Ag Retail: 3 Tech Trends To Watch In 2014

We are only three months into the 2014 season, and agriculture has already experienced a number of interesting developments in ag technology and precision. While there are many tremendous opportunities for retailers who can stay on the leading edge of technology developments, keeping up with the rapid changes — and what they mean for our businesses — is a constant struggle.

In this article, we summarize some of the key events and trends in technology, and what to watch for as the year unfolds. It promises to be an interesting ride.

1. Monsanto Scorecard. Four years ago at the Farm Progress Show, the Integrated Farming Systems display at the Monsanto booth was a tiny table in a dark corner of the company’s massive display. But anyone willing to chat with the folks behind the table quickly discovered that Monsanto’s foray into precision agriculture was going to be serious business.

Today, the prescription farming business is entirely spun off into its own entity with the acquisition of Climate Corp., and more recently,  the soil analysis component of Solum Inc.

At the recent Commodity Classic meeting, we stood near the Climate Corp. booth and watched growers take its Climate Basic Web-based weather data tool for a spin and become completely enthralled. Through some Silicon Valley created magic, growers can get detailed current and historic weather data on their fields. All the information you always wished you had in one place.

Also in 2014, the FieldScripts program is rolling out in full force in the four pilot program states from last year: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota. From lessons it learned about the effectiveness of FieldScripts last year, only growers with at least three years of valid yield data will be considered for the program. And growers will be charged $10 per acre to sign up for the program.

All this presents challenges and opportunities for retailers, who Monsanto continues to stress are critical to its business vision moving forward. But the Solum acquisition is arguably the most intriguing move this year, and could have the most significant impact on crop production in the future.

Like Climate Corp., Solum was born from the combination of Silicon Valley technology married with agriculture industry opportunity. Not long ago it seemed as if Solum was prepared to make a big splash in the soil analysis world with its No-Wait Nitrate testing regimen that would enable a user to test a field for nitrogen, receive results the same day, and be able to variable-rate apply N in season for maximum effectiveness.

Last year, the powers that be at Solum saw more gold in the “big data” aspect of ag than in the soil, and the testing portion languished — so its sale was not a surprise.

But the fit for Monsanto is clear, and the implications in the medium and longer term could be significant. Solum’s work on soil nutrient testing regimens had gone far beyond simple single-nutrient testing. The company was digging deeper into nutrient reactions in soil, trying to unlock the secrets of nutrient and soil type interactions, where so much is still unknown.

That said, in conversations with Monsanto folks, even they are not clear on what the Solum acquisition will bring to Climate Corp. But it’s another indication of how serious the company is about deepening its agronomic recommendation efforts.

2. UAS Mania. Interest around unmanned aerial systems (UAS) has reached fever pitch this winter. We’ve gotten more calls and emails from retailers and consultants asking for any information they can get on companies, costs and capabilities.

The bottom line is, the Federal Aviation Admini­stration has clearly stated that they are not legal for commercial use until it sets down rules for UAS use sometime in late summer of 2015. And while we have been told “off the record” by “inside sources” that the agency is almost certainly not going to try to monitor and enforce against individual farmers, anyone who invests the dollars in a UAS must keep in mind that they could be grounded at any time.

The bigger concern for agriculture is the angered citizen who experiences the off target flight pattern, and decides to seek legal counsel or even regulatory protection. Such occurrences could result in onerous state-level regulations that curtail our future opportunities with UAS. It only takes one angry person.

3. Big Data. An important side effect of the aforementioned FieldScripts program, and the myriad precision decision and logistics tools that have entered the market in recent years is the control of “big data.”

With the proliferation of manufacturer offerings utilizing the cloud for the transfer of data, combined with the new and growing number of alliances among manufacturers and service providers, growers are feeling like they are losing some measure of control of their data. Or, that they are giving away something of value.

This year so far we’ve seen a number of manufacturers adjust data policies to ease concerns, and conversations with farmers are ongoing.

Importance Of Retail

Despite the proliferation of automation technology coming to agriculture, from cloud-based systems and wireless data interchange to field-level online weather, manufacturers and retailers we talk to continue to assert that “boots on the ground” will continue to be a critical aspect of making even automated systems work to their full potential.


