Agribusiness Programs Growing at FGCU

Fritz Roka, PhD, Director, Center for Agribusiness, Lutgert College of Business
Florida Gulf Coast University, Ft. Myers, Florida

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Farming and associated businesses in Southwest Florida make up an agribusiness complex that contributes more than $1.6 billion to the region’s economy. Under the leadership of President Mike Martin, Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) opened the Center for Agribusiness in July of 2018 and I was fortunate enough to be hired as its first director in August 2018. The Center’s primary mission was to establish an Agribusiness Minor available to FGCU students in any major that would prepare them to take advantage of employment opportunities within Southwest Florida agribusiness operations. These companies need employees with entrepreneurial spirits to develop new marketing opportunities, embrace new technologies, and incorporate the latest HR and financial management strategies. In addition, we want our graduates to understand how agricultural production enterprises can be at the forefront to solve the important community issues related to water quality and conservation, “smart” growth, immigration and workforce availability, economic growth, foreign trade, and food safety. Nine agribusiness classes have been added to the FGCU course catalog since January 2019:

  • Sustainable Agriculture  (AEB 2004)
  • Food & Agricultural Economics      (AEB 2104)
  • Principles of Agribusiness Management  (AEB 3133)
  • Agribusiness Finance  (AEB 3144)
  • Food & Agribusiness Marketing  (AEB 3300)
  • Food Supply Chain Management  (AEB 3350)
  • Agribusiness Internship  (AEB 3943)
  • Project in Agribusiness  (AEB 3951)
  • Special Topics in Agribusiness  (AEB 3933)

During Fall 2020, we are expanding our course offerings to include Cannabusiness and International Food and Agribusiness Trade. To earn a Minor in Agribusiness, a student must complete six classes, or 18 credit-hours.

Like any new program, we’ve had to figure out ways to market the program to both the current and future FGCU     students. Not being a land-grant institution, most students come to FGCU without any thought of a career in agribusiness. Our consistent message has been that agribusiness is more than just farming. In fact, for every at FGCU, there is a career in agribusiness looking for that major.

Since Spring 2019, student numbers have been climbing. We’re also actively recruiting students from FGCU’s Environmental Sciences programs. There will always be a strong confluence between agricultural production and environmental quality issues, and those who can effectively bridge the divide between competing perspectives are likely to be those who can find common-sense solutions. Beyond teaching Agribusiness classes, our Center is positioned to play integral roles on agribusiness issues of importance to Southwest Florida. The Center is part of FGCU’s newly established Water School and is currently working in partnership with UF/IFAS to conduct a study on how COVID-19 is impacting our food supply chain both locally and statewide.

Over 100 guests attended our first annual Agricultural Forum on November 20, 2019, which was co-sponsored by the Water School and featured speakers who are actively engaged in addressing the complex issues of water management and sustainable land use that are making front-page news.  The Forum coincided with Lee County’s annual Farm-City Week, and Ft. Myers Mayor Randy Henderson presented a proclamation signed by every municipality in Lee County attesting to agriculture’s importance to Southwest Florida. Ron Hamel, President Martin’s special consultant on agribusiness, spearheaded the effort and secured similar proclamations from Collier, Hendry, and Charlotte Counties.  The Forum concluded with a free lunch that attracted an additional 125 FGCU students who were able to interact with local agribusinesses to discuss internships and career opportunities.

The Second Annual Agricultural Forum is set for November 18, 2020, in the FGCU’s Cohen Student Union Ballroom and will feature the results of the COVID-19 study being done in partnership with UF/IFAS.  Plan now to join us!