Agricultural Systems Technology alumni credit precision agriculture curriculum for career success

Abby Tobben (BS, Agricultural Systems Technology ’23) and Drew Drummond (BS, Agricultural Systems Technology ’23) are in the field and directly applying cutting-edge curriculum from their AST degrees.

Headshots of Abby Tobben and Drew Drummond
Photos courtesy of Abby Tobben and Drew Drummond.

Abby Tobben had no intention of going to Mizzou when she graduated high school. After attending a community college near her hometown of Washington, Missouri, she began looking for other educational opportunities and fell in love with CAFNR’s agricultural systems technology degree.

“I talked to Leon Schumacher on a Zoom call during COVID,” said Tobben. “I knew I liked agronomy; I knew I liked equipment, but that’s what got me so excited about the program. I was lucky to have a semester with him before he retired, and I’m so grateful I had that push to start in the program.”

Today, Tobben works for Elemental Enzymes, a company that uses technology to make and stabilize enzymes for delivery into the soil, as a field research specialist on their agronomy team. She travels across the Midwest to test their products in different field situations. She also works with other departments in Elemental Enzymes to execute seed treatments and foliar trials. She also serves as the company’s UAS drone lead, answering drone use questions from people across the company’s structure. Tobben credits her passion for and success in her first post-grad job to earning her Precision Agriculture Certification in undergrad through Kent Shannon’s precision courses.

“He was very straightforward with how the classes build off of each other, and I think that was what helped me realize what I wanted to do after graduation,” said Tobben. “It helped me see the potential I have in this career, and I might even have the opportunity to lead a drone department in this company someday. I wouldn’t have ever thought about that unless I took those four precision courses.”

Drew Drummond grew up in Slater, Missouri, where he was involved in FFA and around the agriculture industry. His high school ag teacher convinced him to become a CAFNR student, but after starting in agribusiness management, Drummond discovered he wanted to do something more hands-on in the field. After joining the AST program, Drummond took his entry-level knowledge of farm machinery and equipment and amplified it.

“I always put a plug in for Kent Shannon’s precision classes,” said Drummond, now a precision agronomy specialist with MFA in west central Missouri. “Obviously they’re very related to what I do now, but getting my feet wet in those classes on the complex computer side of things, the advance precision stuff, has been invaluable.”

Drummond now manages precision operations and applications such as soil fertility management, soil nutrient management, and soil sampling on over 40,000 acres of farmland across five counties. He uses more than just his Precision Agriculture Certificate, though.

“The general curriculum of AST really helps in an ag retail position, because I learned all the other aspects and facets of daily farm work and management, which helps me understand my customers’ needs better,” he said.

Tobben and Drummond both believe the AST degree prepared them well to work in an agricultural industry that is constantly adapting and growing.

“I found this job opportunity on Indeed and received four messages from the company wanting to interview me during my senior year job search,” said Tobben. “It was clear to them from my degree and resume that I could add value to their team and would be prepared to jump right into the job.”

“If AST is something you’re interested in, you have to understand that the world, especially farming, is not what it was 50 years ago, and it’s always going to continue to push toward this precision side of things,” Drummond said. “The more technology that’s involved in farming, there will constantly be a job market for AST students. It’s not a niche thing anymore, it’s going to be around for the long haul.”