Precision Agriculture: A Place For Everyone At The Table

Over the last 30 days, I’ve been immersed in all things precision agriculture. If you received your personal copy of CropLife® magazine, then you had to tear through a plastic cover to get to the issue. And hopefully, you took notice of a stowaway publication tucked inside the plastic called PrecisionAg® Professional.

This new publication is designed especially for you, the important service providers and technology integrators that are helping farmers to extract value from data and precision agriculture practices. We hope you find it of value, as it will arrive with CropLife magazine every other month from now on.

As I have noted over the past year, there is a treasure trove of value in data and precision that’s largely gone untapped. And having watched the ebbs and flows of the precision market for nearly two decades now, I am more convinced than ever that there is a sustainable place for the service provider that can integrate technology in their own operations, and that of their farmer customers.

Many of you have been fighting this battle for a long time. It’s easy to say that this needs to be an important factor for the future of the crop production channel, but what’s the best path forward?

I probed this question with some of my good friends in the industry in preparation for another precision agriculture initiative we’re working on, our PrecisionAg Profes­sional Innovation Series Conference on February 22 in St. Louis, MO. I have to be honest — I was looking for people with some clear answers for me. How do we do this? What can we present that will make everyone in the room feel like they can be successful with their precision programs?

The only consensus I got was that there is no consensus, no silver bullet. From regionality to agronomic practices to the variability in the availability of technological talent in a given area, the recipe requires local flavor.

One of the frustrations expressed by a contact I made was about the last point. More entities are throwing a hat into the ring, from crop protection and seed companies to consultants and retailers, and more recently, Internet-based initiatives that turn data into black-boxed prescriptions.

And while surveys we’ve done consistently indicate that retailers and consultants are far and away the most trusted adviser growers work with, the other entities provide products, services and advice that growers find of significant value.

To get to a place with farmers where we are consistently delivering the best data, optimal prescriptions and soundest advice, we need to engage and work together with the various entities that support farmers.

John Mann, Director of Agronomy at John Deere and a decades-long friend of this publication, had this to say about the need for service provider collaboration: “We think there is room for everyone in the precision agriculture channel. Each of us will have a comparative advantage to offer services close to our core businesses. Ag retailers, consultants, and equipment dealers all need to work together to im­prove adoption. Our competitor is apathy not each other.”

It won’t be easy, but taking a collabo­rative approach is, in my view, the most effective way to move precision agriculture adoption forward.

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