A big future for agriculture; Riverland considers $11.5 million in expansion, new building
Published 10:44 am Tuesday, November 8, 2016
Riverland Community College President Adenuga Atewologun said Monday that college officials hope to complete twin building projects that would result in Riverland being established as a regional center for agricultural education.
Officials hope to build a new interactive agricultural education center, and also expand an existing building, to create the enhanced ag program.
The new building, estimated to cost $5.5 million, would be located between the two campuses, Atewologun said.
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The structure would be paid for through local funding, partnerships, and college capital funds, he said.
“It is in the early stages” of the project, he said, adding he hopes the plans can be sent to the state for approval by 2018. Construction would take a few years to complete.
The expansion of the existing building on the West Campus, which currently houses sciences classes, would cost $6 million and would include a greenhouse and provide space for test plots. Financing would be requested through the state bonding bill. It is hoped that both projects can be completed on the same timeline.
The two projects would provide an enhanced and impressive curriculum that would be on the cutting edge of ag education, Atewologun said, whose beginnings were founded in its longtime farm business management program. New offerings are precision agriculture, food science, food science technology, agricultural sciences, biotechnology, and agribusiness.
If the financing can be secured, “this will help us in a substantial way” to establish Riverland as a global center that will attract young farmers,” he said.
It would also help with manpower shortages in agriculture, said Brad Schloesser, director of the Southern Minnesota Center for Agriculture. Schloesser and Atewologun met Monday to sign a formal agreement that Riverland would join the Southern Minnesota Center of Agriculture.
The center is a collaborative group of regional higher education institutions with related ag programs. The center, which focuses on connecting students with resources and programs of academic institutions, also works to establish partnerships with key businesses and organizations in the industry to meet the demands of manpower, said Schloesser. Others that have joined the center are Minnesota West, Southwest Minnesota State University and South Central College in Faribault and North Mankato, the lead institution for the center.
Riverland created a “Blueprint for Excellence” in 2013 that identified agriculture as one of its top future priorities. The Austin campus was selected to be the regional anchor for the programming.