College of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources

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Justin Lehmann first precision ag graduate

Justin Lehmann has been a bit of a beta test throughout college, pioneering his way through the first precision agriculture program at two different campuses. But as the first graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in precision agriculture from North Dakota State University (NDSU) this spring, he’s already sorting through job offers.

Added as an academic degree in January 2018, the precision agriculture major in the College of Agriculture, Food Systems and Natural Resources is administered by the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering. The curriculum balances instruction in agricultural sciences principles with hands-on training and application of technology.

From a family farm near Havana, Lehmann first attended North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) in Wahpeton for two years, obtaining an associate degree in both precision agriculture and agronomy. He was the first to enroll and graduate from the newly launched NDSCS precision ag program as well. “I’ve kind of been a guinea pig through my whole college career,” he says with a laugh. In the fall of 2019, Lehmann enrolled in the NDSU precision agriculture program. “I decided I wanted to continue my education at NDSU and hopefully gain some more valuable knowledge in agriculture and specifically precision ag,” he says. This spring, he will be the first NDSU graduate with a precision ag major, along with a minor in crop and weed science. “Growing up on a family farm, I loved agriculture as a whole and I really saw a lot of technology on the farm and off the farm. I love technology, so I wanted to go that route and experience all the possibilities there are in precision ag,” he says. “The possibilities  are infinite.” With smaller class sizes, Lehmann likes being able to discuss all the possibilities of precision ag with his peers and professors. “Just having that discussion with our teachers on the possibilities of precision ag is really fun,” he says. “Since precision ag is so new, you can discuss future possibilities and you could even possibly develop your own technology if you really wanted to.”

With a strong background in agriculture and technology, Lehmann hopes to offer his knowledge and skills in the precision ag world to maximize profitability for the growers he supports. He has a strong interest in all aspects of the technology. “I really love it all,” he says. “The one technology that I really enjoy is planter technology. All the sensors and all the equipment on planters is amazing.”

With job offers already in hand, Lehmann feels his education will land him a solid career. “The job market is tremendous for people who know and understand the technology in agriculture,” he says. “I would definitely consider NDSU as a very good option. There are very, very good teachers here who are willing to help students and people who are looking at precision ag specifically. It’s a great program.”

A focused in-depth education in sciences, technologies and practices, including unmanned aerial systems (drones), remote sensing, a critical intelligence, machine learning, sensors, robotic applications, cloud computing, big data management, and site-specific resources management, awaits students in the precision agriculture field. “There are lots of farmers who believe in the technology and want to adopt the technology, but they just don’t have the knowledge to fully adopt it or run it by themselves, so they rely on people like me or future students to be able to help them through all the software and equipment to interpret and ultimately maximize their profitability,” Lehmann says.

And Lehmann doesn’t mind being the beta test through NDSU’s adaption of a precision ag degree. He’ll take the bragging rights of being the first graduate of the program. “I definitely feel honored,” he says.

Justin Lehmann will put his passion for technology into a career as the first graduate of NDSU’s precision ag program.

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