Building on South Dakota Universities: SDSU Raven Precision Agriculture Center

(This series was intended to highlight the new construction, renovation and upgrades to the state universities in South Dakota. Content was submitted by the architects of the projects or by the universities.)

(Content submitted by EAPC Architects Engineers)

The new Raven Precision Agriculture Center at South Dakota State University is ready to welcome students this fall!

History of the Facility

Even before the idea of this facility began, SDSU had become the first university in the nation to offer a Bachelor of Science in Precision Agriculture. The degree is a collaboration between the Department of Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering and the Department of Agronomy, Horticulture & Plant Science. Students in this major will learn and develop new ways of creating more profitable and sustainable agriculture. Some aspects include:

  • Sensors for auto-steering tractors/vehicles and other uses
  • GPS mapping
  • Drone imagery
  • Soil suitability and maintenance
  • Plant/seed genetics
  • Targeted irrigation and fertilization

Due to a growing need and high interest in this up and coming major, SDSU realized that they were going to need a facility that was better equipped to meet the needs of the students and the faculty. A team of designers led by EAPC Architects Engineers was selected by SDSU and the Office of the State Engineer to help determine the needs for this facility both now and into the future.


A project of this magnitude and complexity takes time not only to build, but also to design. There were many people involved in the process that needed to provide input and feedback to the design team to ensure that all department needs were being met in the new facility. A brief overview of the project schedule is as follows:  

  • February 2016 – Preliminary design and programming began
  • December 2017 – Project was submitted to the SD Legislature for approval
  • June 2018 – Final design began
  • October 2019 – Construction began
  • August 2021 – Facility opens

Design Elements


From the beginning of the design process, the most important aspect of this facility for SDSU was collaboration. This facility was to be the combined home for two separate departments that are working together to create innovative ways to shape the future of Agriculture in not only South Dakota, but the world. The location of the facility on campus was specifically chosen based on its proximity to other facilities with related research.

Collaboration Examples:

  • Faculty offices are grouped together with the intention arranging them based on research type instead of by department.
  • There are numerous casual meeting spaces placed throughout the facility to encourage students and faculty to stop and discuss.
  • The Atrium and Gallery provide larger spaces for students to gather and study between classes. The central atrium also allows light into interior spaces through clerestory windows.
Image provided by EAPC


Many advancements in Agriculture are due to improved technology, but there is also major research being done with the various types of crops and soils in the region. This facility is equipped with over 20,000 square feet of Plant Science laboratory space that is completing research on various subjects:

  • Crop Production
  • Soil Fertility
  • Soil Chemistry
  • Water/Nutrient analysis
  • Bacteriology
Image provided by EAPC


This facility is much more than the average educational building and includes a variety of classrooms spaces that specifically address the teaching needs of the curriculum:

  • Lecture classrooms – Standard instruction
  • Active learning – Promotes interactive teaching
  • High bays – Hands on demonstration and building
  • Crop Production and Soils Teaching Laboratories – Real life experimentation
  • Horseshoe style tiered classroom – Allows students to easily discuss with each other and observe a piece of equipment that is in the center of the room
Image provided by EAPC

Industrial Engineering & Technology

Another important part of Precision Agriculture involves the creation, integration, and use of technology to improve the efficiencies of the equipment used in agriculture. This facility offers numerous specialized spaces and equipment where student can study new technology:

  • Precision Ag Mapping Computer lab
  • 300 hp Chassis Dynamometer and 300 PTO Dynamometer
  • ¼” scale tractor lab
  • High Bays including a fabrication bay/wood shop with bridge cranes
  • Electron microscope lab
  • Bio-mass processing
  • Electrohydraulic and pneumatics
  • Instrumentation, automation and electronics
Image provided by EAPC


To be good stewards of taxpayer money, the State of South Dakota requires all buildings to be Silver Certified in the LEED program. This is not only good for the environment, but it also greatly reduces the annual maintenance costs and improves the longevity of the buildings. Some sustainable features incorporated:

  • 50-Kilowatt Photovoltaic Array
  • White reflective roofing to reduce heat absorption
  • Bio swale to slow stormwater runoff
  • Low VOC finishes
  • Water reducing plumbing fixtures
  • Daylighting
  • Exhaust heat recovery systems
Image provided by EAPC

Shawn Crowley has been an Architect with EAPC Architects Engineers since 2012 and served as the Project Manager for the Raven Precision Agriculture Center. He has a passion for Higher Education design and strives to improve the overall experience of every student, staff member, and visitor on each campus.

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