LeCroy FFA receives equipment grant

Published 4:56 pm Monday, April 1, 2019

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

The LeCroy Career Technical Center FFA chapter is one of only 50 chapters in the country to be selected to receive Microsoft FarmBeats Student Kits from National FFA.

Chapters had the opportunity to apply through the FFA Blue 365 Challenge created by a partnership of Microsoft and FFA by explaining how they would use the equipment.

The LeCRoy chapter received two Microsoft FarmBeats Student Kits and will begin using them in projects next month.

LeCroy agriculture teacher Landon Lowery said the equipment is “cloud based” meaning information from the sensors can be accessed from any electronic device with internet.

“Microsoft worked with FFA to develop these systems as a way of incorporating STEM ideas into agriculture,” Lowery said. “What this system specifically does is it will monitor soil moisture, light and ambient temperature and humidity.”

He said the devices will help students determine if plants they are working with are getting adequate water and light or too much of any one element needed to grow.

One of the kits will be set up in the greenhouse on campus, while another one will be used in an outdoor garden. Lowery said the plan is to use the second kit at the county farm in Thorsby, if challenges with wireless connectivity in the area can be overcome.

Data collected from the sensors will be published on a website for all of the Chilton County FFA chapters and local farmers to access.

This would give farmers data for specific areas and give them something to compare finding on their farm to.

Having two of the devices will also allow students to conduct experiments. One device would be for the control group of plants and the other would be the experimental, giving students the opportunity to test new practices and impact on soil and plants.

Microsoft has also provided a variety of ideas for class activities with the devices.

The equipment will be used by all of Lowery’s students, which is about 20 students each year.

Lowery said the devices will be especially helpful in knowing if strawberries at the county farm are receiving adequate water. He said this can be challenging because of the black plastic that is used to cover the soil under the plant.

“A lot of people do not think of agriculture as STEM, but nearly all our stuff is science, technology, engineering,” Lowery said. “A lot of the things that we are using today, even our car guidance system, that were developed for the agriculture world’s benefit. So, ag is usually on the front end of things, not the back end of things.”

Lowery is also working on a grant application for equipment that would be used alongside the FarmBeats kits to provide additional data.