Technology Today: A Grower’s Perspective

iPads, iPhones, Droids, Black­berrys, autosteer, boom control and more. We have come a long way since the real debut of the PC in 1995. The World Wide Web was in its first full year and this new thing called e-mail invaded my life. We bought two bag phones a couple of years later for my mom and wife, and since dad was frugal enough not to put two-way radios in the tractors we confiscated the phones one spring.

I was in college at the time and my advisor put me onto something called eBay. What a mistake. All of the cool toys, tools, trucks and tractors to be had from everywhere were at my finger tips. I also remember ordering the John Deere Fundamental of Service book about precision agriculture. It showed an Ag Leader yield monitor in a JD combine.

Oh how times have changed! Who would have thought that technology would be this big and play such an important part of everyday life, definitely not me? Since that time I have learned to surf (the web), attach stuff to e-mail, Facebook, Blog and get up-to-date market information on my cell phone while my tractor drives itself. Out of all of those examples, and I don’t care what anyone says, the last one is just cool.

As we plow into another year, one thing is certain … TECHNOLOGY IS NOT GOING AWAY! This is both good and bad. The bad is that I can no longer work on some of my vehicles without being a computer whiz and having a computer plus the programs to tell me what is wrong. On the other hand, what amazing opportunities are available now and what will be in store in the future.

Just like smart phones and computers, precision ag technology is not going away. It is growing. The mergers in precision ag that happened last year is reminiscent of the wild and woolly car or tractor boom of last century. Everyone made something and they either went by the wayside or merged with another company.

Defining Precision Ag

Which leads us to precision ag technology. What is it? My definition is: “Precision ag is the use of all available technology in order to make better decisions to reduce costs, increase productivity, and to reduce our impact on the environment.”

Precision ag is not going away and those involved with agriculture need to get on board or be left behind. I know this is a bold and blunt statement, but if you plan on competing in agriculture in this century and beyond you need to start now.

Take a look at government programs, paperwork and regulations — they are not going away either. In fact, it is growing (some say like a weed with great resistance.) Whether you like it or not, this is the sandbox we play in. In fact another round of negotiations is getting ready to take place: Farm Bill.

With demands from the public for safe food, more water, clean water and fuzzy bunnies you can bet your bottom dollar that when the gavel sounds, more of that will be in “OUR” Farm Bill. Face it — growers are an endangered species that make up less than 1% of the population. The good news is we contribute greatly to the GDP and we are steady. We don’t have the major mood swings of other industries.

One more challenge that we face in agriculture is a growing world population. The experts state that we need to double current output by the year 2050. This is where technology comes in. Just like my definition, it will take all technology to pull that rabbit out of the hat. Also, it starts with growers!

Demands for inputs such as fuel, fertilizer and water will become scarcer and cost more. This is where precision ag technology will help. By incorporating autosteer, boom control, yield monitors, remote sensing and smart phone technology (like to irrigation equipment), growers can reduce costs to become competitive and, by government standards, a friend of the environment.

How many passes does a grower make over a particular field in a year from planting through harvest through fall work? Is it four or seven or more? Using six passes as an average and an average cost of $25 (this would include fertilizer, chemical and harvest passes) per pass, if we were to save an average of 10% on each pass that would equate to a savings of $15 per acre.

On a 1,000-acre farm, the savings would be $15,000 in a year. That is huge and goes a long way to pay for new precision agriculture equipment. There are also side benefits, especially if mapping is incorporated. The result is a record for Uncle Sam, and at the same time it proves to environmentalists that we care about fuzzy bunnies.

Another challenge that needs to be dealt with is an aging agriculture workforce. This aging population has been told their whole life not to trust anything electrical, so there is a mental barrier that needs to be broken. The good news is that there are many anxious and excited young men and women wanting to work in ag at a college near you.

So where does my rambling lead? Precision agriculture must be adopted if an agriculture business is to survive and grow, that includes farmers and providers. The money spent on precision technology will easily pay for itself in two years, if not one.

To incorporate the technology properly one needs to know what the end result should be for the operation. Is applying variable-rate the goal, or is it to just incorporate autosteer and boom control? Or maybe you want to have better records to show that you are “an original environmentalist.”

It’s pretty clear that technology is critical to stay competitive, so what do you plan to do? Are you going watch the dance from the side or are you going to the prom with the queen?

