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Marketing is Job 1
Learning how to trade commodities, in college, has taken on a new feel. North Dakota State University has built a commodities trading room (CTR) to prepare students for the real world of grain marketing. This "live" simulated trading room is in its first f
The CTR is equipped with 32 live computers that have dual monitors. There are two live instructor computers, two overhead projectors with high-definition cameras, a few teacher assistants, and the professor. The computers are equipped with commodity news and price-charting systems from Bloomberg and Data Transmission Network, along with the Trading Technologies software. To give the room that real trading heartbeat, a stock market ticker scrolls along the top of the sidewall.
Dr. Bill Wilson, NDSU agribusiness professor, is the originator of the CTR. The CTR is being used to teach agribusiness students how to find market-impacting information, how to extract the information, and how to implement it into a marketing strategy. "With today's technology, information is much more accessible than ever before. We have more marketing instruments than we have ever had."
The concept of the CTR is based on two ideas, says Wilson. "First, risk in agriculture has increased twofold. So, for everyone in the industry -- farmers, shippers, processors, or importers --everyone is affected by this increased risk. That won't go away in the coming years. Secondly, this room was created to make it like the precision farming tools being touted. Based on what we're teaching, we may not double farm incomes, but it may increase incomes by 10% to 15%," he says.
Dr. Frayne Olson, NDSU crops economist/marketing specialist, says the agribusiness students have been instructed to come to class ready to trade. "When the students enter the room, we want them to know that more is expected of them in here than most other classrooms."
Vance Zacharias, undergraduate agribusiness student from Enderlin, North Dakota, says practicing trading in the futures market through simulated live equipment will help him be a better partner on the family farm. "I'll be able to take my dad's views and incorporate this new technology with his," Zacharias says.
Kelvin Anderson, an undergraduate student from Stillwater, Minnesota, grew up in the city. "I recently interned at a large grain firm. Out of 100 traders, only two had the technology software that we have in this room. Already, companies are impressed with the experience that I have with this trading technology compared to their own employees," Anderson says.
The NDSU agribusiness department has 2,000 business school candidates eligible for this curriculum, students from 13 different departments within the agricultural school. Over the last 20 years, NDSU has built up a reputation for developing skilled grain marketing students.
Within the Fargo, North Dakota, area, there are numerous independent elevators that are looking for people to market their grain. "So, one of our students displays their knowledge and skills, they demand a premium right away," Dr. Wilson says.
Kristopher Skadberg grew up on a small grain farm in North Dakota. He is a graduate of CTR. "The room's technology really helps students better understand how the futures market actually works. And how the bids and asks make up the changes in prices throughout the trading session. It gives the students the understanding that the market is not just decided by something funny happening out there," he says.
ADM, Gavilon, and CHS are financial supporters of the CTR. In addition, there is substantial support from all commodity groups in North Dakota. Also, some local farmers have donated to the NDSU educational trading facility.
Farm kids are being sent to college to learn how to market the family farm's grain. And North Dakota State University is responding to that family order.