26 Aug iFarm plants the seeds for trailblazing STEM careers in South Australian schools
Tatachilla Lutheran College has pioneered the introduction of an iFarm, a cutting-edge initiative aimed at advancing agricultural science and STEM education. Developed by innovators Steve and Kate Mansur, the iFarm serves as a fully computerized outdoor farm research station, featuring eight automated garden beds. These beds enable students to conduct insightful experiments, exploring the effects of diverse factors like soil compositions, water levels, fertilizers, and temperatures on the growth of fruits, grains, and vegetables.
The iFarm program receives funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. This initiative is part of the national “Educating Kids About Agriculture” endeavor, which strives to infuse agricultural innovation into educational settings across the country. The iFarm packages represent substantial investments, encompassing installation, research and development, cloud technology, maintenance, and ongoing support.
Apart from the automated garden beds, each iFarm incorporates a weather station, underground irrigation, overhead sprays, a 2,000L water tank, moisture and temperature sensors, a digital touchscreen, a worm farm for composting, and adaptable shade-cloths for different seasons. Remarkably, the iFarm operates solely on renewable energy sources like wind and solar power and can be operated remotely or in-person. Even the electronic components feature transparent Perspex covers, facilitating students’ understanding of electrical design and function.
The iFarm‘s significance in education is underscored by Isabelle Linde, Tatachilla’s agricultural science expert. She believes the iFarm serves as a vital tool to elevate hands-on learning experiences at the college, sparking enthusiasm for STEM fields. Agricultural science has evolved into a global sector with profound technological advancements, offering diverse career opportunities spanning science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and business. The iFarm presents an exciting opportunity for students to witness firsthand how different climates impact crop growth, grasp essential skills, and appreciate the technology required for sustainable food and fiber production within a changing world.
Tatachilla students have already embraced the iFarm, employing it to analyze diverse aspects such as soil compositions and irrigation methods on crop yield and quality. They also explore plant growth in controlled and uncontrolled environments. To cater to students’ interests, Tatachilla now offers an innovative agricultural science pathway, capitalizing on the burgeoning investments in the food, agribusiness, and agricultural technology sectors.
As an initiative driven by the vision of Steve and Kate Mansur, the iFarm not only exposes students to a range of agricultural careers but also presents STEM disciplines in a compelling and tangible manner. This Australian-designed iFarm is gifted to selected schools as part of the inaugural iFarm program, contributing to the advancement of agricultural education across the nation.
In addition to Tatachilla Lutheran College, other South Australian schools, including Grant High School, Tintinara Area School, Karoonda Area School, Renmark High School, Mount Barker High School, and Oakbank School, have embraced the iFarm program, further underscoring its significance in modern education.