Class of 2009
Precision Agriculture Specialist
Class of 2009
Biological and Agricultural Engineering Technology
How did you end up at NC State?
I’ve always had a passion and interest for agriculture and how it impacts our everyday lives. I chose to come to NC State because of that passion. In addition to my love for agriculture, it was also about the people. After visiting several colleges, I started thinking about the people I associate with day to day. I try to surround myself with all-around good people and that’s what I encountered when I visited NC State.
Why did you choose BAE?
I began my college career as a turfgrass major at NC State. I worked on and around a golf course growing up all the way through my freshman year at NC State but discovered after my freshman year that it was not the career path for me. I had a roommate in the BAET major, and he mentioned how exciting and interesting his classes and field labs were. I discussed my next opportunities with Dr. Andy Hale and Dr. Gerald Baughman (who ended up being my advisor). These were the main professionals that were influential and helped me get through the curriculum and program efficiently and productively.
How did NC State and BAE prepare you for where you are today?
Dr. Mike Boyette was one of the BAET professors who had a very positive impact on me. Dr. Boyette would continually discuss the importance of his interest and further research in potatoes. The more he talked about potatoes, the more intrigued I became. That’s what led to my first job as a Chemical Applications Manager for a 3200-acre potato farm in west Texas. The job market was extremely challenging when I graduated in 2009. I had the opportunity to fly to Texas and was offered a job with one of the larger potato farms that grew round white chip potatoes for Frito Lay potato chips. Dr. Boyette influenced me in a way that he didn’t necessarily know. I developed a relationship with Dr. Boyette that allowed for deep understanding and the ability to dream, and that’s what much of the relationships with faculty felt like in the BAET Program. NC State was more of an environment where the faculty/staff cared more about the students, where they go and what they do; not just getting a diploma (though that was extremely important). The BAET faculty and staff want to learn alongside you, even though they are the ones instructing. It was also clear that they care about you and your development as a student and a person. I remember taking classes such as Dr. Gary Roberson’s Precision Agriculture. During his teaching, I never really thought of it as a class/lab because I began to enjoy how agriculture and technology began to become dependent and co-exist. When I got to my first job in Texas, that was one of the first things that I was tasked with doing – learning how to properly operate a self-propelled chemical applicator, integrating GPS, managing documentation files both for data management and EPA regulation, chemical composition and application, etc. I remember Dr. Roberson’s class preparing us for the industry and that’s where I got my start in precision agriculture. Dr. Roberson, Dr. Boyette, and other BAET Faculty created excitement and gave us a strong foundation that allowed us to build off-of as we entered the workforce. The agricultural community is rather small, with respects to the rest of the world, but there is a passion in this industry that we want everyone to succeed as we assist this ever so changing and altering the world.
Can you talk a bit about your current position?
Currently, I lead the development and delivery of marketing, sales, and agronomic solution implementation for John Deere Co to company employees, our dealer-channel partners, and our ever-important growers/customers. This is done through specific technologies/solutions such as agronomics, processes, and product information to help sustain and grow a successful farming system.
Day to day what my job entails is that I am the field management between the Deere factories, our dealer-channel and our customers driving success in technology integration and agronomic implementation. I collaborate with growers to test and bring to market current and future precision ag products. I am also responsible for product sales plans as we work towards improving dealer processes and management to assist our dealer-channel partners. I also spend a large portion of my time working with the university and cooperative extension. I’ve worked with Dr. Jason Ward on several projects, one of which is a project with RFID technology in cotton. We’re working to track round modules and to track contamination as we approach tracking the cotton crop from “dirt to shirt.” I also spend a lot of time developing solutions for customer issues and concerns. Many of our products come from farmers either inquiring about making them more efficient or to help them drive higher yields and productivity. We spend time with growers learning about their business and what makes their livelihood but also what makes the food and fiber for the rest of the world.
What are some of the most fulfilling aspects of your position?
The most fulfilling aspect of my role is the ability to work hand in hand with a customer that helps feed and clothe the rest of the world. If we’re able to work in partnership with farmers, it’s gratifying to know that we’re part of the production equation. It’s extremely rewarding to have that influence with them but also to have them help influence our solutions. This allows us to come up with solutions to make the lives of farmers better for them, their families, and production agriculture.
Why do you think it’s important to stay connected to the college and the department?
The agricultural industry has to stick together, and many of those connections are through our university partnerships and cooperative extension. Positions like mine within John Deere Co, are extremely interested in university research and industry trends/results. These partnerships allow us to facilitate relationships as we’re working on joint projects. Whether that be networking for relationships or equipment and technology or overall just a willingness to better the quality of the current research. This type of collaboration has a direct impact on the project outcome rather than just for the university, John Deere, or the farmer. It’s a collaborative effort and everyone has the same goal to improve the agricultural industry.
I’ve also been able to stay connected to the college and university through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and NC Agriculture Leadership and Development Program. I recently graduated from this highly sought-after two-year program in March of 2019. The NCALDP accepts growers and agribusiness professionals and assists them in leadership development both personally and professionally. I’m passionate about this program and I truly think the reputation of the BAET program was beneficial in my application and being accepted.
What advice would you give to students starting out in BAET?
Technology is and will continue to be the key driver of change around the world. I think that NC State University and the BAET Program strives to stay in front or at least remain on top of the technology and in front of change. The BAET Program and Faculty prepared me to enter, and excel, in an industry where agronomic trends and technology change just as fast as we learn them. It’s not all just about learning the technology, but more imperative to stay current and ahead of trends and change. This program allowed for a wide range of course offerings which didn’t narrow job opportunities upon graduation. Students quickly became well-rounded and highly educated graduates that are the cutting-edge of change and were highly sought-after by employers. Don’t be afraid or resistant to change, change can open doors and create opportunities you never thought were possible.