A new generation agricultural engineer

Laura Riddle

Contributor Peyton Gardner

Emory New is one of those students that people know before they meet her. A senior graduate of Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineeringhelping people is at the heart of everything she does.

Emory grew up in a rural community located in Nash County, North Carolina. “Farming is very close to my heart because of where I grew up and my family’s involvement in the industry,” she explains.

Throughout middle school and high school, Emory was an active member of the North Carolina 4-H program and later Future Farmers of America. A college robotics class introduced her to engineering and problem-solving skills that she continued to explore through The place of engineeringa summer program offered by North Carolina State College of Engineering (COE).

These interests, coupled with an on-campus experience, eventually led her to study at NC State University.

Like many of her classmates, she was immersed in school activities from the moment she set foot on campus. Emory’s participation in Welcome Week, a campus-wide event for new students, led to a fateful encounter with the American Society of Biological and Agricultural Engineers (ASABE) student chapter within the BAE department. “They invited me to a barbecue,” she recalls. “When I got there, everyone was like family, and I knew those were my people, and that’s where I belong at NC State.”

Go big or go home

Emory was selected as a Goodnight Scholar at the start of her freshman year. A comprehensive student development program, Good night scholars is designed to make students leaders in STEM and STEM education fields by providing access to a variety of enrichment, professional development, mentorship, and networking opportunities throughout their undergraduate studies.

As part of their participation, freshmen select a person to interview in an area of ​​the college that most interests them.

“I was like, well, I’m going to get big or go home,” Emory says. “I interviewed Dr. Fox because he heads the department, and I wanted to know more about him, the department itself, and ways I could get involved.”

Soon after, Emory threw himself headfirst into Fountain Wars, an on-site student design competition hosted by ASABE at the Annual International Meeting (AIM), and quickly became a notable student around Weaver Labs.

His ability to lead was evident both inside and outside the classroom. In 2020, her sophomore year, she had completed an internship, studied sustainable agriculture in Oaxaca, Mexico, was an ambassador for the Goodnight Scholars program, president of the Fountain Wars team, coordinator of the Engineering Place camp and a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) Sponsor Pack Cat.

“From the start, you could easily see that Emory was going to be not only an exceptional engineer, but also an exceptional leader,” says BAE Department Head and Professor Garey Fox. “She has a knack where people look to her for advice and gravitate towards her for her insight. I truly appreciate his incredible contributions to our department, and look forward to seeing his future career take off.

the bandemic hit – students were kicked off campus, classes and club activities moved to a remote format, and students were isolated from classmates and peers. Through it all, Emory continued to lead and evolve into roles that would build on his platform. In the fall of her freshman year, she became an aide to the chancellor, took on two additional roles for the Goodnight Scholars program as a freshman seminary mentor and teaching assistant, and was named ASABE Treasurer. .

[Emory] took on this role with ease, and throughout an entire school year weighed down by COVID, she continued to share with me her insights on how to develop strong working relationships within our team of officers,” says Carly Graves, current BAE graduate student and past president of ASABE. , who also acted as a mentor for Emory. “I have always appreciated his effort and desire to build strong relationships for the good of our club and the department as a whole.”

The following semester, Emory enrolled in Postharvest Engineering, an introduction to aspects of proper postharvest handling of fresh produce, with Professor Philip Morris mike boyette this proved to be an integral link and turning point in his academic and professional career. He recommended Emory for a position with Kornegay Family Farms and Productsa fourth-generation family farm in Johnston County, where she conducted Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audits on 6,500 produce acres and more than 68 workers for USDA, Global, Tesco and GAP Connections programs, and cultivated a social media campaign that generated a 20% increase in followers.

NC State ASABE at Kornegay Family Farms and Produce in Princeton, NC.

At the start of its senior year, Emory took on new roles as a BAE ambassador and president of the ASABE club. As president, she obtained a donation of 2000 pounds of sweet potatoes from Kornegay Family Farms for the club’s annual fundraiser to cover the cost of members’ attendance at the ASABE Southeast Regional Student Gathering. In addition, she achieved the goal of increasing club membership by 30% and organized four new action committees.

“I first had [Emory]…in my class in the spring of 2021 and I had it for almost two semesters in the two-course Engineering Senior Design sequence,” says Boyette. “I have been teaching higher engineering design since 2001 and over that time have taught nearly 900 students. I spend two semesters in class with my students and a lot of lab time with them, so I get to know a lot of them well. Also, I only get them after enduring a few years of rigorous engineering training. With little expectation, all of my senior design students are excellent students and, more importantly, excellent people….some, however, excel in various ways, which sets them apart from the “ordinary” best. Emory is in a class of his own.

This year, she completed a senior design project on the efficiency of drying pig sludge using a greenhouse solar dryer. The project, sponsored by Smithfield Foods, examines a hog waste management challenge that addresses the removal of hog sludge from North Carolina lagoons.

After presenting the group’s research to faculty and the BAE Advisory Board, Emory was offered an internship with Agricultural Waste Technology (AWT)a professional engineering and consulting firm serving agricultural, industrial, municipal and residential clients.

“This role merges my passion for helping those in the agriculture industry by using both my technical engineering background and my communication skills to promote how farmers properly run their farms,” ​​says Emory. “AWT actually helps farmers with financing [the Natural Resources Conservation Service] to upgrade their equipment, and when farmers have the opportunity to recoup money on their investment in those upgrades, it really has an impact. »

The next generation of agricultural leaders

“I’ve always wanted to connect the producer to the consumer, and what better way to do that than to solve problems in agriculture,” says Emory. It is the driving force that brought her to study at NC State University and the heart of the industry challenge she seeks to solve.

The seed to run for the 2022 North Carolina Watermelon Queen was planted in her mind while working at Kornegay Family Farms, which also grows an assortment of produce including tobacco and watermelon, during the watermelon harvest season. After learning more about the North Carolina Watermelon Association (NCWA), linking with local extension agents, and speaking with a former representative, Emory realized the role could be an opportunity to expand its platform by connecting growers and consumers while promoting North Carolina agriculture.

In March, she was crowned 2022 North Carolina Watermelon Queen at the NCWA convention in Wilmington, North Carolina. She aims to amplify her message by connecting directly with consumers through social media and engaging with growers and researchers to promote opportunities that contribute to North Carolina’s farming communities.

“The North Carolina Watermelon Association is thrilled to have Emory as our queen for the state this year. It represents growers, packers, shippers and businesses involved in the watermelon industry that support North Carolina agriculture,” said Frank Howell, NCWA president and owner of Howell Farms. “She is a smart young woman, able to express herself very well and to answer the scientific questions about watermelons, which we often receive, for example, ‘how do you get seedless watermelons?’ She will also use her engineering background to develop a program for The Engineering Place summer camps to reach these young people.

When asked what advice she had for young girls interested in pursuing education and careers in STEM-related fields, she replied, “don’t say no to yourself…sometimes you’re going to be the only girl in the bunch, sometimes you’re going to be the only woman, but don’t be intimidated. Defend yourself. Be confident and make your voice heard.

Emory will graduate this Saturday, May 7, 2022 with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Engineering and will represent her class as an undergraduate student speaker at the BAE ceremony in the Weaver Pavilion at 1:30 p.m. She was recently recognized for her undergraduate academic contributions and achievements with the BAE Senior Award for Leadership and the COE Senior Award for Leadership. In addition to her responsibilities as Watermelon Queen, Emory will remain enrolled at CALS where she currently works at a Master in Microbial Biotechnology.

Amalia H. Mercado