“I view this as a very forward thinking initiative that has a two-fold benefit providing students with education and knowledge in a field that is projected to grow significantly in the near future,” said ULM President Dr. Nick J. Bruno. “It provides an opportunity for us to greatly benefit the region’s agricultural interests.”
The center’s main goals will be to develop and implement a curriculum for ULM students in precision agriculture methods incorporating the use of UASs; contribute to meeting the workforce demand for individuals in Louisiana trained in precision agriculture methods; and to develop, conduct, and disseminate—in collaboration with the agriculture community in Louisiana—innovative methods and applied research related to the application of UASs in precision agriculture.
“We are currently gathering data to be used by the center via soil and water analysis and by crop analysis using near infrared photo technology that we obtain using our UAS,” said Paul Karlowitz, who will serve as co-director of the new center. “This data will allow the center to demonstrate ways to assess and interpret crop health.”
The demand of the region to provide graduates capable of guiding agricultural initiatives through the use of newer technologies has helped fast-track the development of the Precision Ag Center.
“How to collect and interpret this data is part of two UAS courses this fall,” Karlowitz continued. “This center will provide the needed focal point for our UAS students to prepare to fill the coming jobs in the emerging agricultural UAS market.”
Employers are seeking assistance and individuals experienced in applied research related to application of UASs in agriculture, and those who can also provide support for economic development interests.
Dr. Ron Berry, dean of the College of Business and Social Sciences said, “We are excited to be on the forefront of this emerging application of technology in agriculture."
"As the world’s population continues to grow, improving productivity within the agriculture industry while at the same time helping protect and sustain our limited natural resources will be critical. Appropriate application of UASs can help us accomplish both.”
The center brings a collection of ULM faculty into the fold to provide a rounded and comprehensive course selection for students. Faculty involved with the Precision Ag Center are already working with personnel within the agriculture community.
In the College of Health and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Dr. Kevin Baer, professor of toxicology, will provide expertise in environmental toxicology; and Dr. Dinesh Babu, assistant professor of toxicology, will provide insight into food safety toxicology.
In the College of Business and Social Sciences, Dr. Christine Berry, associate professor of risk management, will provide students with the latest in risk management procedures related to agricultural business initiatives, with Dr. James Casey, Professor of Ag Business, and Zachary Moore, Instructor of Ag Business, providing agribusiness expertise.
Also within the College of Business and Social Sciences, Paul Karlowitz will provide aviation and UAS instruction along with David King, associate professor of aviation.
Dr. Anna Netterville, assistant professor of criminal justice, and Dr. Sean Chenoweth, associate professor of sciences, will facilitate coursework in remote sensing, and geographic information systems. Chenoweth will also serve as director of the center.
Dr. Paul Wiedemeier, associate professor of computer science, will provide information systems classes.
The growth and potential of the research center—through collaborations between the university, farmers, ranchers, and other entrepreneurs in the region—could help create spin-off startup ventures in many areas, including UAS design, the manufacturing of parts for UAS systems, the marketing of efficient crop and animal management plans, and data collection and interpretation.
The center plans to launch in July.