“There’s a 35-year challenge in front of us. Most reputable sources will tell you that with a growing world, growing population, growing quality of life, ... we’re looking at, on a conservative side, [increasing] food production by 70 percent by 2050,” Black said. “So, that’s a big task, and there are some challenges with the public understanding the technology, understanding where that’s really going, there will be challenge that land and water are finite resources and so we have to be meta managers in the future.”
Black said education is key to addressing the evolving state of the agriculture industry.
“As this new technology comes along, we’ll have to lean hard on that, I think that labor and training and expertise are certainly some of the challenges we’ll face,” Black said. “I don’t know that we’re ever going to be totally mechanized, that will be interesting to see ...
“We’ll take apples [for example]. Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, today they are planting orchards in such a way that the expectation is that five to 10 years from now there will be mechanical harvesters, so they’re already making those strategic decisions today with the way they’re actually setting out the next generation of orchards in anticipation of technology being able to take over hand labor. I still see the understanding of the need to increase production and the challenges [of] literacy when it comes to the importance of technology and then managing those finite natural resources. If we do all those right, we ought to be able to meet the goals.”
Black also commended the work of CTC and other institutions within the Technical College System of Georgia for being able to remain flexible when developing curriculum based on the needs of industry.
“You know what your mission is here at Chattahoochee Technical College,” Black said. “The faculty is on target with hands-on, practical instruction. The benefit is that people leave here with a job.”
CTC President Ron Newcomb said he appreciates how the HOPE Grant has allowed the college to help train and educate future employees in the skilled labor, which in turn may be applied to the agriculture industry.
“The governor has recommended to the general assembly HOPE strategic industry grants where if you want to go into welding or diesel tech, for example, truck driving and some others, they’ll put some extra money in the HOPE Grant pot to incentivize you to come on and it’s making a difference already in our truck drivers,” Newcomb said.
According to a press release, “Chattahoochee Technical College offers both degree and diploma programs in Horticulture, focusing on general and occupational courses. Also available are several certificate level specializations including Landscape Specialist, Lawn Equipment Repair, Sustainable Urban Horticulture Technician and Landscape Design Technician.
“As one of its newer programs, Chattahoochee Technical College also offers Environmental Technology. Offered at the associate degree level, the 70-credit hour program is now available at the North Metro Campus in Acworth. The program has been designed to offer specialized training to those interested in career opportunities in the environmental science related fields, focusing on water quality.”