Students give 20-year-old planter an upgrade

By Whitney Baxter

Exposing students to the latest farming technology is one of the goals of the AGEDS 450: Farm Management and Operation class.

Earlier this month, students in the class traveled to Van Wall Equipment in Madrid, Iowa, to install a performance upgrade kit on the Ag 450 Farm’s 20-year-old planter. Working alongside John Deere technicians, the students added new hydraulics, electrical systems and row units – the part of the planter responsible for placing the seed in the ground – to the planter’s frame.

“I’ve learned there is a lot that goes into building these planters,” said Sofia Fernandez, senior in global resource systems. “Being a part of taking it apart, repairing it, putting it back together, it’s really special because then we’ll be able to use this machinery this spring.”

This month’s work is a continuation of the work started by students in last semester’s class. With assistance from some of Van Wall’s technicians, the students tore apart the planter to prepare it for installation of the performance upgrade kit.

Tyler Meyeres, who graduated in December 2022 with an agricultural studies degree, was one of the students involved in last fall’s tear-apart process. He now works as an agriculture management systems specialist at Van Wall Equipment and is one of the technicians assisting this semester’s students.

“It’s interesting being on the other side of the fence now that I’m doing this work as part of my job, but I’m really enjoying it because I’m getting to see this project in a different light than I had originally anticipated,” Meyeres said.

The planter upgrade project was made possible, in part, by the long-standing partnership between the Ag 450 Farm and Van Wall Equipment, said Skyler Rinker, assistant teaching professor in agricultural education and studies and holder of the James and Clare Frevert Ag 450 Professorship. This partnership has given the student-run and managed Ag 450 Farm access to lease and purchase the latest farm machinery and equipment.

“The end goal of this is to provide an opportunity for our students to be exposed to the latest and greatest technology – in this case, it’s planting technology – to not just see it, but actually be a part of the installation component and then be able to use the planter on the farm,” Rinker said.

The updates to the planter will allow planting to be done at a faster rate based on field conditions. The new technology will also improve seed spacing, depth and placement.

“It will be really exciting and beneficial for the whole class to see our work put into practice this spring,” Fernandez said.

Rinker teaches his students that it is all about the connections you make within the industry; this project is an example of that.

“We’ve been fortunate to have connections with Van Wall and John Deere to make this planter upgrade happen. It’s been a great experience,” he said.