Solid Year For Tech

By most accounts, 2007 was an interesting year for agricultural technology. Surveys of retail technology adoption that CropLife® conducted in July and September this year revealed that precision products and practices continued to experience slight gains. On the precision side, existing products improved and evolved, while adoption generally increased across the board. The biggest gainer, GPS steering, picked up remarkable growth in adoption, which coincided with a slide in lightbar usage.

Around the office, the increased adoption of high-speed Internet by retailers, and their grower-customers, is boosting access to tools that allow retailers to use the speed and convenience of the Web to communicate and do business with suppliers and customers more effectively.

What seemed to drive interest in technology solutions, especially in the Midwest, was the rampant optimism — and increased income — resulting from the biofuels movement.

But of course, it’s not all wine and roses. With increased row crop prices have come increased input costs, higher land values, and generally higher risk for growers. Increased income is being counterbalanced against increased costs of doing business. Harold Reetz, precision agriculture expert and president of the Foundation for Agronomic Research, asserts that precision agriculture can help mitigate risk by improving decision making.

“Precision agriculture had been sort of marginal on the cost/benefit decision process,” says Reetz. “But that has changed with current prices of fertilizer and grain. And given that yields have gone up considerably in last two to three years, every decision you make and every piece of information you use to make that decision becomes more valuable. And the risk of having the wrong information, or making the wrong decision, is considerably greater.”

Overall, though, market forces are working in favor of precision agriculture practices. “Basic trends in ag are benefiting precision ag,” says Jeff Farrar, ground ag marketing manager at Hemisphere GPS. “Once considered a luxury or just an extra, GPS guidance tools are playing roles with return-on-investment for the practitioner. With oil at over $90 a barrel, land prices soaring, cash rent on the rise, any tool that can help cut cost will be in high demand.

“It’s been a “good news, bad news” year for suppliers of technology as well. “High grain prices have had the biggest effect on our business, but the effect has been both positive and negative,” says Scott Cavey, president of retail management software manufacturer E-Markets. “High prices have diminished the amount of grain marketing program use because no one needed to be creative to get a high price on grain. On the other hand, it has been positive in that it infused money into the ag sector and it also has created a heightened sense of importance on seed availability and grain price risk for the ag retailer, so people need better systems to manage the increased volatility.”

Web: Speed Grows

Here’s a look at some of the top stories of the year 2007 for ag technology:

The E-Survey, a technology adoption study of retailers done annually by CropLife magazine, found that high-speed Internet again took a major step forward. Approximately 86% of retailers indicated they are using high-speed service, up from just over 75% last year. Virtually the entire gain was a boost in DSL adoption from dial-up services.

Automatic Steering’s Bust-Out Year

It’s been prognosticated since the dawn of automatic steering that if the price point came down enough without loss of accuracy, GPS automatic steering would take over the guidance market. The year 2007 would seem to be the bellwether for the technology. Nearly three of four respondents to the September CropLife e-Survey of retailers said they are using GPS automatic steering in their operation, and more than 80% of those using GPS guidance are employing GPS automatic steering. On the other side, lightbars took a significant slide, indicating retailers are upgrading for good.

Traceability Tests Out

In March, the Mid-America CropLife Association (MACA) launched its Traceability Implementation Project. Three retailers participated in the effort, which if successful would provide a platform for real-time tracking of crop protection product movement. In October, the participants and MACA declared the project a success.

Three retailers received the computer software, a hand-held unit that applicators could use to capture time-coded application data, and in-depth training on how the process would work. Internally, the retailers worked with their personnel to establish new processes and expectations to ensure a smooth system. In the end, all three retailers were pleased with the system and will be working with it again next year, building on their learnings.

Darwin Franzen of Cooperative Supply said: “it forced us into being more responsible about our inventories. It’s going to make us more profitable, to be as accurate as we can.” This reflection on the problems of the current system (or lack of a system) may be the most valuable aspect of the project as retailers make the commitment to change.

Future issues for retailers using the system will be getting growers fully on board, and getting retailers fitted with a better warehouse management system that uses bar codes or RFID chips.

