ON Thursday, Microsoft Corp. and the National FFA Organization announced their collaboration to bring innovative technology, science, research and entrepreneurship to the classrooms of more than 650,000 FFA student members nationwide through an initiative known as Blue 365.
FFA members are the future of the food industry, which is relying on this generation to meet unparalleled challenges to feed a growing world population. In a modern world where the food and agriculture industries are reliant on precision agriculture, big data, cloud technology, robotic systems, advanced communications and other sophisticated technologies, Blue 365 will serve as a catalyst for evolving sustainability, innovative efficiency and preparing the future leaders who will solve the world’s critical agricultural challenges. At an event in Fargo today, National FFA CEO Mark Poeschl and Microsoft’s Brad Smith and Mary Snapp were joined by North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, USDA State Director Clare Carlson, and North Dakota State FFA President Brianna Maddock.
“Today’s FFA members are our future industry leaders,” Poeschl said. “The future relies on connecting diversity of innovational approach, solutions-orientation and cutting-edge technology. We are excited that Microsoft shares our vision of Blue 365. Through agricultural education and FFA, our members are evolving their skill sets for the 21st century demands; they will be the change in our industry. Blue 365 can be the spark needed to create the next big idea in agriculture.”
Blue 365 will be unveiled in Indianapolis, Indiana, this October at the 91st National FFA Convention & Expo, the nation’s largest student convention. With the vision and commitment of title sponsors Microsoft and AgriNovus Indiana, The Blue Room, a 17,000-square-foot interactive space, will showcase the cutting-edge technology, research and innovation happening across the spectrum. Through experiential learning and specific focus on the most critical challenges facing our communities — from respecting the planet to the urgent matter of feeding the world — The Blue Room experience serves to inspire and equip students to activate their potential.
“While digital technology is transforming every part of the American economy, not everyone is acquiring the skills to thrive,” said Brad Smith, president, Microsoft. “As a company, we’re focused on ensuring everyone, regardless of their geography or circumstance, has access to the digital skills they need to compete and prosper. And our partnership with the National FFA will expand this work, helping students across the country prepare for digital jobs and the farms of the future.”
Microsoft’s participation in Blue 365 is part of its commitment to helping people who may be impacted by technological advances and builds on its TechSpark initiative launched last year. TechSpark is a civic program fostering greater opportunity and job creation in smaller metropolitan areas. The initiative is in six regions, including in North Dakota, and focuses on five program areas: digital transformation, digital skills and computer science education, career pathways, rural broadband connectivity, and support for nonprofits.
“Technology is changing every job, every industry and every organization, and agriculture is no exception,” Burgum said. “Today’s announcement from Microsoft and FFA will provide a valuable tool for our educators as they work to equip students with the skills necessary to succeed in a 21st century economy. Given FFA’s long and storied history in North Dakota and Microsoft’s commitment to investing in the future of our young people, Blue 365’s potential to support student learning is undeniable.”
“FFA students across America will lead the food and agriculture industry into the future. They must have opportunities to integrate digital skills into both their classroom studies and project-based learning,” said Mary Snapp, corporate vice president and lead for Microsoft Philanthropies. “Our partnership will help ensure that curriculum is up to date so that these young leaders can use technology to drive innovation in farms of the future, sustain and renew our planet, and enrich their communities.
The National FFA Organization provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education to 653,359 student members who belong to one of 8,568 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.