Dealers see a number of barriers to the expansion and growth of precision agriculture. But according to CropLife’s 2012 Precision Ag survey, these four obstacles are the biggest:
1. Training. The largest barrier is training, not just in data management, says Brent Wiesenburger, precision ag manager at South Dakota Wheat Growers Association, Aberdeen, SD. “From the producer to the fertilizer retailer to the local equipment dealership, we all need better training,” he emphasizes.
2. Operations. Wiesenburger believes the industry as a whole is not ready operationally, and companies need to step up investments. The problem starts with soil analysis — with labs struggling to keep up with exponential growth of business that occurs when a single composite field now gets many more cores pulled. Then retailers need more tendering investments to handle field deliveries. And retailers need to spend more on application equipment.
3. Software frustrations. A number of dealers commented that the industry needs to further develop software solutions to make collecting the data easier. “Every one of our 49 sales agronomists should not have to be trained GIS experts to work with this stuff, and producers should not have to have an electronics degree to work with the field displays,” says Wiesenburger.
Analysis software needs to get better as well, though Brian Hunt, precision technology specialist, United Farmers Cooperative, York, NE, has witnessed gains here. The primary software programs he uses are SMS Advanced and ArcView. He’s found there is still not a single product out that can do everything he wants, but when he started in the field 10 years ago, he had to use five programs to get one result.
4. Bad experiences. A lot of growers have been misled by equipment or service providers and turned off to precision ag, says Gary Myers, YieldEDGE precision ag manager, Landmark Services Cooperative, Cottage Grove, WI. He recalls one grower who turned his yield information over to a seed company. The customer thought he would get paper maps and a copy of his data — it didn’t happen. (And if that grower didn’t archive the data himself, it was lost.) “Retailers have bragged about their capabilities, and growers have gotten burned if they didn’t take the necessary safeguards with their information,” he adds.
He also knew a customer who had purchased $20,000 worth of precision application equipment — that was supposed to control rates across the field. All it actually did was autosteer.