Manufacturer Moves

Among precision agriculture manufacturers, new companies emerged and interesting partnerships forged as companies struggled to stay next to, or a leg up, on the competition:

•  AutoFarm and Raven. Following the launch of the collaborative “QuickTrax” automatic steering system, the two companies announced an expansion of the collaboration. Plans include the development of a new system that would provide sub-inch RTK designed by AutoFarm that would run on Viper and Envizio Pro displays from Raven. Launch is expected this winter.

•  Ag Leader Technology and NORAC. These manufacturers collaborated on the Ag Leader InSight display that could interface with NORAC’s UC5 Spray Height Controller, allowing operators to control boom height through an in-cab unit.

•  Leica Gets Mojo. What could a company offer in GPS systems to retailers that’s not already available? Leica Geosystems throw its hat into the ring with its MojoRTK package, which includes a compact cab console and a cordless dual frequency RTK base station. What’s new? The “Virtual Wrench” feature which allows for complete remote service capability via the cell data network.

•  OptiGro Opt-Out. This summer, John Deere Agri-Services quietly decided to stop offering imagery through its OptiGro program after investing a sizable amount of time and money into the project the previous 12 months. While some were disappointed to see the program disappear, some competitors had to admit that the high profile project exposed the potential of imagery to a larger audience.

Awarding Excellence

Three individuals were honored with the PrecisionAg Award of Excellence at the 2007 InfoAg Conference in July. Selected from a number of entries by an independent panel of judges, the recipients represent some of the industry’s most ambitious and innovative thinkers.

