By: Eric Sandbulte, The Brookings Register

The South Dakota Board of Regents earlier this month approved of South Dakota State University’s facility program plan for a $55 million project that would build a new Precision Ag Classroom and Laboratory building and renovate Berg Ag Hall.

The state Legislature must next approve of the plan before SDSU can start the construction process.

The SDBOR October agenda packet contains all the available information on this project and can be found online at www.sdbor.edu.

The ag lab building alone will cost an estimated $31.8 million and will be located at the corner of Medary Avenue and North Campus Drive, directly west of the Edgar S. McFadden Biostress Lab and across the street from the Animal Science Complex.

The College of Agricultural and Biological Sciences and the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering are partners in the Precision Ag Lab project.

The Ag Engineering Department will leave the Ag Engineering building and move into the Precision Ag Lab building when the project is complete. The Ag Engineering building will still be put to use by housing other research and classroom space. The university is also working on a plan to reassign other departments and use the remaining vacated spaces.

In order to make room for the new building, the Seedhouse, West Headhouse and Wheat Greenhouse will be demolished. A 75-vehicle parking lot will also be removed, with new parking to be added beside the new building. More parking will also be added along the west side of Medary Avenue, the packet indicated.

Precision agriculture refers to a modern farming approach that focuses on efficiency and sustainability, often with a heavy emphasis on fully utilizing available technology. The packet material explains that precision ag seeks to “help produce more food with less water, fertilizer and treatments.”

To go along with these high goals, the new facility will be outfitted with modern collaborative lab space, classroom labs, classrooms and conference rooms.

The Precision Ag Lab will be 129,000 square feet, with more than 14,000 square feet comprised of research lab space, 12,500 square feet for office and administrative space, 11,000 square feet for industrial research labs, 6,600 square feet for industrial teaching labs and 6,500 square feet for classrooms, among other things.

The Berg Agricultural Hall will receive $7 million in renovations. The remaining costs to reach the total $55 million project price tag can be accounted for in site preparation, demolition costs for existing structures at the site, as well as such non-construction costs as architecture and engineering expenses and providing furniture and equipment for the buildings.

At Berg, the first and second floors will be renovated, with that space to be primarily devoted to research labs and lab support space.

Most of the $55 million project will come from ag property tax rebate funds, amounting to $31.5 million. Another $10 million will be provided through private donations. The university’s Research Infrastructure Improvement Fund will provide $7.5 million to the total, and the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council will contribute $6 million.

Utility and operating costs for the building will be funded from university operating budgets.

According to the packet, the university wants to use this project to better create a highly trained workforce in this industry, enhance their collaborative research programs in precision ag, and expand experiential learning opportunities for engineering students.

Contact Eric Sandbulte at esandbulte@brookingsregister.com.

 

 

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