Leave a Reply

Precision Ag Stories

Precision AgXS Inc. Expanding Ag Retail Reach With AgVeritas
November 5, 2015
AgVeritas, the patented cloud-based yield analysis application launched by XS Inc for the 2015 season, is making a significant impact Read More
EquipmentDeere Announces New API Linking Operations Center With MyAgCentral
October 8, 2015
Deere & Co. and DN2K have agreed to form SageInsights — a joint venture to initially serve the agriculture industry Read More
Precision AgPurdue Releases 2015 Precision Ag Services Dealership Survey Results
October 5, 2015
In the spring of 2015, CropLife magazine and the Departments of Agricultural Economics and Agronomy at Purdue University conducted the Read More
Precision AgUAVs To Take Flight At 2015 Farm Science Review
August 14, 2015
Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have taken the agriculture industry by storm and will soon be Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100United Cooperative Acquires Four ADM Wisconsin Facilities
November 12, 2015
United Cooperative, based out of Beaver Dam, WI, recently acquired four grain and agronomy locations from Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Car Makes NASCAR Xfinity Series
October 29, 2015
BRANDT will join JR Motorsports with driver, Justin Allgaier, for the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity (NXS) Series season. Allgaier will pilot Read More
CHS Building exterior
CropLife 100CHS Leaders Help Shape Succession Report
October 22, 2015
Succession planning was listed as a main concern of cooperative leaders at this summer’s 15 regional CHS owner town hall Read More
Fall Harvest
CropLife 100Pinnacle Purchases Eight Regional Seed Companies
October 12, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings has announced the purchase of eight regional seed companies to advance its seed business. Pinnacle has acquired: Read More
MRM Agricultural Service
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires CropLife 100 Ag Retailer
October 8, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC has successfully acquired the Missouri-based agronomy business of MRM Agricultural Service, LLC and its affiliates (MRM). Operating Read More
Eric Jenks, Wilbur-Ellis
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Opens Dry Fertilizer Storage And Blending Facility In Washington
October 8, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co., ranked No. 4 on the CropLife 100, has constructed and opened a 22,000-ton dry fertilizer storage and blending Read More
Latest News
ManagementReviewing The Top Ag Stories For 2015
November 24, 2015
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Paul Schrimpf discuss the most noteworthy events from this past year in agriculture. Read More
EmployeesAgriculture Jobs May Be Plentiful, But New Grads Are Sc…
November 24, 2015
Close to 60,000 jobs are set to open up in agriculture each year for the next five years, but there's not enough grads to fill them. Read More
Radish cover crop
StewardshipCover Crops Guide Helps Growers Improve Water Quality
November 23, 2015
A publication that teaches growers the advantages of using cover crops to improve soil health and crop yields has won Read More
Crop InputsThe Andersons’ Products Receive California Organi…
November 23, 2015
The Plant Nutrient Group of The Andersons, Inc. announced today that its Humic DG and Black Gypsum DG products are Read More
Eric SfiligojNew European Study Seems To Support Glyphosate Safety
November 23, 2015
Looking at any international news over the past few years, it might seem as if the European Union (EU) is Read More
Toggle Biostimulant corn roots
Crop InputsTwo New Biostimulants Added To United Suppliers’ …
November 20, 2015
Winfield US announces the launch of two new products in the United Suppliers portfolio for the 2016 crop season, Optify Read More
StewardshipNRDC Report: Cover Crops Contain Vast Benefits
November 19, 2015
As harvest season ends and farmers in the United States ready themselves for winter, one small change could make a Read More
Fall Harvest
Seed/BiotechArysta Launches New Seed Protectant
November 19, 2015
As spring wheat growers begin planning for a strong start to their season, Arysta LifeScience North America announces RANCONA V Read More
Crop InputsInocucor Receives U.S. Patent For Microbials
November 19, 2015
Inocucor Technologies Inc., the Montreal-based agriculture biotech company, was issued patent No. 9,175,258 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to protect Read More
ManagementSyngenta Rumors and ARA 2015 Preview
November 19, 2015
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj looks at the latest rumors involving Syngenta selling its crop protection business and talks about events Read More
EquipmentAGCO Announces Finalists For Operator Of The Year Honor
November 19, 2015
AGCO Corp. has announced the four top operators chosen as finalists for AGCO’s 10th Annual Operator of the Year program, Read More
High Plains Aquifer
StewardshipStudy: High Plains Aquifer Overall Usage In Decline
November 18, 2015
A new Kansas State University study finds that the over-tapping of the High Plains Aquifer’s groundwater beyond the aquifer’s recharge Read More
Golden Harvest Corn healthy leaves
FungicidesArysta Launches New Corn And Soybean Fungicide
November 17, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America has recently launched ZOLERA FX Fungicide. The highly systemic, powerful fungicide delivers broad-spectrum disease control with Read More
Young corn plants in soil
Crop InputsBioAg Alliance: Microbials Targeted For 250-500 million…
November 17, 2015
Monsanto and Novozymes have announced a new 2025 acreage target that will guide the companies’ microbials business for the next Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsSyngenta Still Being Eyed For China Takeover
November 16, 2015
China National Chemical Corp. approached sovereign wealth funds including China Investment Corp. to help pay for a potential acquisition of Read More
Cedar Country Cooperative
Eric SfiligojCooperative Consolidation Continues
November 16, 2015
As I put this enewsletter column together, we’ve just put the finishing touches on our magazine’s annual CropLife 100 report. Read More
Cornfield near Sioux City Iowa
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Sells Oxyfluorfen Herbicides To China&…
November 16, 2015
Dow AgroSciences LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Co., has entered into definitive agreements under which Nutrichem Read More
HerbicidesEuropean Agency Declares Glyphosate Unlikely To Cause C…
November 13, 2015
Glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said on Thursday, and the agency Read More