“Understanding Today’s Agriculture” students ride high

“Understanding Today’s Agriculture” (AGRI 130) students experienced precision agriculture through a unique vantage point on their third field trip this semester to Hoober, Inc. in Middletown. Each student, many for the very first time, climbed aboard a towering piece of agriculture equipment — a Case Magnum tractor or a Case Patriot sprayer. In the driver’s seat, the advantages of GPS-led Auto Steer technology was apparent, particularly when course instructor Mark Isaacs temporarily turned off the technology!

Although the majority of students represent majors across the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), several students are enrolled outside the college, selecting this elective to expand their knowledge of agriculture. For most of the students, the visit to Hoober, Inc. was their first time inside a tractor cab. Students learned that the investment a farmer makes in one tractor is significant, typically beginning at $250,000. A combine with two optional harvesting components, such as a corn or soybean head, can raise a grower’s investment to nearly to half a million.

One of the objectives of AGRI 130 is to expose students to the multitude of career opportunities available in the agricultural industry. Throughout the course, students hear from guest lecturers and tour guides who share their personal decisions and pathways that led them to their specific career choices in agriculture. In Delaware, agriculture is the leading economic driver in the First State with revenues of $8 billion contributed annually.

Mark outside as students listen
Mark Isaacs, left, David Wharry and Brian Lam, far right, provided an overview of the various equipment used in the agriculture industry before students climbed aboard the red giants.

Hoober, Inc. provided a sprayer and a tractor, each equipped with GPS “Auto-Steer” technology that allows a grower to map out their field or path on the farm. Co-piloting the Patriot sprayer was Brian Lam, a precision agriculture technician at Hoober, Inc.

Matthew poses alongside a red sprayer
Timothy Mulderrig poses alongside his ride of the day, a Case 4430 Patriot sprayer.

Mark Isaacs assisted students inside the Magnum tractor. While others waited their turn driving  their choice of a tractor or sprayer,  Dave Wharry, precision agriculture specialist demonstrated a drone and discussed the many uses of this technology in the day-to-day operation of a successful farm.

Adriana poses insde a tractor
Adriana Valentin is ready to take off inside the cab of a Case Magnum tractor.

Sprayers like the Patriot 4430 seen below,  are elevated to clear crops while spraying. The boom sections on each side are extended wide before the operator releases the the contents stored along the sides. Advances in GPS technology allow farmers to control exact amounts to spray and track exactly where they spray, therefore avoiding overlapping applications.

Hunter Sever inside a sprayer

A few steps up the ladder and students were ready to roll in their giant red rides!

Male student inside a tractor cab
John Schmidt, AS student majoring in English, inside the cab of a Case Magnum tractor.
Eric stands in front of a Case Phantom sprayer
Eric Albiez stands in front of the Case Patriot sprayer he drove at Hoober, Inc.

This is the fourth year Hoober, Inc. has partnered with the University of Delaware to give students first-hand observations of the significant investment farmers make when purchasing these technology-driven machines. In turn, a farm operation realizes tangible progress in productivity as well as achieve environmental stewardship best practices.

A special thanks to our hosts Dave Wharry (in his new UD shirt) and Brian Lam posing with Mark Isaacs and his class. Hoober’s also provided each student with a hat. With their new experience and looking the part, they are ready for their next tractor ride!

Class photo outside the showroom of Hoober, Inc.
AGRI 130 class photo at Hoober, Inc., in Middletown.

AGRI 130’s final tour on November 10, will be to the Webb Farm at the University of Delaware with UD host Scott Hopkins.

Article and photos by Michele Walfred