The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is world-renowned for its graduates and their innovative contributions to the engineering, science and business fields. And now, thanks to the work of Todd DuMond, a farmer from New York state, an MIT education is making its mark on soybean fields as well.
Armed with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from MIT in mechanical engineering, DuMond initially went to work as an oil industry consultant. But, after several years in corporate America and a dream job offer on the table, he realized that his true calling was to return to work on his family farm.
“Even when I was in school, I did whatever I could to make it back to the farm to help out,” DuMond says. “I had a great job, but when I stopped to think about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, farming always rose to the top.”
From field trials to customized equipment and precision-agriculture techniques, one could say that DuMond’s farm is home to a number of science experiments.
The soil on the DuMond farm is extremely diverse due to glacial sediment. In a 50-acre field, there could be 15 different soil types, DuMond says. After working in this challenging environment for years, he decided to initiate research with the New York Corn & Soybean Growers Association to build a high-resolution soil index.
Based on the properties of the different types of soil identified, he hopes to develop a model to help determine the varieties that should be planted in various areas of the field. This kind of knowledge is particularly useful in areas with varying soil types, but by creating the model for this kind of research, DuMond believes it has applications across the country.
Innovation isn’t limited to just big, groundbreaking discoveries, DuMond says. Often innovation builds from attention to detail and taking proven methods and making small incremental changes. Those small changes can lead to big impact.
“What I do on my farm isn’t anything special – anyone can do it,” he says. “Most of my ideas stem from the day-to-day practices on my farm and trying to modify techniques or equipment to fit our specific needs.”