MU recently received funding to purchase a Monarch MK-V Tractor — the first electric, autonomous tractor available to a university in the U.S. The funds, thanks to the Department of Agriculture Equipment Grants program, will help us develop sustainable techniques in agriculture that are environmentally friendly. Equally, if not more important, the self-driving tractor will empower farmers with disabilities to continue farming activities and save labor costs. The technology also allows for improved precision in the use of fertilizers. MU Extension’s AgrAbility Program is about helping farmers succeed, and the tractor will be involved in research and teaching activities at MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and the College of Engineering. MU faculty will research ways to fully utilize the AI capability of the tractor and use it to help our farmers.
This could not have happened without the broadband facilities needed to download updates for the self-driving tractors. It is not a coincidence that a month ago, Missouri announced a historic $1.7 billion award through the federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program that will connect citizens from each of our 114 counties. This unique program resulted from the work of the UM Office of Extension and Engagement. As explained here, UM staff and faculty partnered with community residents, and submitted 186 challenges to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that need broadband access and that can be addressed via such access. The UM System and Missouri’s 19 regional planning councils created a roadmap to start broadband infrastructure projects that are specifically designed to help people develop skills for work, health, and educational opportunities. An additional $24 million will enable access to opportunities for under-represented groups including rural and elderly populations, as well as veterans, formerly incarcerated people, and racial and ethnic minorities.
The connections between the university and our state make this work possible, and the work will help Missourians connect, learn, participate and thrive. At Mizzou we take pride in our commitment to our land-grant mission.