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One of Modesto Junior College’s newest agriculture programs is Irrigation Technology, an especially important field of study in California, where water is scarce and droughts are frequent, creating a critical need for irrigation efficiency and water conservation. MJC’s innovative educational program is made possible through key industry partnerships with Amiad Filters, Cornell Pumps, Danfoss, Howk Systems, Jain Irrigation, Modesto Irrigation District, PMS Instrument Company, Spears, Valley Irrigation, Waterford Irrigation and Western Weather Group.
Over the last several years, evolving technology has changed the way agriculture uses water, thereby impacting the skill requirements of technicians. A statewide water deficiency has created a huge demand for adaptive solutions. The water sector is becoming increasingly reliant upon these new innovations to increase efficiency and effectiveness of delivery systems management. As California continues to face record drought conditions year after year, the demand for irrigation technicians with specialized education has become very clear and MJC’s Irrigation Technology program helps to meet the increasing needs of the agricultural industries.
“Right now there are more jobs available in the local irrigation industry than we have students,” said Don Borges, MJC Dean of Agriculture and Environmental Science.
MJC graduated the first students with Associate of Science in Irrigation Technology in spring of 2017. In addition to the A.S. degree, the program offers certificates in Irrigation Technology, Irrigation Management, Irrigation Design and Irrigation Construction and Installation. Program graduates are skilled technicians with scientific backgrounds and trained in cutting edge technology that enables them to accurately put water when and where it is needed.
Aside from graduates, the program’s greatest achievement has been the placement of the students into the irrigation workforce, either in full-time permanent positions or in paid summer internships. Industry partners have played a pivotal role in placing the students, which has proven to be a win-win for all parties involved.
MJC’s Irrigation Technology Program provides students hands-on training and technical expertise in agricultural water management. The path towards an A.S. degree or certificate in Irrigation Technology takes an integrative approach through advanced irrigation and drainage methodologies, pumping and delivery systems, system design and evaluation, as well as principles of installation and repair. Integral components such as the science of plant growth and production, the relationships between soil and water, and the use of advancing technologies is extensively covered, providing a well-rounded and directly applicable knowledge base.
Training students for careers in the irrigation technology involves a combination of classroom work and field training, as well as outside activities and field trips. An essential part of MJC’s program is the new irrigation facilities located on West Campus, which were completed in fall of 2018. The facilities, which include a reservoir tied into MID’s system and a pumping station, serve as an outdoor laboratory for students to learn pump evaluation and efficiency, center pivot operation, drone NDVI imagery (normalized difference vegetation index images) which is used to determine soil moisture, and other state-of-the-art skills.
MJC’s program also has a mobile irrigation lab, and plans for the near future include using the lab for recruiting from local high schools and providing instructional service to local growers.
“I strongly believe that the program prepares you to enter the workforce as an asset to whichever company you begin working for,” said Ryan Lehikainen, an irrigation designer for Central Irrigation Company, who graduated from MJC in April 2017 with an A.S. degree in both Agriculture Business and Irrigation Technology. “The most valuable part of the Irrigation Technology program, I believe, is the ability you have to prepare for and take the Certified Agricultural Irrigation Specialist test that the Irrigation Association gives. Also, the MJC program has a director who truly cares about the success of his students and makes you feel that if you put forth the effort, you will succeed not only in the program but in the career path you choose once you have moved on from the college.”
MJC currently offers the only associates degree in irrigation technology in the western United States. The college’s irrigation technology program was developed when the college received a three-year grant for $833,174 in 2015 from the National Science Foundation to educate and train agriculture irrigation technicians.
“We’d like to say a sincere thank you to everyone who has supported the program’s development by providing industry support and direction in order to make MJC Irrigation Technology a success,” said Steve Amador, MJC Professor of Mechanized Agriculture, and faculty advisor to the Irrigation Technology Program. “Our success is directly due to the generous industry support we have received. Without these local partnerships the program would not be possible.”
Click these links to learn more about the certificates and degree offered through MJC’s Irrigation Technology program:
For additional information, contact Professor Steve Amador at (209) 575-6215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.