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Abstract

The use of technology in Australian agriculture is rapidly advancing, with precision agriculture becoming a major focus of research and practical application. This move requires an appropriately qualified workforce in all aspects of agriculture and presents substantial social and educational challenges. This paper describes the steps being taken at a regional university to address two related needs in the Australian rural context: the lack of tertiary qualified graduates in the Australian agriculture industry and the deficit of qualified science and mathematics teachers in rural locations. In an attempt to address these challenges, a number of engagement strategies targeting high school teachers and students have been developed centered on the university SMART (sustainable, management, and accessible rural technologies) Farm that highlight the role of mathematics, science and technology to improve productivity. The initiatives include student outreach programs in science and agriculture and the development of an interactive digital classroom to engage junior secondary mathematics and science students. These initiatives are often the first time students come into contact with the term ‘precision agriculture’ and the underlying mathematics, science and information technology involved. The success of the program is evidenced by an increase in enrolments in agriculture based courses at the university of 10-15 per cent per year in the three years since the initiative was commenced.

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