Agrichemical industry sets safety bar high for new applicators

New training center near Bloomington believed to be unique in the nation.

Asmark’s Isaac Fulkerson maneuvers an AGCO RoGator along a curved embankment with a 16 percent slope. A new applicator training facility near Bloomington contains a 1-mile obstacle course. (Photos by Cyndi Wiggs)
Asmark’s Isaac Fulkerson maneuvers an AGCO RoGator along a curved embankment with a 16 percent slope. A new applicator training facility near Bloomington contains a 1-mile obstacle course. (Photos by Cyndi Wiggs).
By Kay Shipman

From a tight turn along a wooded lane to a two-way road with a car making a left turn to an embankment curve on a 16 percent slope. Maneuvering a 120-foot spray boom through a driving obstacle course poses just one challenge facing new agrichemical applicators.

Asmark Institute and AGCO Corp. unveiled a new applicator training center and course near Bloomington that is believed to be unique in the nation.

“This is hard to replicate anywhere. This (training course and center) allows people to smell it, feel it and breathe it,” said Fred Whitford, director of Purdue University pesticide programs. “This is about mixing, measuring, making chemical choices, spraying and nozzle tips to help the men and women of this industry do a better job.”

Fulkerson crosses a bridge surrounded by woods. Tight turns and ditches also mark the training course.
Fulkerson crosses a bridge surrounded by woods. Tight turns and ditches also mark the training course.

The new hands-on training center and operating course offers a four-day course to students with little to no background in custom application. Course material was developed with input from ag retailers and industry and university experts.  

Asmark’s Isaac Fulkerson expertly maneuvered a RoGator with a 120-foot boom through the mile-long obstacle course constructed on the wooded property. “We’re trying to put them in real-life situations so they will know what to do, how to make turns and not hit anything,” Fulkerson told FarmWeek as he drove over a small bridge.

Not only does the training meet students’ needs, but it also meets employers’ needs, according to Jean Payne, president of the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association. Agrichemical dealers have commented that some new employees lacked experience driving large equipment, and training time was difficult to find, especially during busy seasons, she explained.

At the new center, students will work with equipment valued at more than $1 million from many manufacturers. They will receive instruction in best practices and new information for “a better way, a safer way,” Whitford said.

The course is open to anyone involved in crop production and costs $575. Click here for information or to register.

Video: A birds-eye view of the obstacle course. (Video courtesy of Asmark Institute)

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