July 24, 2017, on Randolph Farm at Virginia State University (1890), Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe officially announced the formation of the Virginia Chapter of the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) and the Homegrown By Heroes designation for chapter members. AgrAbility Virginia was instrumental in fostering the chapter as well as planning the dedication event. AgrAbility VA was also honored with the presence of Michael O'Gorman, founder of FVC, and Lanon Baccam, FVC deputy director, based in Washington D.C. Pictured, left to right in the photo are: Inga Haugen, librarian for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech; Army Colonel (retired) and Virginia FVC organizer, John Fant; Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe; Crystal Kyle, veteran farmer, and AgrAbility Virginia and Beginning Farmer Coalition Virginia Tech graduate assistant; Rick Cavey, veteran farmer and Grayson County LandCare member; Dr. Kim Niewolny, Virginia Tech, project director for both AgrAbility Virginia and the Virginia Beginning Farmer/Rancher Coalition.
The AgrAbility Virginia team has partnered with the departments of mechanical engineering and industrial and systems engineering at Virginia Tech on a newly awarded, three-year, $999,277 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant titled, "Affordable Flexible Robotic Technology to Enhance Work Performance of Farmers with Mobility Restrictions." Kim Niewolny, Kirk Ballin, and Don Ohanehi of AgrAbility Virginia will be working alongside engineers, medical professionals, and TORC Robotics to co-develop flexible robotic systems that are wearable by farmers with mobility limitations in order to assist them in performing activities of daily living with dignity and success. This NSF Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity (PFI:BIC) project leverages the collaboration between Virginia Tech, AgrAbility Virginia, TORC, Easter Seals UCP, and Total Motion Physical Therapy to provide new understanding of the use of service robotics for the care of farmers and farm workers.
Submitted by Kirk Ballin