By Jean A. Flanagan
Plants that tell you when they’re thirsty. Sensors that record when an animal eats and how much. Aircraft that tell you what part of your field needs fertilizer. These are all part of the future of agriculture and they were all on display at the 2nd Annual Ag Innovation Showcase, sponsored by Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College, the West Virginia Army National Guard and the Robert C. Byrd Institute of Technology.
The all-day event was held Friday, Oct. 28 at the Moorefield Army National Guard Readiness Center. More than 400 intermediate and high school students attended as well as farmers, entrepreneurs, community and industry leaders.
“We are sending a message to the youth of this community,” said Eastern President Dr. Charles “Chuck” Terrell. “The message is that they can stay here in Hardy County, in the Potomac Highlands and in West Virginia.”
All things tech were on the main stage including the Te Pari Drenching gun, which determines the exact amount of medicine an animal requires based on its weight; radio frequency identification (RFID) technology that records how much an animal eats; hydroponics, which allow the farmer/gardner to grow vegetables without any soil, and ultrasound, which allows the farmer to determine if an animal is pregnant early in the gestation period.
Vendors were also promoting their wares including Aliza and Buddy Dunlap from Capon Crossing. They grow and sell organic, grass-fed beef, lamb and chicken. Their 555-acre farm is just outside Wardensville on Route 259.
Paul Mock’s Greenhouse and Hydroponics and Puckett Greenhouses hosted a panel discussion on the benefits and challenges of high tunnel growing.
Lincoln Welding demonstrated a virtual welding system.
High school students from Hardy, Hampshire, Pendleton and Tucker counties, as well as 5th-graders from Moorefield Intermediate School were given a fun dose of technology with 3-D and laser printing demonstrations, hands-on battle-bot battles and an RFID scavenger hunt of sorts. “We’re trying to get kids excited about technology,” said organizer Joseph Kapp.
Kapp is the Entrepreneur in Residence at Eastern and manages the NewBiz Launchpad in Wardensville.
The keynote address was provided by Micah Fening and Amy Enfield, Ph.D., from MiracleGro/Scotts. They showed some innovations still in the design stages that would allow plants to tell farmers when they need water, fertilizer and when fruit is at its peak ripeness.
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick attended and spoke for a few minutes about the importance of West Virginians being able to grow their own food.
Business partners for the event included Pendleton Community Bank, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the WV Department of Agriculture, Potomac State College, Lincoln Electric, Gears, Inc., and O’Neill’s Restaurant, who served box lunches for the students and a buffet for the adults.[/private]