agriculture students are studying the technology of the future.
“When my grandparents were in agriculture, it was a long, hard of manual labor,” Bryant said. “We were fortunate if someone would come across a tractor. Now with aviation, precision agriculture is the future. This system helps protect our environment, so the pesticides we use will be used in just the right amount – not more than we need, not less than we need.”
Ted Kendall, a Mississippi State graduate and former member of the Hinds Board of Trustees, marveled at the technology available now.
“We’ve seen some amazing changes,” said Kendall, president of Gaddis Farms in Hinds County. “With the technology of today in agriculture we will be able to meet the challenges.”
Sean Meacham is a 2014 graduate of HCC’s aviation program. As an employee of MSU’s High Performance Computing System in the university’s Geosystems Research Institute, he surveys agricultural fields with unmanned aerial systems that collect field data for farmers and researchers.
“They can use that information to get a better yield and to better cater to what the farmer needs,” Meacham said. “We also do weed management. In the Pearl River, we can detect invasive weeds that are coming in and smothering out the native species of plants, which allows Louisiana or Mississippi to target these areas to prevent the weeds from messing up the natural resources, birds and animals. With plants that get where boats go through, we’re able to tell nitrogen deficiencies, where there’s too much or not enough water.”
MSU President Dr. Mark Keenum said the emerging field and new partnership will aid in the challenge of doubling food production to adequately address the food needs of the world.
“These high-tech jobs we’re talking about in agriculture are going to be an integral part in the research we’re doing, and what we’re doing today, in helping us attract these industries and businesses and innovative technologies of the future,” Keenum said.
Hinds will offer two separate degree options as part of the program, to be available this fall. One, the Associate of Applied Science degree, will allow students the opportunity to go directly into the workforce. A second option is an Associate of Arts that will allow students to transfer to Mississippi State with 60 hours of community college coursework toward a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Engineering Technology and Business with a concentration in Precision Agriculture, a program which Mississippi State already has in place.
“As we were in the process of developing this Precision Agriculture Program, I have often been asked just what Precision Agriculture is,” said Dr. Chad Stocks, associate vice president for Workforce Training and Raymond Campus assistant dean of Career and Technical Programs at Hinds. “And my answer to the question was ‘Doing the right thing, in the right place at the right time.’”
Hinds Community College’s aviation department is headquartered at John Bell Williams Airport near the Raymond Campus, which is the only airport in Mississippi owned and operated by a community college. The existing aviation program includes Commercial Aviation, Aviation Maintenance Technology and Aviation Technology. Aviation Technology has four programs: Air Traffic Control Technology, Airport Operations and Aviation Security Technology, all based on the Rankin Campus, and Unmanned Aerial Systems, based at the airport.
As Mississippi’s largest community college, Hinds Community College is a comprehensive institution offering quality, affordable educational opportunities with more than 170 academic, career and technical programs. With six locations in central Mississippi, Hinds enrolled nearly 12,000 credit students in fall 2014. To learn more, visit www.hindscc.edu or call 1.800.HindsCC.