Leave a Reply

Precision Ag Stories

Corn Field
FertilizerBridging Crop Nutrition Science And Technology
September 7, 2016
The future seemed to draw nearer for the 1,600-plus attendees of the co-located InfoAg and International Precision Agriculture conferences in St. Read More
Deere R4023 cab
Precision AgPrecision Ag Aids Fertilizer Programs
September 6, 2016
Whatever the farm economy may look like, retailers need to continue to develop a sound fertility program to reach the Read More
EquipmentCase IH Debuts Nutri-Tiller 955 Strip-Till Applicator
August 24, 2016
With strip-till continuing to expand across new acres, Case IH designed the new Nutri-Tiller 955 strip-till applicator to help producers Read More
EquipmentCase Launches Aim Command FLEX, 25th Anniversary Patriot Sprayer
August 24, 2016
Case IH announces new AIM Command FLEX advanced spray technology for greater application accuracy, as well as special 25th Anniversary Read More
Trending Articles
AGCO RG700 cab
OpinionRoadblocks To Precision Ag Innovation
October 5, 2016
On August 29, I got to preside over the PrecisionAg Innovation Series event, “Game-Changing Advances in Precision Farming Technology,” developed Read More
J.C. Ramsdell containment system
EquipmentClear Opportunity In The Tank Market
October 4, 2016
Crop prices may be down, but steel prices are too — and that’s good news for retailers looking to add some Read More
WinField booth Farm Progress
Special ReportsTalking Weed Management Strategies At Farm Progress 2016
October 2, 2016
The annual Farm Progress Show — this year staged in Boone, IA — is always a great place to catch Read More
Corn Field
Eric SfiligojFacing Ag Industry Challenges
September 26, 2016
At the 2016 annual Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) meeting in September, a pair of crop protection company representatives discussed Read More
Bayer Monsanto
Crop InputsBayer-Monsanto Mega-Merger: 6 Things You Need To Know
September 14, 2016
Mega mergers have become almost routine in the agricultural industry. Right on the heels of Monday’s news that fertilizer giants Potash Read More
Potash Corp Agrium
Crop InputsAgrium, Potash Corp To Merge To Create $36 Billion Company
September 12, 2016
Canada’s Agrium Inc. and Potash Corp of Saskatchewan Inc. have agreed to combine in a deal that would create a Read More
Latest News
Kennebec Grain terminal
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Kennebec Facility Loads First Rail Cars
October 21, 2016
In a season of firsts for Wheat Growers’ Kennebec Grain Terminal, the first 115-car unit train was loaded with soybeans Read More
ManagementThe Latest Dow-DuPont Rumor, Product of the Year Voting…
October 20, 2016
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj shares a new rumor about the Dow-DuPont merger and updates on two CropLife-driven programs, the CropLife Read More
Soybean Closeup
FungicidesFMC Begins Registration Process For New Fungicide Activ…
October 19, 2016
FMC Agricultural Solutions has begun the joint U.S. EPA and Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency registration process for bixafen, a new Read More
Soil Young Corn
Industry NewsAgribusiness Search Firm Appoints New Managing Partner
October 18, 2016
Morris Bixby Group, a leading agribusiness search firm providing the highest quality professional recruiting and career advancement services since 2000, Read More
Wheat Field North Dakota
FertilizerUnited Suppliers Acquires Kansas Fertilizer Business
October 17, 2016
United Suppliers, Inc. has purchased the assets of Evans Enterprises, LLC, an ammonium chloride fertilizer business based in Olathe, KS. Read More
Corn Field
Industry NewsFMC Launches New Operations In Argentina, Exits Joint V…
October 17, 2016
FMC Corp. has exited its joint venture with Ruralco Soluciones S.A. FMC has launched new commercial operations, FMC Quimica S.A., Read More
Dow AgroSciences
InsecticidesRenewed Registration Issued For Products Containing Sul…
October 17, 2016
On October 14, 2016, the U.S. EPA re-established the registration of products containing sulfoxaflor (Isoclast Active), including Transform WG, Closer Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Whys Of Agriculture
October 17, 2016
During 2016, there have been myriad challenges facing the whole agricultural industry. Such wide ranging issues as water protection, sustainable Read More
Young Corn Field
FertilizerImproved Phosphorus Management Essential To Feeding Wor…
October 14, 2016
With a global population expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, improved management of key essential nutrients such as Read More
ManagementHarvest and Crop Price Updates; EPA and Crop Protection…
October 13, 2016
Glyphosate and atrazine get public comment support from ARA as each is reviewed by EPA, and the latest on the Read More
Matt Hopkins15 Twitter Accounts Every Ag Professional Must Follow
October 13, 2016
What do singer Katy Perry and the President of the United States have in common? They are two of the Read More
Corn Field
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Adds Two Key Account Managers
October 13, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the addition of two key account managers: Doug Hoberty and Rob Wier. Hoberty and Read More
EquipmentDeere Announces Development Deal with Scherer Design
October 12, 2016
Deere & Co. announces a joint development agreement with Scherer Design Engineering, Inc. to develop and commercialize kernel processing solutions Read More
Crop InputsMarrone Bio Innovations Celebrates 10 Years Of Innovati…
October 12, 2016
Richard Rominger, former Deputy Secretary of the USDA and former agricultural secretary of California, emceed a 10th anniversary luncheon celebration on Read More
Photo credit: The United Soybean Board/The Soybean Checkoff.
Industry NewsVive Crop Protection Closes Financing To Support Corpor…
October 11, 2016
Vive Crop Protection has announced the closing of growth financing to support 2017 commercial expansion. The financing was led by Read More
SoftwareHD Precision Analytics Launches New Mobile App For Agri…
October 11, 2016
AGSentry from HD Precision Analytics is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform that offers simple data service and actionable analytics tool. It focuses Read More
HerbicidesWeed Control And Soil Health Go Hand-in-Hand
October 10, 2016
Although many landowners may not give much thought to weed control as a soil health measure, Gared Shaffer, South Dakota Read More
Students Soybean Field
Eric Sfiligoj2016 Young Leaders Speak
October 10, 2016
One of the consistent cries in agriculture today is the need to try and connect with the younger generations, attempting Read More