Precision ag workshop successful

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., is celebrating the success of it's first major precision agriculture workshop for 2002.

The two day “hands-on” workshop was held on Jan. 22-23, 2002, and introduced 25 farmers and agribusiness professionals to tools such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), Yield Mapping, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and Remote Sensing. These are technologies pioneered and utilized by the U.S. Space Program that farmers can now implement everyday on their farms.

Tommie Blackwell was the prime force behind the U.S. Space & Rocket Center's drive to help farmers benefit from space age technology. “It's tremendously exciting for us to see the mainstream, practical uses for the concepts and ideas that have been developed here over the past 40 years.” She said, “Many people don't immediately think of farmers when they think of modern space technology, but in reality, farmers are very receptive to new ideas and ways of doing things.”

Blackwell believes that the pairing of hi-tech and agribusiness is a natural match. “Farmers deal with a very complex environment. Our spatial analysis tools and techniques can help them simplify their operations while at the same time provide increased environmental stewardship and economic returns.”

The Precision Agriculture Workshop series is a collaboration between The U.S. Space & Rocket Center, the USDA, and Auburn University. The USDA grant providing the funding was championed by Congressman Bob Aderholt and supported by the entire Alabama Congressional delegation.

Professor Paul Mask, Extension specialist at Auburn University, has been evaluating precision agriculture in the state of Alabama for the past six years and was one of the workshop instructors. “These technologies have the potential to rapidly expand the capabilities of our farmers. U.S. farmers need to stay ahead of the technology curve to continue to be competitive in the global market. By drawing on the expertise of our space industry partners we think we can meet that challenge.”

Farmer response to the workshop was over-whelmingly positive. Said Debbie Kirkland of Headland, Ala., “The workshop in Huntsville was definitely a good use of our time! I can only think of one other workshop/seminar/field day that we've been to that we came home and so quickly began utilizing what we learned.”

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala, houses the greatest collection of rockets and space memorabilia in the world. Huntsville is the cradle of America's space program. It's where the rockets were developed that put the first U.S. satellite in orbit, sent men to the moon and power today's Space Shuttle; and where the living modules are being built for the space station of the future.

Since opening its doors in 1970, over 10 million people have toured the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. The Rocket Center also has a geospatial division, the Geospatial Training and Application Center (GTAC), to teach agriculturalists and others how to apply the latest satellite technology to their specific businesses.

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