Top 10 Precision Trends

The CropLife/Purdue Precision Agriculture Adoption Survey involves a five-month process of intensive work. The questionnaire is tweaked and tuned to collect information relevant to today, while much of the core survey remains the same to ensure its relevance to data collected in the late 1990s. After two rounds of mailings, results are compiled and interpreted into the main report presented in the preceeding pages.

This year, Purdue’s Bruce Erickson, who did the lion’s share of the work on the survey, and Paul Schrimpf had a “debriefing” conversation about the survey findings and came up with 10 key trends that the survey seems to indicate.

1. Covering Costs
Precision profits are still hard to come by, with 57% of respondents reporting they are not covering their fixed costs or making a profit — the same percentage as in the 2009 survey.

2. Optimism Outweighs Realities, But …
On surveys dating back to almost the beginning, we have asked retailers to project out three years as to the growth or decline of precision agriculture services in their businesses. And historically, optimism has reigned about the future of precision technology. The reality, however, has virtually never matched what the retailer anticipates, or hopes, will come true.

This year, the average increase in the major precision offerings were anticipated to grow anywhere from 6% to 10% by 2014. But while the actual percentage has never panned out, the significant degree of future optimism indicates that retailers are feeling positive about future prosperity derived from the services they offer.

3. Precision Is Mainstreaming
A curious “trend” expressed in the survey results was that the number of retailers offering precision agriculture “services” appears to be dropping in key categories, including georeferenced soil sampling and fieldmapping with GIS. Certainly, retailers may be outsourcing these services to other entities, or some growers might be doing some of this work on their own.

But we also feel that it’s just as likely an indication that these services have become so integrated into full-service retailers that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate it out as an a la carte service. Precision services are packaged up into a larger, more holistic offering.

4. Spatial Precision Still Too Complex
Precision technology has experienced some points of exponential growth in recent years, but virtually all of them have benefits that are essentially efficiency-oriented. Adoption of precision practices that involve collecting, interpreting and taking action of data have remained relatively stagnant over several surveys. In the early part of the 2000s, a challenged farm economy took a significant toll on the use of techniques such as variable-rate fertilizer (VRA), and revealed that income challenged farmers did not have much stomach for georeferenced fertilizer recommendations when inputs were high and crop prices low.

Could regulation aimed at reducing fertilizer use inject life into VRA fertilizer practices? Could better, more compatible systems make a difference? Or could improvements in on-the-go sensor technology help to reduce complexity and improve adoption? It’s a longer term issue the precision industry will continue to deal with in the years ahead.

5. Lightbars Finally On The Ropes?
Automatic guidance has continued its torrid adoption pace, approaching two-thirds of retail respondents to the survey. The technology debuted on the survey in 2004 at less than 5%, so its rise as an agricultural technology could legitimately be called meteoric. And this year, we’re observing a virtually equal and opposite drop in the use of “manual guidance,” i.e. lightbars. With improving pricepoints and wider options than ever, it seems that we are seeing a “replacement” effect of one technology for the other.

6. Section Control … Zero To Hero
Thanks to its inclusion in virtually all professional grade sprayers today, and the retailer’s tendency to replace equipment on a fairly regular time interval, sprayer boom control has risen a gleam in someone’s eye to nearly four in 10 respondents using the technology over less than five years. For stewardship, efficiency, and product-saving, it’s a no-brainer capability for most retailers.

7. VRA Seeding Interest Explosion
Driven by the availability of highly precise seed clutch technology and embraced by seed companies trying to help growers optimize their seed planting and placement (and efficiently plant seeds that are increasing in price virtually every year), variable rate seeding is revealed on the survey as a significant area of interest. While there are conflicting views on the overall benefits of seed rate variation, it seems likely that it will continue to grow and mature as a precision ag technique and technology.

8. Barriers To Adoption: A Meaningful Drop?
We found it surprising that there is still so much concern about equipment compatibility and cost as barriers to retail adoption of technology. It’s true that both factors still hover around the 50% area, but vs. the 2004 survey, the number has dropped significantly. Recent industry alliances, pledges of enhanced compatibility and dropping prices on some of the most powerful technology may finally be eroding these as key challenges to retailer adoption.

9. Cost Reduction Is The Ultimate End
With the increasing cost of seed and inputs and spiking prices on the grain markets, the end game for technology up to now has most successfully focused on reducing risk and cost savings rather than on generating revenue. The next big thing — telemetry that ultimately transmit both highly accurate GPS signals and the Internet for data movement and collection — will tend to keep the focus in these areas.

10. Untangling GPS
Global positioning has gotten increasingly complex with the proliferation of real-time kinematic technology and, more recently, cellular-based signal alternatives. To get precision adoption beyond its current state, signal consistency and compatibility is needed.

