FARGO - One of the world's largest technology companies is partnering with the future of agriculture in an educational initiative that will bring the two industries together.
Microsoft has joined the National FFA organization to create the Blue 365 initiative, a program that will be kicked off at FFA's national convention in Indianapolis Oct. 27-28.
FFA National President Mark Poeschl, said Microsoft will sponsor at its convention a Blue Room that will include 17,000 square feet dedicated to agricultural technology tools such as drones, robotics, data analytics tools and more.
Information shared in the Blue Room will then be shared digitally, in podcasts, videos and other materials, with FFA clubs nationwide as part of the Blue 365 Initiative.
FFA leaders and Microsoft officials, along with North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, announced the partnership at a news conference on Thursday, July 26, in downtown Fargo.
"We need a new generation of data skills for a new generation of people who will be on farms," said Microsoft President President Brad Smith.
Burgum, who was raised on a farm near Arthur, N.D., said the mix of technology in today's ag sector can clearly be seen from machinery to a drone project underway near Hillsboro, where drones can collect two terabytes of data from a one-hour fly over of 160 square miles. To gather a similar amount of data in person, it would take 640 agronomists collecting data on a quarter section of land each, Burgum said.
Microsoft got involved with Blue 365 as part of TechSpark initiative that launched last year. TechSpark attempts to foster opportunities and job creation in smaller metropolitan areas in six regions including North Dakota.
The FFA was formerly called Future Farmers of America and is known as a student organization for those interested or involved in the agricultural industry. It changed its name to the National FFA Organization to be inclusive of not only students interested in farming but also other ag related industries such as teaching or veterinary sciences.
Poeschl said North Dakota was chosen for the announcement because it has the highest number of FFA participants, with one of every five students enrolled in the agricultural organization.
More than a dozen North Dakota FFA members attended the announcement from across the state, including current North Dakota State FFA President Brianna Maddock.