By their nature, technological advances usually have a pretty rapid acceptance curve within society. That is, of course, providing they are simple enough to use and improve upon the traditional ways of doing things.
But there are exceptions to this rule. Remember the Concorde? For better than 30 years, this supersonic jet gave international travelers the option to cut their travel times across the globe by 60% (crossing the Atlantic Ocean, for example, in four hours vs. 10). However, higher ticket prices kept this form travel from ever catching on.
Precision ag has kind of been living life like the Concorde. Although the various technologies that make up this part of the business have been around since the mid-1990s, their acceptance curve among users has remained fairly flat for the past decade (hovering around 60%, according to numerous CropLife®/Purdue University Precision Ag user adoption surveys conducted during the 2000s).
According to most of these respondents, everyone in agriculture loves the promise of what precision ag can accomplish for their businesses, but the extra time and money being spent on collecting/examining this data has not been easy. Dr. John Fulton, associate professor/Extension specialist for the Biosystems Engineering Department at Auburn University, pointed this problem out at a recent industry event, saying that most of the precision ag data currently collected by users “is all left on the machine” until it is physically transferred to a computer for examination.
“We’ve spent 20 years getting data to agricultural users,” said Fulton. “But now, we are finally on the cusp of them to use it properly.”
This cusp he is talking about ties back to the rapid expansion of smartphones and tablet devices such as the iPad into daily life. Today, users have the ability to rapidly find and share information across these devices in the blink of a wireless eye. As a result, they are expecting all their agricultural technologies to share in this ability.
“Automatic wireless data transfer is the No. 1 request from precision ag users right now,” said Fulton. “Data will be the key to grower-customers profitability going forward. They want software with a preference for Web-based viewing.”
The reason for this is simple, he added: Technology will be one of the most important tools for agriculture to help feed the world’s growing population in the coming decades. “Technology will have the greatest impact on agriculture and drive its ability to meet the new production demands,” said Fulton. “And precision ag technology will contribute 30% of this production growth, ranking in importance only behind biotechnology advances.”
And this new day is coming. At a recent John Deere event, the company announced plans for wireless data transfer to be available for its machines starting next spring. “The ability to integrate more technology, but that is easier to use, is where we want to make our investments,” said Luke Gakstatter, vice president of sales and marketing, Agriculture & Turf Divisions, U.S. and Canada.
No one denies the promise of what precision ag technology can potentially do for the marketplace. Now, it looks as if the ease-of-use factor that has been missing in many sectors will finally become a reality.