Colorado State University and Trimble Create Unique Fort Collins Training Center to Boost Crop Yields While Conserving Natural Resources

A new collaboration between Colorado State University and Trimble will create a unique Fort Collins training center aimed at enabling farmers to boost crop yields while conserving natural resources.

CSU’s Agricultural Research, Development and Education Center, a facility focused on livestock and crop production, recently inked the deal with Trimble.

As part of the collaboration, Trimble will outfit more than a dozen ARDEC tractors, implements and other machinery with GPS and additional positioning technologies used for precision agriculture.

Trimble will use ARDEC as a comprehensive training center for dealers of its agricultural products – training passed on to farmers using the technologies. The CSU site will draw dealers from around the country, said Wade Stewart, training manager for the Trimble Agricultural Division.

In return, CSU faculty, staff and students, as well as ARDEC operations, will benefit from daily use of the cutting-edge technologies, said Lee Sommers, College of Agricultural Sciences associate dean for research.

“This affiliation will put precision agriculture into practice throughout our cropping operations at ARDEC,” Sommers said. “Working with Trimble gives all our related research, teaching and outreach programs access to state-of-the-art technology, and access to training, at no cost to CSU.”

Precision agriculture involves use of advanced positioning technologies to tailor inputs, such as fertilizer and water, to specific and variable needs within a field – an approach that both increases yields and protects the environment.

The Trimble technologies will be used for production of corn, wheat, barley, sunflowers, alfalfa, dry beans, and specialty crops on nearly 800 acres at the ARDEC facility north of Fort Collins.

“This is a great opportunity for both Trimble and CSU, and will allow installation of our full agricultural product line in ARDEC equipment for ongoing use, training and demonstration,” Stewart said.

Trimble, headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif., has an office in Westminster that is the primary location for its agricultural operations and other divisions. This proximity, as well as CSU’s expertise in precision agriculture, helped Trimble select the ARDEC facility as the location for its agricultural training facility, Stewart said.

“We are very excited that CSU faculty, staff and students will have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with these products,” Jennifer Bornhoft, ARDEC operations manager, said. “Use of Trimble technologies will also enhance our crop production and soil management systems.”

Use of the technologies will help CSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences grow its expertise in precision agriculture.

That expertise was evident this spring when Rajiv Khosla, CSU professor of precision agriculture, was named to a federal panel that helps shape national policy on space-based technologies. Khosla, also president of the International Society of Precision Agriculture, has developed an extensive program to understand and show how positioning technologies, such as GPS, can be better used to enhance agricultural productivity, profitability and resource conservation.

The work is essential because arable land is limited, yet the world’s population continues to mount and is expected to reach upwards of 9 billion by 2050, he said. These dynamics present a challenge to farmers working to feed the world, and prompt the use of new technologies.

“These global pulls are going to put more pressure on our agricultural systems, and we’re not putting more land in agriculture,” Khosla said. “So we will have to become more efficient, more productive and more environmentally sustainable, there’s no question about that.”

With the Trimble collaboration, CSU students will have the advantage of experience with technological innovations in agriculture that a traditional teaching program alone cannot provide, Khosla said.

“This affiliation puts CSU at the forefront among land-grant institutions in having access to such a research and extension infrastructure on campus,” he said.

Trimble applies technology to make field and mobile workers in businesses and government significantly more productive. Solutions are focused on applications requiring position or location, including surveying, construction, agriculture, fleet and asset management, public safety and mapping. In addition to using positioning technologies, such as GPS, lasers and optics, Trimble solutions may include software content specific to the needs of users. Wireless technologies are used to deliver the solution to the user and to ensure a tight coupling of the field and the back office.