Two-time grad puts skills, technology to work in thriving ag industry | Assiniboine Community College
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Two-time grad puts skills, technology to work in thriving ag industry

Two-time grad puts skills, technology to work in thriving ag industry

Written On: 26 July, 2019
Category: Agriculture Alumni
Related programs:  Agribusiness

Have you ever seen water run uphill? Of course not. It’s impossible. But that hasn’t stopped some farmers from inadvertently trying to drain their fields in the wrong direction.

Enter Sarah-Jane Speers, a graduate of Assiniboine Community College now working for Mazergroup, an agricultural equipment and services company, to help them with their operations.

“I’ve actually had a couple of customers where I’ve surveyed their fields and they’ve been trying to drain it the opposite way, because they were just eyeballing it,” Speers said.

Speers graduated from Assiniboine’s Land and Water Management program in 2012 and received her advanced diploma in Geographic Information Systems in 2013.

Speers applies the knowledge she gained from Assiniboine every day in her career as a precision farming consultant for Mazergroup.

To help farmers with drainage, she surveys their fields, showing them “the entire elevation of their field, which way the water paths were going, which would make more sense, to either slow down the flow of water moving or giving them other options of having it move other ways.”

Speers used to have to drive around the field, taking measurements at different spots. But now a drone can fly over an entire field in much less time, using lasers to take much more accurate readings.

“We found a lot of our customers, it’s been very value-added information for them. They spend less seat time in the tractor. They know where their water is going, where they’re moving it and where they want to start their planning,” Speers said.

Speers praised her instructors at Assiniboine for their support of students and their strong ties with industry. One of her instructors, Pam Wilson, had worked for Mazergroup and suggested Speers apply there.

“I think I called them at least once a month, right off the get-go from January. And my very last day of classes, I got hired here,” Speers recalled.

Speers was promoted from her initial position after she found a natural fit with Farm Works, a computer application developed by Trimble, a major supplier to Mazergroup.

“I started playing with it during downtime, rain days. I got really good at it and I’m really good at teaching customers how to use it,” Speers said.

“We start with the seeding rates in the springtime. We can do fertilizer spray rates, then at the end of the year, you take off the yield maps. You’re taking a look at what’s happened over an entire year for our customers.”

Speers credits Assiniboine for providing her with the combination of skills and knowledge she uses to help farmers.

“Everything from my mapping skills to the data collection and organization, that is 100 per cent everything that I learned in the GIS class. The other really fun part about it is because I took my Land and Water Management class first, then I get to remember all these other key factors of how water is a factor, the soil composition, as well as the salinity, in our customers’ fields. They are all information bits and pieces that I learned at school,” she said.

“If you don’t have good data, it’s like you have no data, really.”

Speers encourages anyone thinking of getting into the field to do so.

She modified her own career ambitions while she was at the college, when she realized the agriculture industry is crying out for trained grads from Assiniboine.

“I wanted then to go somewhere and be in a position where I knew there was always going to be a job. That’s literally the ag industry. The ag industry isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s growing,” Speers said.

“It’s a lot of fun.”

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