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Casper – Air Force veteran Colonel Philip Doornbos was actively involved at Casper College for 20 years and was instrumental in securing funding from the oil and gas industry for education.

In his honor, the Doornbos Chair at Casper College was formed and is responsible for bringing events and discussions in agriculture to the college.

On March 1, the 2017 Doornbos Lecture Series kicked off with internationally renowned futurist and economist Lowell Catlett speaking on the automated virtual future of agriculture.

Then and now

“Guess what? The good old days sucked,” chuckled Catlett, noting that in 1970, the world population was 3.6 billion, but agriculture could not provide each person with 2,450 calories, which is needed for normal body weight.

Alternatively, by 2015, the world population doubled and grew to 7.2 billion.

“In 2015, we’ve doubled the world’s population, but there’s 3,200 calories produced per person,” he stressed.

Catlett commented that it is commonly reported that the world population is expected to grow to 9 billion.

“If we distributed calories produced in 2015 to the 9 billion people, there’s already 2,450 per person,” exclaimed Catlett. “Agriculture already produces enough food to feed 9 billion people 2,450 calories. That’s fabulous and has never happened in history.”

The amount of disposable income the average American spent on food in 2015 was 9.7 percent, which was the lowest ever recorded.

“Because of the efficiency of agriculture, American people have gotten back 10 percent more money, and it’s fostered a whole bunch of other industries, such as the restaurant industry,” he continued.

If agriculture stopped its progress with the technology used in 1970, Catlett noted that there would be dramatic environmental impacts.

“It would require 3 billion more acres to produce food for the world population,” he noted. “That’s the entire arable landmass of Canada, the U.S. and China combined.”

Prescriptions

“We have something in agriculture now called prescription agriculture,” said Catlett, which is the idea of using site-specific information in management decisions.

“Our planters today plant, for every linear inch, the number of seeds for that specific linear inch that should be there,” he explained.

Catlett continued, “Last year, Kinze gave the world the first multiple variety planter, so now with prescription agriculture, we go through the field and based on yield results, soil profiles and everything for that linear inch, we determine, not only how many seeds to plant but which variety.”

Through the utilization of prescription agriculture, he noted that producers can sequester eight times more carbon from the atmosphere than the natural environment can on its own.

“And if we have a healthy soil microbe profile, that’s another eight times,” commented Catlett. “In a carbon rich world, the people who control the plants, own it.”

Technologies

At the same time, technologies outside of the field are also improving.

“My Galaxy phone is 32 million times more powerful than a computer that took people to the moon,” commented Catlett.

Catlett explained that in 2015, approximately 5 quintillion transistors, which are conductors used to amplify electronic signals, were placed in devices besides computers.

“We’re seeing this already, but get ready. Everything is going to talk to everything,” he said.

Currently, technology with transistors has opened avenues for tracking soil conditions.

“We have the ability to communicate with what the soil it telling us its requirements are and what plant would work best,” continued Catlett.

The technology of three-dimensional printing is also making appearances in the agricultural industry.

“They are beginning to create flexible sensors that we can get for less than a penny they attach to a seed,” explained Catlett. “We will not have a single plant that doesn’t have a printed sensor on it.”

Robotics is another technology that will become more prevalent in agriculture, particularly in fruits and vegetables.

“The next revolution is called Baxter. We take Baxter’s hand, let it feel a ripe peach and put it into this basket, an unripe peach and put it into this basket, and we only have to show it once,” commented Catlett.

Artisan

As technology advances, some jobs will become obsolete, while others are created, Catlett noted, giving the example of eliminating the need for commercial truck drivers.

“But maybe we need a load technician. Technology always creates more jobs than it destroys. We just have to read history,” said Catlett. “It takes the number of hours we have to earn a living down.”

With the increased efficiency from technology advances, Catlett calls the coming era “the age of the artisans.”

“In this world, what technology, robotics and cognition cannot replace is human experiences, and that’s a chance for phenomenal growth,” he continued.

