University News

Alumnus Donates Plant and Crop Measurement Equipment to WIU School of Agriculture

June 6, 2023

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MACOMB, IL – A Western Illinois University Distinguished Alumnus has made an equipment donation to the School of Agriculture, which will help students with the use of technology in the field.

Mike Thurow received his bachelor's degree from WIU in Agricultural Engineering-Mechanization with Honors in 1973. He then received his MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management in 1985.

Thurow recently donated a long list of technological equipment to the University to help show students how plants and crops are performing in University fields. The donation is on behalf of his company, Spectrum Technologies, Inc. in Aurora, IL.

"The assumption is that professors will share the value of measurement technology and the data gathered in their classes," said Thurow. "Also, the vision is that students will use the various meters, sensors and weather stations in their labs and see first-hand the value of measurement data and the correlation with crop quality and yield."

WIU School of Agriculture Director Andy Baker said the donated equipment will greatly enhance the department's current and future research programming.

"It will also greatly benefit us when writing grant proposals that will utilize Spectrum's technology that will capture accurate field and greenhouse data," Baker said. "We are very pleased and excited to be able to use the latest and greatest technology in the industry today for our course labs and research programs, plus the development of undergraduate research projects."

Thurow developed his vision for the measurement and data equipment 40 years ago while working with crop production equipment for the International Harvester Company. While he was in graduate school, he created a business plan to develop and market plant measurement technology for the agricultural and horticulture industry. This resulted in his opening of Spectrum Technologies, Inc. in 1987; a company which has grown into a world leader in advanced plant measuring technology.

"There were no companies doing this at the time," Thurow said. "Our first product at Spectrum was a Soil pH Meter, and many other products followed. Today, a product development team of engineers and software developers at Spectrum create the products, Cloud solutions and apps that bring more value to measurement data."

Thurow's company has 45 employees and has developed 25 products, which have been named AE50 award winners by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers for outstanding product innovation. Spectrum Technologies, Inc. does business all over the world.

WIU's School of Agriculture has previously ordered equipment from Thurow's company. After meeting with researchers from WIU, Thurow said he decided he wanted to "help these passionate folks enhance their research work with plant measurement technology."

"The need to measure key environmental parameters is relevant to understanding how plants and crops perform, and the yield that's produced," he said. "One of my favorite sayings is that 'we know what we know, but we don't know what we don't know.' Measurement data explains most of these factors and variables that Mother Nature delivers."

Thurow said his experience at WIU was significant in the process of validating his passion for mechanized agriculture. He said he graduated from Western with the confidence that he could achieve anything in life he desired.

"I was motivated to becoming a better student by professors (Ed) Breece, (Safwat) Moustafa and (Bill) Detar, with their support for learning and achievement," he said. "I was active in the Ag Mech Club and the trade show that introduced graduates to career opportunities with the various exhibiting companies. I have great memories of being an officer and soliciting companies in the area to exhibit at the show."

Thurow and his wife, Donna, live in Naperville, IL. They have three daughters and three grandchildren. He was named one of the School of Agriculture's Distinguished Alumni in March during Farm Expo weekend at Western.

For more information about the WIU School of Agriculture, visit

Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (
Office of University Communications & Marketing