Early Adopter

Dusty Engel brings precision agriculture to south Georgia producers

George Vellidis’ “Principles of Precision Agriculture” class at the University of Georgia Tifton campus prepared Dusty Engel (BSA – Agriscience and Environmental Systems, ’09) for the career he has today at Lasseter Equipment Group. That experiential learning enabled Engel, a native of Burke County, Georgia, to have a job in place before he graduated.

“I think George understood where the technology was heading when I was in school. At that time, it was just auto-steer. You had some tractor functionalities that could be controlled by precision ag. He pushed it on us enough and covered enough of the topic that he got me interested in it. Once I got into his classes, it led me to where I wanted to be,” Engel said.

Engel has worked as the precision agriculture manager for Lasseter Equipment for more than 10 years. He helped create and now oversees the precision agriculture department in seven of the company’s south Georgia stores.

“Precision ag is so ingrained into the equipment now, a lot of it comes on the tractor from the factories. Our parts guys need to be aware of what parts are needed and how they're actually being used by the customer. Our service department needs to understand how to diagnose issues and fix problems. I only have two full-time employees, but in essence, I have 180 employees," Engel said.

Precision agriculture enables farmers to improve efficiency in their agricultural practices. Innovations like GPS technology and variable-rate irrigation allow for farmers to be more precise in their daily operations in the field.

Fellow UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences alumnus Chris Hopkins (BSA - Crop Science, '02; MPPPM - Plant Protection and Pest Management, '04) is the store manager at the Lasseter dealership in Lyons, Georgia. He believes Engel's experience and expertise has helped growers adopt precision agriculture in their farming operations.

"In 10 years, we watched precision agriculture go from an idea or concept to the early infancy of its development - to today, where it's mainstream," Hopkins said. "I would say that three-quarters of our farmers use some form of precision agriculture in their day-to-day operations compared to 10 years ago. In my particular location, I would say maybe 10 percent of my producers use some form of precision agriculture."

By Clint Thompson

I think George [Vellidis] understood where the technology was heading when I was in school... Once I got into his classes, it led me to where I wanted to be.

Dusty Engel