College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Leon Schumacher: “If we ever needed engineering in agriculture, we need it today”

Headshot of Leon in the snow
Headshot of Leon in the snow

Leon Schumacher graduated with his doctorate degree in Agricultural Education while teaching Agricultural Systems Technology in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in 1987. Before he graduated and ever since, Schumacher has been passionate about engineering in agriculture, believing that the digital revolution is bringing new possibilities to agriculture as we know it.

Schumacher began his position in 2022 as department chair in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering at North Dakota State University. Schumacher’s experience as a leader dates back to his time here at Iowa State. While he was studying in ABE, he was also teaching agricultural mechanization courses, teaching students how to write basic programs on computers.

The development of precision agriculture has been a substantial theme of interest throughout Schumacher’s career. Schumacher hopes to develop smart farm technology systems at NDSU, too.

Leon in the Sukup Atrium

“We have a strong component of precision ag here, which is actually intertwined with some ag systems technology efforts at Iowa State,” Schumacher said. Schumacher noted that the industry and education has close to 30 years of experience in precision agriculture for crops, and is now starting to study precision agriculture for livestock as well.

As Schumacher has navigated through his career, he has realized that even though joining different projects and choosing different paths can seem intimidating, it is another chance to find your passion.

“Keep the door open,” Schumacher said. “You always will question if you are doing the right thing for yourself, but everything you do is what allows you to work through and solve problems and get to where you want to be. I’ve always told students, I think I was closer to 40 when I finally figured out what I wanted to do. The different activities that we get involved in are what allow us to step into roles that we never even knew existed.”

In his current role as department chair at NDSU ABEN, Schumacher says his favorite part of his role is getting the chance to work more directly with faculty and their research, since in the past he was teaching and primarily working with students. One thing that Schumacher has really noticed in his roles as a professor, researcher and leader in agriculture is that the need for engineering in agriculture is as strong as ever, he says.

“If we ever needed engineering for agriculture, we need it today,” Schumacher said. “We need engineering for agriculture, and then we can use new technology to document crops and all the different elements of agriculture.”