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A full farm view

USDA grant helps MU researcher create virtual reality farm modules.

cows on a farm

 
Nov. 4, 2020

When Nichole Anderson joined the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Division of Animal Sciences in the fall of 2018, she was focused on bringing more technology into the classroom.

With the help of a United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant, Anderson is taking a big step in that direction.

The grant, worth more than $270,000, is focused on using virtual reality to increase student understanding and interest in farm animal welfare. The four virtual reality modules that the grant will help develop will focus on operating, commercial dairy and swine farms.

“Many undergraduate and professional animal and veterinary science students in the United States come from non-rural, non-farm backgrounds,” said Anderson, an assistant teaching professor. “The purpose of this proposal is to investigate an additional mechanism for students to gain on-farm experience through the use of virtual reality modules focusing on swine and dairy production systems and common welfare issues they would likely come across while working in the livestock industry.”

Anderson said that the COVID-19 pandemic has made her work more relevant than ever. “As we’ve had to practice social distancing and follow other measures, virtual reality could be an important tool moving forward.”

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