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Simulated combine advances RCC into new era of ag tech

Purchase made possible by Hormel Foundation’s gift

When Alexandria Hagen first sat in the GoHarvest Premium Combine Simulator, “it felt pretty real,” said the 18-year-old Riverland Community College freshman.

And that, in a nutshell, is the whole point of the new acquisition by the Center for Agricultural and Food Science Technology at the college — to make farming real.

Pictured from left, Riverland Community College agriculture instructor and college FFA advisor Nick Schiltz, RCC President Dr. Adenuga Atewologun, Hormel Foundation Executive Director Gary Ray and Dan Hoffman, ag department interim director, cut the ribbon Tuesday on the new combine simulator at the Austin college.
Photos by Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

The new simulator provides a near-real life experience to the school’s agriculture students, some of whom have not had experience with farm machinery. It offers the best possible scenario for learning without having to climb into a real — and expensive — piece of farm equipment.

Officials gathered Tuesday to officially launch the simulator, and to formally thank the Hormel Foundation for its $25,000 donation to the purchase.

The simulator provides a driver’s seat — with all the correct steering and other cab essentials — and monitors that make it look as if you are in the seat of a combine, ready to harvest a field of soybeans or corn. It instructs on movement and safety, as well crop health, such as moisture content, yield, fuel consumption, just to name a few.

The four-screen set-up provides a realistic view as students practice driving a combine using the simulator’s fully functional instrument.

“It is a glorious day in the world of agriculture and food science technology,” said RCC President Adenuga Atewologun. “This symbolizes our commitment to educate the next generation of producers, farmers and entrepreneurs,” he said.

Gary Ray, head of the Hormel Foundation, said the simulator is one example of the foundation’s desire to elevate Riverland Community College and its programming. He noted Silicone Valley’s impact on the world’s technological future; there was no reason RCC “couldn’t lead the effort for our agricultural future.”

Ag instructor Willie Mekeel called the simulator “a cutting-edge way to teach ag safety and standard operating procedures.” He said he doubted many institutions had such a valuable addition to their agriculture programs.

He said it also adds to the technological tools that provide RCC students with better preparation in the field of ag. The department has been using drones to scan fields, which can pinpoint field conditions such as soil moisture levels, pest stress, and stand count.

Dan Hoffman, interim director of the department, said the simulator has already helped Riverland draw a new farm business management student, and also drew a prospective ag science student.

Riverland Community College’s new combine simulator allows ag students to practice in a realistic setting.