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Turning Teens on to Technology in Agriculture

While it’s often said that technology is shaping the future of agriculture, this message is not often conveyed through the high schools of rural America.

FFA, which gathers nearly 70,000 of the best and brightest high school kids at its convention each year and boasts a membership of more than 650,000 individuals from all 50 states, took a compelling step forward with the creation of The Blue Room.

Support for the effort came from lead sponsors AgriNovus Indiana, which supports and promotes technology development in the state, and Microsoft. Several ag organizations representing everything from grain to crop protection to animal health were on hand to engage in discussions with FFA delegates.

A stage was constructed in the center of the room in the round, and delegates got to hear TED Talk-inspired speeches from key agriculture leaders and technology innovators. Jorge Heraud, who co-founded Blue River Technologies (acquired by John Deere earlier this year), talked about machine learning and the future of intelligent design in the industry.

“Enthusiasm among this crowd was through the roof,” Heraud said. “I would definitely like to see this continue into future years.”

Blaze Curry, Team Leader for FFA, was in charge of Blue Room content and operations. She said the kids were truly engaged.

“Students asked presenters challenging questions comparing technological adoption to their own experiences in their home communities,” Curry said. “For example, students asked questions like, ‘How does this work if you don’t have cell service or internet on the farm?’ and ‘When will this be cost-effective for a small farmer?’”

Presenters and industry partners seemed pleased with the event, Curry added. “They were impressed by the students’ questions and their current knowledge of agriculture. One presenter shared, ‘They are not afraid to ask some tough questions!’”

Beth Bechdol, President of AgriNovus, agreed that companies had a great experience, and delegates were more than able to digest everything that had occurred. “It was a great way for them to have real conversations with the students on a technical level,” Bechdol said. “Not just talking about the company but really digging into the technologies and having that next-level conversation.”

Ultimately, FFA is about serving its many chapters with education information and opportunities that extend from the convention. The Blue Room is no exception.

“From my perspective, the industry reaction was overwhelmingly positive,” Todd Greenwood, FFA’s Director of Strategic Business Partner Development, said. “But they also understand FFA’s need to turn this experience into teachable and hands-on experiences. So moving forward in 2019, FFA will begin Blue 365, the online delivery of lesson plans.”

Stay tuned for what’s next. The Blue Room was a terrific kickoff to a brave new world of technology indoctrination for rural high school students.

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