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New technology on display at VIrginia Tech's farm

New technology on display at VIrginia Tech's farm

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BLACKSBURG — Space-age technology merged with an ancient occupation at Virginia Tech’s Kentland Farms this week.

More than 100 people gathered at the university’s research center near McCoy to witness how the region’s farms could benefit from advances in technology during its first Precision Agriculture Day on Wednesday.

“It’s kind of like using the stuff we use for turn by turn direction in our automobiles in agriculture,” said Agriculture Technology faculty member Wesley Gwaltney.

Global positioning systems (GPS), smart phone applications and even drones were put on display alongside tractors and mowers in hopes of showing local farmers the efficiency of the combination.

Joey Davenport, who farms about 600 acres in Washington County, said he came to the expo in the hope of finding technology that would fit with his farm and its hilly terrain.

He said he was particularly excited about a newer GPS plan that doesn’t require ongoing fees.

“That helps us since we’re a smaller producer...not having to buy into a plan all the time, being able to transfer it from tractor to tractor,” Davenport said.

He said he was already using an older version of the technology and had seen benefits when it came to spraying and mowing.

“It helps me utilize my time, my diesel fuel, everything because I can keep my machines moving constantly,” Davenport said. “It’s an ace in the hole.”

Doug Bunn said his Dublin farm had yet to incorporate much precision agriculture into the workflow, but that might change after his experience Wednesday.

“I really learned a lot today and I found out it can help me more as a small farmer than what I thought it could,” Bunn said.

Though not yet embracing GPS, Bunn said he is accustomed to tracking cattle records, specifically births and vaccinations, on his smart phone and was excited about the new apps he was shown at the event.

Along with the more tenured farmers were a handful of hopeful future producers currently enrolled in Tech’s two-year Agriculture Technology Program.

“We plan to be the future of agriculture, so you got to catch on as soon as possible,” said senior Patrick Turner of Patrick County.

Fellow senior Kyle Quick of Augusta County said he felt his generation had an advantage when it came to utilizing technology in farming.

“You’re not like grandpa here who, you know, who grew up with a telegraph. You can put two and two together, you can figure out how it’s going to make you more money and save you time,” Quick said.

The students already experienced much of what was on display in their classes and Turner said he’d enjoyed taking what he’d learned back to the farmers near his home.

“To be young and make an impact on somebody that knows what they’re doing, it is pretty cool,” Turner said.

Tech’s farm coordinator Dwight Paulette spearheaded much of the organization of the day, which included assistance from other Tech faculty, the Virginia Cooperative Extension, James River John Deere, Christiansburg’s Meade Tractor and Hoober Inc. of Ashland.

Paulette said he hoped their efforts would accurately demonstrate the potential the technology could have in the region.

“Even though we’ve got smaller irregular fields, the percentage of savings can be really great even for the producers who have mostly beef cattle and hay,” Paulette said.

“There is a place for it in Southwest Virginia.”

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