Leave a Reply

Equipment Stories

Food IT Fork-to-Farm
Precision AgThe Mixing Bowl Event Connects Technology, Food, and Ag Innovators
May 24, 2017
For the fourth consecutive year, The Mixing Bowl presents FOOD IT, under the theme “Fork to Farm.” Action-oriented entrepreneurs, industry Read More
farmer Kip Tom
Precision AgAg Tech: On the Cusp of Something Big?
May 15, 2017
The investment and ag-tech sectors’ continuing courtship of agriculture, smoldering for three or four years now, was well in evidence at Read More
BASF Maglis tablet retailer grower
Precision AgQ&A: What BASF’s Latest Foray into Precision Ag Means For Growers
May 11, 2017
In late April, BASF agreed to acquire U.S. precision ag player ZedX, a leader in the development of agronomic weather, Read More
Redball Broadcast Hood
EquipmentBroadcast Spray Hoods Stop Wind Factor
May 2, 2017
Nozzles get a lot of attention for their drift reduction contributions, but other technologies are developing that offer results as Read More
Trending Articles
Migrant farm workers
LegislationTrump: Immigration Crackdown Won’t Impact U.S. Agriculture
May 16, 2017
President Donald Trump said he would seek to keep his tough immigration enforcement policies from harming the U.S. farm industry Read More
AGCO Ratliff featured
Eric SfiligojRemembering Robert Ratliff
May 15, 2017
With all the fast-paced happenings in agriculture this spring, with multiple mergers in the works and planting season in full Read More
Case sprayer nozzle closeup
EquipmentSpray Application: A Nozzle Renaissance
May 2, 2017
If you had asked four-decade ag veteran Mark Bartel, President of Wilger Inc., just a few years ago what lay Read More
ManagementWashington Update, Dow-DuPont Earnings, and the Passing of an AGCO Legend
April 27, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the latest Beltway news, crop protection company 1st quarter numbers, and the Read More
Crop InputsFlying Under the Radar No More, FMC Goes Big
April 13, 2017
Describing FMC as “under the radar,” admittedly, is probably a stretch. But in a snap of the fingers, FMC upped Read More
Young Corn Plants
Crop NutritionStill Hunting Yields
April 1, 2017
There’s no denying it — the agricultural marketplace today is undergoing a fundamental shift in fortunes. Not too many years Read More
Latest News
ManagementTrip Report, PSM R.I.P, and Ag’s Reaction to Federal Bu…
May 25, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about their recent travels, the end for Process Safety Management (PSM), and how Read More
Corn soil
LegislationARA Member Testifies Before Senate Ag Committee
May 25, 2017
Agricultural retailers stand on the front-lines of the American economy. As trusted advisors to America’s farmers, ag retailers are uniquely Read More
Young corn plants in soil
Crop InputsFortenza Insecticide Seed Treatment Receives EPA Regist…
May 25, 2017
Fortenza seed treatment insecticide from Syngenta has received registration approval from the U.S. EPA for use on corn and cotton Read More
ManagementFarm Market iD’s Agriculture Database Now Covers More T…
May 25, 2017
Farm Market iD, farmmarketid.com, has announced the release of its 2017 Annual Update of its farm and land database. The Read More
Food IT Fork-to-Farm
Precision AgThe Mixing Bowl Event Connects Technology, Food, and Ag…
May 24, 2017
For the fourth consecutive year, The Mixing Bowl presents FOOD IT, under the theme “Fork to Farm.” Action-oriented entrepreneurs, industry Read More
Photo credit: The United Soybean Board/The Soybean Checkoff.
Seed/BiotechKansas State University Researchers Find New Pathogens …
May 24, 2017
A single seed seems so simple. Put it in the ground, give it some care, and you’ve soon grown food. Read More
Soybean Field
HerbicidesNew Dicamba Herbicide Premix Coming Soon from Syngenta
May 24, 2017
Syngenta has announced the name of its new herbicide featuring the active ingredients of S-metolachlor and dicamba. Upon registration by Read More
Eric SfiligojMonsanto ‘Picks Its Battles’ by Nixing Deere Deal
May 23, 2017
Having been in the trade journalism game since the mid-1980s, I remember several watershed moments during my career. One of Read More
FungicidesSyngenta Launches New Seed Treatment Fungicide
May 22, 2017
Syngenta has announced the launch of PLENARIS seed treatment fungicide for the control of downy mildew in sunflower. PLENARIS contains Read More
Corn close up
Crop InputsMonsanto’s First HPPD Herbicide Garners EPA Appro…
May 19, 2017
Monsanto announced today that EPA has federally approved Harness MAX Herbicide, the first herbicide in the Monsanto portfolio to provide Read More
ManagementPrecision Planting Deal, China Developments, and Enviro…
May 18, 2017
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Dan Jacobs discuss the latest news on John Deere’s now dead deal for Precision Planting, China’s Read More
Soybean aphid leaf
InsecticidesMulti-state Research Reveals IPM Best Option for Treatm…
May 17, 2017
About 89.5 million acres of soybeans will be planted across the U.S. in 2017 — a record high, according to Read More
GROWMARK-2017-Interns
CropLife 100GROWMARK Names 2017 Summer Interns
May 16, 2017
Forty-two college students are exploring agricultural career opportunities this summer as GROWMARK interns. They are working at FS member cooperatives Read More
Migrant farm workers
LegislationTrump: Immigration Crackdown Won’t Impact U.S. Ag…
May 16, 2017
President Donald Trump said he would seek to keep his tough immigration enforcement policies from harming the U.S. farm industry Read More
Flooded corn in Indiana
FertilizerBoth Wet and Dry Conditions Threaten Nitrogen Loss
May 15, 2017
The weather is notoriously unpredictable, leading to challenges for planting, harvesting and applying the nitrogen (N) your corn crop needs. Read More
farmer Kip Tom
Precision AgAg Tech: On the Cusp of Something Big?
May 15, 2017
The investment and ag-tech sectors’ continuing courtship of agriculture, smoldering for three or four years now, was well in evidence at Read More
AGCO Ratliff featured
Eric SfiligojRemembering Robert Ratliff
May 15, 2017
With all the fast-paced happenings in agriculture this spring, with multiple mergers in the works and planting season in full Read More
Greg Musson, Gar Tootelian
ManagementOpinion: Shaking Your Perspective in Ag Retail
May 12, 2017
Some of you I’m sure have encountered our recently retired salesman extraordinaire, Dan Bellanger. He worked in the industry for Read More