Leave a Reply

Precision Ag Stories

Precision AgGoogle Glass: New Tool For Ag
October 8, 2014
New wearable smart technologies such as Google Glass show potential to greatly impact how we accomplish the business of feeding the world. Read More
Precision AgPrecision Agriculture: Finding The Payback
September 6, 2014
Profitability in precision ag is not about any one technology, but the result of employing technology in a total system approach that is agronomically sound. Read More
Precision AgUAS: The S Stands For Smart, Service And Sensors
May 1, 2014
The only thing occuring more rapidly than the technologies’ evolution is the clamoring to implement UAS into agriculture as soon as possible. Read More
Precision AgAg Retail: 3 Tech Trends To Watch In 2014
April 1, 2014
It's been a busy first quarter of technology developments in 2014. Here are some of the highlights, and things to watch in the months ahead. Read More

Trending Articles

Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScience
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Offers New Support For Ferguson, Area Communities
October 8, 2014
Monsanto Co. has committed $1 million in new support for several collaborative efforts in Ferguson, MO, and surrounding communities in North St. Louis County. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnapproved Genetically Modified Wheat Found In Montana
October 3, 2014
USDA reports that one year after discovery of Monsanto's unapproved wheat in a single Oregon field disrupted U.S. wheat export sales, the GMO wheat has again been found in Montana. Read More
Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
The deadline to vote for the 2014 CropLife IRON Product of the Year is October 31. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More

Latest News

CropLife 100GROWMARK Announces Appointments In Plant Food Division
October 22, 2014
GROWMARK, Inc. has announced the three key staff changes in its Plant Food Division. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Appoints New VP Of Finance And Risk Management
October 22, 2014
Wade Mittelstadt has been named GROWMARK Vice President, Financial and Risk Mangement, effective December 1, 2014. Read More
FungicidesEPA Approves BASF In-Furrow Corn Fungicide
October 22, 2014
Field trials show Xanthion In-furrow fungicide provides more rapid emergence, extended residual control and improved seedling health than untreated crops. Read More
EquipmentAgraScout App Available At No Cost To Universities
October 21, 2014
AgraScout, a fast and easy to use mobile crop scouting app, is now available at no cost to University students, Read More
LegislationNew Farm Bill Program To Provide Relief To Farmers Affe…
October 21, 2014
The USDA has implemented a new Farm Bill initiative that will provide relief to farmers affected by severe weather, including drought. Read More
ManagementGreenfield Scholars Program Aims To Sustain Agronomy Wo…
October 21, 2014
The program encourages talented students to study agronomy, crop and soil sciences while cultivating networks to develop the necessary workforce to sustain the profession. Read More
Paul SchrimpfPrecision Ag: Taking It To The Hill
October 21, 2014
A new coalition took the good news message of precision agriculture to Washington, DC, last month. Read More
ManagementUSDA Awards $18 Million In Small Business Research Gran…
October 21, 2014
The grants will provide high quality, advanced research and development that will lead to technological innovations and solutions for American agriculture. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Terminates Merger Discussions With Yara I…
October 21, 2014
CF Industries Holdings and Yara International have terminated their discussions regarding a potential merger of equals transaction. Read More
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Ranked A Top 10 Biotech Employer For Third tim…
October 20, 2014
Syngenta ranked in the top 10 among the world’s top biotech employers, according to an annual survey conducted by Science magazine. Read More
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Break Ground For New Facility At Kennebec
October 20, 2014
Wheat Growers has broke ground for a state-of-the-art shuttle loader grain handling, fertilizer and agronomy facility in Kennebec, SD. Read More
FertilizerVerdesian Life Sciences Signs Agreement With Los Alamos…
October 20, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences has signed a licensing agreement with Los Alamos National Laboratory to develop and market LANL’s latest nitrogen enhancement technology for plants. Read More
MicronutrientsStoller Group Announces Groundbreaking At New Office Bu…
October 20, 2014
Jerry Stoller, founder and president of Stoller Group, announced the groundbreaking at the site of the company’s future headquarters in Read More
Crop InputsBioSafe Systems Opens New Production Facility In Nevada
October 20, 2014
BioSafe Systems has completed construction of a state-of-art production facility in Sparks, NV, for its line of activated peroxygen products. Read More
Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScien…
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechEPA Approves Dow’s Enlist Duo Herbicide
October 15, 2014
The Enlist Weed Control System, breakthrough technology to fight resistant and tough weeds, has received the long-awaited green light from federal regulatory authorities. Read More
MicronutrientsGypsum On Farms Could Help Keep Water Clean, Not Green
October 14, 2014
Gypsum, which has roots in the past as a farm soil treatment, also may have a bright future, and not just as a booster of crops but also as a protector of water. Read More
Photo credit: The United Soybean Board/The Soybean Checkoff.
Crop InputsVerdesian Grows Sales Staff
October 14, 2014
The new account managers will drive sales growth and support relationships with key customers in the plant nutrition and seed treatment and inoculants product categories. Read More