“We can print modular homes, but we might want to customize them,” Catlett explained. “In that artisan world, humans have more money and more time, and human experiences begin to be valued even more.”

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

College students of the Cowboy State   are seeing additions to their degree options as colleges around the state begin to broaden the horizons of the agriculture curricula. The University of Wyoming (UW) plays a role in the changes occurring at its own campus, as well as the additions to Sheridan College.
New livestock degree
     UW is offering an alternative for students enrolled in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. After two years of serious discussion, an option has been given to students seeking animal science and agribusiness degrees.
    “Based on studies done by observations, there were students getting dual degrees in agribusiness and animal science. The combination in a student is very sought after in the workforce, but it was taking them longer to get their schooling done,” says Chris Bastian, associate professor in agricultural and applied economics at UW.
    The major targets of the curriculum are students of the western states who have an interest in the livestock aspect of agribusiness. The degree will offer an in-depth look into both features of the agriculture industry.
    “It comes down to the fact that this degree will be very attractive for students who are interested in both the animal science and agribusiness programs,” says Bastian.
    Starting this fall, students at UW will be given the opportunity to start taking courses in the livestock business management program.  
Growth of the program
    “We have had a number of students interested in the program. We are in the middle of freshmen orientation, and I have seen a number of students who are interested in the program as well,” says Bastian. “Through the addition of this program, we are providing a niche for those interested in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.”
    Offering a new program with multiple avenues will also be a recruitment tool for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, as it is an option that many institutions in the area do not offer.
    “The University of Nebraska at Lincoln has a similar degree, but the one we are providing for students is a little more in-depth with agriculture economics and animal science,” says Bastian.
    In the future, an indication that the livestock business management option is viable and successful would be a 25 percent enrollment out of the 150 students who are generally enrolled in agribusiness management.
    “Our hope in offering this degree program is that we are providing a foundation for students who will be entering the meat sector. When the students leave, we hope they have the tools that will improve the industry,” says Bastian. “That sounds big and ambitious, but I have heard global predictions that the demand for food will double in the next 20 years. We have to train people who can efficiently meet the demands of the food sector.”      
Agroecology in Sheridan
    Sheridan College is giving their horticulture students an option upon receiving their associate degree in horticulture, as well. This program is called a 3+1 partnership. Three years of the student’s education is spent at Sheridan College, and the fourth is spent at UW.
    The partnership is in agroecology with an emphasis in horticulture. After an associate degree in horticulture is obtained, the students can take their third year of classes on the Sheridan College campus. UW instructors teach these classes.
    Valtcho Jeliazkoy, director of the Agriculture Research Station, and Dr. Sadanand Dhekney, Whitney endowed position in horticulture, are the two UW professors slated to teach the set of third year classes at Sheridan College.  
    “Some of the classes that are offered to the students in the program are taught as online classes,” says Keith Klement, Sheridan College director of agriculture.
    Having the professors on campus gives students more opportunity than taking third year classes. They are also given the chance to be involved in research-related internships.
Transition year
    The collaboration between the two colleges will begin this fall, as this will be the first year that students will be participating in the 3+1 partnership.
    “The program is in currently in transition. Right now we have students who will begin taking UW classes in the fall,” says Klement.
    When the fall semester begins, one student will be making their way through the classes provided by UW. Seven of the student’s peers will be completing their Associate of Science in horticulture.
    “The program has been in discussion for a while, but has been moving forward through the collaboration between Dr. Herbert and our Dean of Agriculture here at Sheridan College,” says Klement.
    Stephen Herbert is the department head of the UW Department of Plant Sciences. The dean of agriculture as Sheridan College is Ami Erickson.
Sheridan’s goals for 3+1
    “Most of our programs have anywhere from 10 to 20 students in them. We hope to have that same amount of students in this program within the next few years,” comments Klement.
    Aside from increasing numbers, Sheridan College would also like to see some of the other programs of the agriculture department take on a similar format.  
    Allie Leitza is an intern at the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..