Alternative Sources of Accurate Agricultural Topography

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Neff, Ben
Wright, Nathan
Rieken, Reagan
Sharp, Reece
Shalla, Spencer
Vanstrom, Joseph
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Koziel, Jacek
Professor Emeritus
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Since 1905, the Department of Agricultural Engineering, now the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE), has been a leader in providing engineering solutions to agricultural problems in the United States and the world. The department’s original mission was to mechanize agriculture. That mission has evolved to encompass a global view of the entire food production system–the wise management of natural resources in the production, processing, storage, handling, and use of food fiber and other biological products.

In 1905 Agricultural Engineering was recognized as a subdivision of the Department of Agronomy, and in 1907 it was recognized as a unique department. It was renamed the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in 1990. The department merged with the Department of Industrial Education and Technology in 2004.

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  • Department of Agricultural Engineering (1907–1990)

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Bob Recker started Cedar Valley Innovation, CVI, in 2004 following his retirement from John Deere after 41 years. CVI works on many small-scale experiments to test if they can be applied in large-scale settings. CVI is a small business hoping to make a big impact on agriculture. On this project specifically, our client’s goal is to study the relative accuracy of alternative methods of data collection to create topographical data of agricultural fields for purpose of water flow and related field analysis.Our group understands the possible solutions for the problem of analyzing water flow are tractor-based ground units, drones, and satellite imagery. We also know relative costs for each system or method. CVI is seeking a definitive answer on which method is best and which method would be easiest for farmers to replicate. If our group tells people how we analyzed field A, would they be able to go analyze field B on their own? Our group has not been able to find specific examples of other companies working on analyzing the pros and cons amongst all three methods. There are plenty of companies working on improving, or trying to sell one method, but very few are attempting to determine which one of the three is the best. While determining which method is best for topographical data for water flow analysis, we will also be able to determine other areas farmers could use the topographical data. Mapping fields, scouting crop health, monitoring weeds or need for fertilizer could all be solved with some of the same methods (Darr, 2018).