The words and phrases, “wow,” and “It’s so bright,” and “this is huge!” could be heard exclaimed on April 11 as members of the public, business leaders, local farmers, and current and prospective students to Ivy Tech Community College, had a chance to see the renovation work taking place on Ivy Tech’s newest laboratory space.
Nearly 100 individuals toured the new Precision Agriculture and Heavy Duty Diesel Equipment Technology Laboratory now being renovated in the rear of the former Doughmaker’s Building (now Ivy Tech’s TechLAB), located in the south Industrial Park in Terre Haute.
The facility, owned by Ivy Tech, has its nursing program located in the front half of the building – and the rear of the facility is a 26,000 square foot former warehouse, which by fall will be the new lab space for all of Ivy Tech’s Precision Ag and Diesel students.
“I was really quite impressed with what I saw,” said Mars Harlan local farmer and owner of Burch Harlan Farms in Prairietown. “All of this equipment is getting more and more complicated. We need people who are qualified and have the skills to work on them. I can’t wait to see the finished product.”
Construction began in the TechLAB on January 24, 2018. C.H Garmong and Son Inc. is the general contractor. Their goal is the complete the project by June 11, 2018, for Ivy Tech to move in and begin operating classes Fall 2018. The 26,000 sq. ft. facility will use the latest technology in exhaust, equipment, and facilities infrastructure.
Lea Anne Crooks, Ivy Tech Terre Haute Chancellor, said that conversations about these programs have been a point of discussion since about 2006. In 2014, talks and illustrations of the need arose again. “Because Precision Agriculture is an emerging field, there was not a lot of data available, so Ivy Tech Community College Terre Haute Campus did research to discover where the needs exist,” Crooks said.
An industry survey was developed and sent to 362 implement dealers and contract service providers throughout Indiana and found large support for programs of this nature. Among the returns, 90% of the respondents currently employ 3 Precision Ag technicians per each of their sites; 87% expect to hire technicians over the next 3-5 years’ and 78% expressed interest in hosting Ivy Tech students as interns, said David Will, dean of the School of Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering, and Applied Science.
The Precision Agriculture Equipment Technology degree was approved in the spring of 2015. Will said the program is the first of its kind within the Ivy Tech system. There are only 4-5 post-secondary universities throughout the country offering specific Precision Ag degrees.
“The funding for the project is multi-faceted,” said Rachel Mullinnix, executive director for Resource Development at Ivy Tech. Ivy Tech received a $1.2M grant from the Economic Development Administration in 2016 for the renovation that provides the facilities and equipment to provide the necessary education in Precision Agriculture. “The EDA provided us with the funding to begin the renovation process but much is still needed to ensure that students will have the proper equipment,” she explained.
Anyone interested in seeing the facility and learning more about the programs should contact Mullinnix, at 812-298-2410 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.