Campus: Fresno State -- January 31, 2007

Taking a High-Tech Step Forward in Agriculture

To meet a growing global demand for people skilled in precision agriculture, California State University, Fresno is offering a new technology emphasis that prepares students to improve food production and quality.

Students learn about sophisticated hardware, software and information systems in the classroom, then put their knowledge into practice through research activities with industry partners in the program launched this past semester.

Dr. Balaji Sethuramasamyraja, an assistant professor in the Department of Industrial Technology, is helping establish the agricultural information systems emphasis for the College of Agriculture Sciences and Technology.

"These considerable efforts made by Fresno State are why we are advancing world-class agriculture and helping students prepare to address critical global needs," said Dr. Seth, as Sethuramasamyraja likes to be called. "This university is at the forefront of emerging technologies and I am glad to be a part of it."

Seth serves as a liaison between department and college, said Dr. William Fasse, the associate dean. "It gives us a real opportunity to enhance the technology of production agriculture with the use of geographic information systems [GIS] and precision agriculture, while giving our students a hands-on experience with the best expertise available," Fasse added.

Seth previously participated in precision agriculture and site-specific crop management research at the University of Nebraska, while pursuing his Ph.D. in agricultural and biological systems engineering. He also has worked with the Center for Robotics Research at the University of Cincinnati for research with Caterpillar India Private, Ltd.

Precision farming technologies and mechanized agriculture are increasingly important to get the most out of dwindling farmland resources and to provide economic and environmental benefits for the San Joaquin Valley and throughout the world, said Seth.

Technology taught within the program includes global positioning systems (GPS) satellite-based guidance; GIS-based yield analysis; georeferenced soil and vegetation mapping; variable rate technology and agricultural infotronic systems; and farm automation.

Precision technologies are applied in a multitude of fruit and vegetable crops and agricultural operations ranging from fertilizer and herbicide application to variable seeding and differential harvesting. All provide the potential for research to bolster classroom information, said Seth.

One research project unveiled Nov. 1 is a sophisticated winegrape harvesting system that uses GPS, GIS, near-infrared sensors and automated machinery to harvest only the most desirable fruit in a vineyard. That project teamed Fresno State students and faculty with industry collaborators.

Contact: Shirley Melikian Armbruster, (559) 278-5292 office, (559) 593-1815 cell,

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