LIVING on a dairy farm in Gippsland, Victoria, gives Amy Cosby a unique insight into the importance of ensuring the next generation of agricultural workers are confident and skilled in the use of new technology.
As the CQ University, senior research officer for agri-tech, education and innovation, Dr Cosby has developed an implemented a range of curriculum aligned learning modules for university, VET and high school students.
Speaking at the Australian Farm Institute (AFI) Digital Farmers 2018 conference, Dr Cosby said her research aims to demonstrate exposing young people to agri-tech from an early age will increase the adoption on technology across the agricultural supply chain.
“We aim to build their capacity so the next generation of farm workers have the skills to adopt and implement technology and use it to make decisions,” she said.
“We also aim to bridge the gap between urban and country kids.”
Dr Cosby said while only about 300,000 people were directly employed in agriculture, across the supply chain close to two million people were employed.
“We have all heard current and emerging technology has the potential to transform agriculture,” she said.
“But if there aren’t people who are willing, have the knowledge and are able to implement technology on their property or across the agricultural supply chain.
“We won’t be able to realise the true value.”
Dr Cosby said an issues faced by agricultural educators included a lack of qualified teachers.
“Agriculture is a subject in all states of Australia,” she said.
“However often it is not an agriculture trained teacher.
“It might be a teacher who has come off a farm, or the science teacher who has extra loading.
“There are only three universities in Australia training agriculture teachers.”
Dr Cosby said this had resulted in a decline in the numbers of students studying agriculture in high school.
“The research we are doing and the programs we are implementing are trying to turn this around,” she said.
Dr Cosby said one of the programs being run by CQ University was the GPS Cows program, which partnered with industry and universities, both domestic and overseas, to increase STEM and digital literacy skills in high school students.
“GPS Cows is a web resource we have created for teachers, with teachers,” she said.
“It is about using emerging technology, something not commonly used.”
Dr Cosby said the program involved schools deploying GPS tracking collars on their own or a partner farm’s livestock.
“They deploy them on the animals for a couple of weeks then bring them back in to analyse the data,” she said.
Ms Cosby said a great thing about the program is it suited both children who liked to learn through hands-on methods, as well as those who were more interested in the data analysis.
“They are able to build the collar, put it out on the animal,” she said.
“They can then work with other students in teams to analyse the data.”
Ms Cosby said the modules had been designed so they could be used both in a rural and urban environment.
“There are also quite open-ended resources for the teachers to use,” she said.
More information on the GPS Cows program can be found by clicking here.
For more information on the AFI Digital Farmers conference click here.
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