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CHS Foundation grants will help northern states' precision ag programs grow

The CHS Foundation awarded grants, funded by charitable gifts from CHS Inc., of $25,000 to Lake Region State College in Devils Lake, North Dakota, $25,000 to Lakes Area Technical College in Watertown, South Dakota; and $218,211 to Montana State University in Bozeman.

Agricultural equipment sits inside a large building.
Lake Region State College in Devils Lake, North Dakota, will use its CHS precision agriculture grant to retrofit a sprayer with technology that will give them hands-on experience. In this photo, taken Sept. 22, 2021, students at the college looked at some of the equipment in the Hoftstad Agricultural Center on the campus, which opened earlier that year.
Ann Bailey / Agweek
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Post-secondary institutions in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana will receive a total of more than $468,000 in precision agriculture grants from the CHS Foundation.

The CHS Foundation awarded grants, funded by charitable gifts from CHS Inc., of $25,000 to Lake Region State College in Devils Lake, North Dakota, $25,000 to Lakes Area Technical College in Watertown, South Dakota; and $218,211 to Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana.

Colorado State College in Fort Collins, Redlands Community College in El Reno, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State University in Stillwater also received grants.

The CHS Foundation grants to the six recipients totaled $829,000 to support development, education and sustainable benefits of precision agriculture.

The foundation, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, supports agricultural and energy-related projects at colleges and universities across the CHS trade area through its annual competitive grant program. The program focused on precision agriculture and cooperative education in 2021.

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Lake Region State College and Lakes Area Technical College will use the grants to bolster their programs, and Montana State University will create a precision ag model farm for interdisciplinary research and education with the grant money.

Lake Region State College will use its grant to update a four-row planter, said Preston Sundeen, Lake Region State College ag program director.

It’s important for students enrolled in the precision agriculture program to get hands-on experience with precision agriculture equipment, and the grant from CHS will allow them to get that from the beginning when they help install, calibrate and troubleshoot the technology on the planter, Sundeen said.

After the equipment is installed, students will use the planter in the agricultural department’s test field that is adjacent to the Hofstad Ag Center on the Lake Region State College campus.

“It helps with all components of the program,” Sundeen said.

In South Dakota, Lakes Area Technical College will use its CHS grant to expand its precision agriculture simulation laboratory. The college will use the funds to purchase one to two side-by-sides — utility task vehicles — which can be retrofitted into mini sprayers equipped with advanced Global Positioning Systems and auto-steer technology.

The grant will help bridge the gap between the funding the precision agriculture program has budgeted and the technology needed to give students practical application of some of the skills they will need in their future careers, said Jennifer Severson, Lakes Area Technical College grants and compliance manager.

“They're learning hands-on for so much of this, and that's what this equipment helps with,” Severson said.

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Montana State University will use part of its CHS Foundation grant to create the Lutz Precision Agriculture and Learning Sustainability Model Farm at the university’s Lutz Farm in Bozeman, said Donna Lawson, director of corporate and foundation relations at the MSU Alumni Foundation.

The university’s 600-acre Lutz farm north of Bozeman raises crop varieties for the Montana Foundation Seed Program. Montana State University will turn the farm into a precision agriculture teaching site that includes the technology, presentations and training to teach students the hands-on skills they will need to improve sustainable agriculture decisions, Lawson said.

A wheat field grows in front of snow-capped mountains.
Lutz Farm
Contributed/Donna Watson

The university also plans to use the grant money to launch, this summer, a precision agriculture camp for undergraduate students across the state and region and to institute an interdisciplinary minor in precision agriculture, which will be implemented in the fall of 2023.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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