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International student shapes his dreams with technology

On a spring day in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Uel Palmer Kouame sat down to figure out his college plans. He originally planned to study technology in Belgium. But he was accepted to the Purdue College of Agriculture, a place where his sister encouraged him to apply.

There was just one problem: He didn’t know much about agriculture.

So, he spent the entire year leading up to his first year at Purdue researching and learning. Although his original plan to study technology had changed, Kouame was serious about learning more about agriculture.

 

Uel Palmer Kouame stands in front of the ABE building Uel Palmer Kouame, a senior from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, has always been fascinated with technology. He has been able to pursue that fascination in the agricultural systems management major. Photo by Hannah Deno.

“I was determined to find something that sparked my interested,” said Kouame, a senior agricultural systems management major.

He read books and internet articles and watched videos. But it was a podcast called Future of Agriculture that really taught him and sparked his interest.

“This is a podcast I would recommend that everyone listen to,” he said. “I learned what all there was to agriculture and that there was more to it than just planting and harvesting crops. Technology is a huge part of agriculture as well.”

Kouame said he started to believe there might be a way for him to take his passion for technology and intertwine that with agriculture. He said he was interested in cell phones and computers, and he saw how he could take that interest and apply it to agriculture in brand new ways — and in different ways depending on the needs of the local farmers.

“The most exciting thing I see is the IOT: the internet of things,” he said. “You would be able to create a digital profile of your farm and add things like moisture sensors, imagery, yield sensors, and different things like that.”

By doing this, farmers around the world have more data to help them more efficiently manage the resources where they farm. By improving access to data, he explained, farmers can improve how they manage valuable resources like water and fertilizer. When they do that, farmers improve their lives and the people they feed, Kouame said.

“For example, instead of watering a whole field, you can water only a small part of a field that needs it,” he said.

Before coming to Purdue, Kouame taught himself about programming and software, which started his drive and passion for digital agriculture.

“I found what I was going to study, and now it was time to start my college career at Purdue,” Kouame said.

But while he knew he wanted to combine his love of technology with agriculture, he arrived at Purdue not entirely sure what to major in. He had many conversations with different faculty and staff about his passions for technology and sustainable agriculture.

“My advisors and the faculty were very helpful,” Kouame said. “They wanted me to find exactly where I wanted to be, and they wanted to help me find that place.”

Like the research into agriculture that he performed before coming to Purdue, Kouame said learning about the various concentrations in agricultural systems management helped him decide on his major.

“Once I had met with my advisors and learned about this concentration, I was so excited and knew this is where I should be,” Kouame said.

With his passions and ultimate focus in view, his advisors directed him to the concentration of data and information systems. This will ultimately lead Kouame to his dream career with an agricultural company in the data science field. Kouame also has dreams to take what he has learned from college and his post-college experiences to start his own digital software company in his home country.

“When I went back home, one thing that I saw is that a lot of industries would benefit terrifically from having any type of data science,” he said. “But a lot of them do not know how to start, or where to start, or even what to do.”

He said he would like to start a data management company that would begin by helping farmers to better manage their farms. Eventually, these principles could work in manufacturing and other industries. He also said he dreams of using technology to better trace food quality.

“What I want to be remembered for is not ‘Oh, this guy had a lot of money’ (because a lot of people have a lot of money in the world), but being remembered for helping people have better lives,” Kouame said.

And agriculture, he explained, is a great way to improve lives.

Find out more

Purdue Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Future of Agriculture

Apply to Purdue

Explore Purdue Agriculture Majors

Visit Purdue

Hannah Deno is a student writer majoring in agricultural communication in Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication

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