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Purdue's Erickson honored for precision ag education efforts

Purdue University agronomist Bruce Erickson received the 2018 Educator/Researcher Award of Excellence from the PrecisionAg Institute for his work in delivering information and expertise on precision and digital agriculture to students and audiences around the world.

Erickson, the agronomy education distance and outreach director, was honored during the InfoAg Conference, held recently in St. Louis.

"These are my professional colleagues from around the country who work in the same area as I do," Erickson said. "That's why this award means so much to me."

Ron Turco, head of the agronomy department, said the recognition is a validation of all the work Erickson has done to share knowledge on precision agriculture.

"Bruce has done a tremendous job of making precision ag information available to a wide agricultural audience, and the award captures the significance of his work," Turco said. "There are just not a lot of people like him around, so I'm pleased and proud to see him recognized for all he does."

Erickson said it is critical for agricultural professionals to have access to information in a way that keeps up with the rapid pace of technology. To that end, two years ago he worked with colleagues to launch the non-credit, online precision agriculture course as part of the Agronomy e-Learning academy, earning the 2017 Digital Education Excellence in Teaching Award from Purdue.

“We engaged the thought leaders from around the country in their areas of expertise to produce each of the 12 modules,” Erickson said.

The Agronomy eLearning Academy has served more than 1,100 students from 22 countries and 39 states.

He also oversees the biannual CropLife-Purdue Precision Dealer Survey, which helps provide ag professionals, researchers, policymakers and venture capitalists an idea of what technologies are being adopted, and most importantly, why.

"With any emerging technology, it's hard to find out what's going on in the industry, so the survey helps give an idea of technology adoption and its impact," Erickson said. "Users of the survey are trying to look into the future in an area where there is not much information."

And while Erickson has been riding the crest of the technology wave, he said surfing in those waters can be a challenge for students, industry professionals – and even for him.

"I'll confess that I never feel I'm fully on top of things because every day there is something new. You just have to keep working at it," he said. "You can get to feeling self-conscious about that, but it's something all of my colleagues in this field continually deal with, too. There is so much going on that it's easy to get buried in the details, so my continual goal in anything I do is to try to sort it out and present the key points that are important in making decisions."

Erickson earned his undergraduate degree from Iowa State University before working as an agronomist with DuPont Pioneer. He then completed his master's degree at Iowa State in crop production and physiology before earning his doctorate in agronomy from Purdue. He previously served as the Education Manager for the American Society of Agronomy, where he worked extensively with the Certified Crop Adviser program. His areas of expertise include corn and soybean production, precision farming, instructional design, and competency-based education and assessment.

In nominating Erickson for the award Jess Lowenberg-DeBoer, Purdue professor emeritus of agricultural economics, wrote: "He quietly creates opportunities for people to collaborate, without drawing attention to himself. … He goes beyond platitudes to help his students understand the tools of (precision agriculture) and how those tools are used to increase productivity and input efficiency and reduce the environmental footprint of crop farming.”

The PrecisionAg Institute has sponsored the PrecisionAg Awards of Excellence Program since 2007. Awards are presented in four categories: educator/researcher of the year, crop adviser/entrepreneur of the year, farmer award, and legacy award. The criteria for selection are innovation, leadership/professionalism, stewardship and overall impact. 

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