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NASA Federation conferees wowed by Wagner's cutting-edge farm

Crookston Daily Times
Written By:  Mike Christopherson, Managing Editor
July 26, 2001

When Gary Wagner gave a presentation on his family's precision farming operation last January to a NASA Federation of Earth Science Information Partners conference in Tucson, Ariz., he knew the group was impressed.

"They wanted to see a real farm," Wagner said Wednesday at his family's operation a few miles west of Crookston on US Highway 2. "Some of them had never seen a real farm in person."

So when the NASA Federation of ESIP scheduled a three-day conference this week at the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at the University of North Dakota, it only made sense to stop by the Wagner farm.

Wednesday morning, brothers Gary, Wayne and Daryl hosted a breakfast for conference attendees, provided by Houston House Catering of Crookston. While the 100-plus participants were intrigued by Gary Wagner's PowerPoint presentation describing how the farm utilizes satellite imaging and computer technology to increase yields, it was clear they wanted to see it all for themselves. After the computer slide show and an enthusiastic question-and-answer session, the large door at the end of the Quonset opened and the participants eagerly fanned out to climb on the combines, tractors and sprayers themselves, and walked through nearby fields.

"They wanted to learn about what we're doing here," Gary Wagner said. "There's no better way than having them see it all for themselves."

Other conference highlights included a video conference with North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, and similar video conferences with distinguished NASA researchers and administrators. Dr. Vaclav Smil, distinguished professor of geography at the University of Manitoba and author of 12 books, delivered the keynote address on Wednesday entitled, "Global Needs and Limits in the 21st Century."

The Federation of Earth Science Information Partners was established by NASA in 1998 as an experiment to develop a new data and information system. The notion, according to a UND Aerospace release, was that it should be a decentralized, heterogeneous data distribution system, something different from the existing Earth Observing System Data and Informational System. The expectation was that the "Working Prototype" Federation would grow beyond the initial NASA-sponsored experiment and come to involve institutions sponsored by other agencies as well.

The ESIP Federation's goals are two increase the quality and usage of Earth science data and to create interoperability tools for Earth data resources. The Federation of ESIPs brings together scientists and students, engineers and farmers, government agencies and businesses to achieve its goals.

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