Embracing Technology

As you probably know, a part of my job as group editor is oversight of our PrecisionAg brand, which includes PrecisionAg.com and PrecisionAg Special Reports. Covering the ag technology beat was one of my first responsibilities back in 1998 when I joined the group, and I’ve been engaged with that aspect of the market ever since.

Over the dozen-plus years, I (and probably most of you) have seen a lot — the late 1990s saw the initial exuberance over precision ag fall into disillusionment over the return-on-investment (or lack thereof) from variable-rate technology — something many of us are still grappling with today. By the mid-2000s, the talk was all about quickly emerging automatic steering technology and the benefits it would have in improving efficiency and reducing operator fatigue.

Later in the decade, boom/nozzle control, followed by planter control, gave us the power to be even more efficient, accurate, and intentional with our applications of product and seed placement. Meanwhile, the power behind many of these technologies — GPS — got increasingly more accurate with the addition of RTK and improving subscription satellite-based signals.

Today, it seems like we are getting closer to making sensor technology more widely adaptable and attractive as an alternative to all-in nitrogen application. And we’ve only just begun to realize the promise of where truly wireless and seamless connectivity will take us in terms of data collection and communication efficiency. Not to mention handheld technology like smartphones and tablet computers, which will keep us as plugged into the business as we desire.

Frankly, having seen it all happen in person it seems like a lot longer than 12 years, but that’s all it has been. Imagine what another decade or so will bring?

At Commodity Classic, I had the chance to talk with a consultant friend of mine about emerging technology. He was coming off a series of grower meetings across the country, and sharing some of his learnings. His most forceful comment was: “Growers are absolutely chomping at the bit to get connected wirelessly. They want it, and they want it now.”

I don’t think there’s any doubt about this, seeing what technology manufacturers have been doing to bring the capability to growers as well as retailers. Trimble‘s Connected Farm, Deere‘s newly announced FarmSight initiative and Raven‘s SlingShot all have entered the market over the last two seasons to make this capability available. Making these systems more universal and adaptable is an ongoing challenge, but that will come. Growers are getting larger and demanding technology to become more efficient and increase their capability to handle more acres.

Helping retailers to understand the technology we have in front of us, and prepare for advancements on the horizon, is the main reason we have served as a partner with the International Crop Nutrition Institute in the production of the InfoAg Conference. The 2011 event is scheduled for July 12-14 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield, IL.

I encourage you to attend! We feature two and a half days of multi-track seminars, plus receptions and networking opportunities where you can interact and learn from your peers. For more information, visit www.infoag.org.

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