It was just a few years after Leon Schumacher joined the University of Missouri that the agricultural mechanization program changed its name to Agricultural Systems Management (ASM). The program, located in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Division of Food Systems and Bioengineering (FSB), updated its name in the early 1990s to reflect the changing teaching focus, as well as the ever-changing technology.
Now, nearly 30 years later, the program is updating its name once again to reflect new strategic priorities. The new name change, which went into effect in October, is from ASM to Agricultural Systems Technology (AST).
“We are excited about the change,” said Jinglu Tan, director of FSB. “This is not just a name change but a major revision of the curriculum reflecting a new direction we are taking strategically. Continued success of agriculture will heavily depend on novel digital technologies. The new program will prepare graduates with a new skillset critical to the future of agriculture and industry.”
Schumacher serves as the program coordinator for AST. He said they received feedback from current students, alumni and various businesses when considering the name change. A handful of similar programs across the country had already adopted the name change, which also helped the faculty at MU push to highlight its new strategic focus.
“I think the agricultural systems management name was, at times, tough to explain,” Schumacher said. “The primary goal of the AST program is to promote the digital transformation that is occurring in agriculture. With the updated name, it really captures what our students are learning and taking with them when they join the workforce. The new name is more descriptive of the work we’re doing and makes it easier to explain to interested students.”
AST combines interests in machines and business. This career puts students at the forefront of technological innovation in agriculture, environmental protection and related industries. Through the combination of business principles and a knowledge of the latest technology, AST students develop the skills necessary to become successful in sales, service, product development and environmental management positions with agribusinesses. Students interested in production agriculture emphasize precision agriculture and environmental protection.
“There are so many exciting facets of this program,” Schumacher said. “The technology is always changing, too. It’s really exciting for us to help farmers and landowners implement this new technology on their operations.”
Along with a well-rounded degree, the program also offers a certificate in precision agriculture.
“When I started working on my PhD, and that’s been a few years ago, I remember reading a magazine completely focused on artificial intelligence,” Schumacher said. “At the time, I knew this is where we were headed. I really wanted to study the subject and research it. In the last five years, that’s what I’ve been doing. It’s been an incredible experience, and it’s just a lot of fun. I love passing that excitement down to the students.”