Precision Ag Programs: Trending Against The Tide

For almost a decade, precision technology adoption and use has rode a significant wave that has run essentially parallel with growing fortunes in agriculture in general. The advent of lower-cost automatic steering, followed by capabilities such as automatic boom section control and wireless data transfer, has led to a steady increase in technology use on the farm each year.

Today, precision technology is pervasive throughout the retail dealership and the farm field, and notice is being taken of its impact both inside and outside agriculture.

“All Wall Street wants to talk about now is precision agriculture, and how it plays into our business,” says Jeff Tarsi, senior director of business strategy for Crop Production Services. “I was in Europe two weeks ago speaking at a foreign investors conference, and they wanted us to speak on precision agriculture.

All of the advancements, investment and adoption that have occurred in precision over the past 10 years has generated buzz and created great optimism about the future of technology, and precision practices, in agriculture. But what happens if the “correction” many are expecting in 2014 comes to pass?

During the last major downturn in the early 2000s, precision agriculture took a major hit. Faced with depressed crop prices, growers pushed aside fertility recommendations, employed big cutbacks in inputs and services to weather the storm. The pullback served to stagnate precision investment for a time, and caused significant disillusionment about the benefits of precision technology.

But today, the consensus among retailers we talked to for this report is that there’s no turning back for precision ag. “With the first wave of precision, we has some specific pieces of technology, but they did not effectively connect with each other,” recalls Tarsi. “And we did not have a way to measure the results. When the downturn came, we did get pushback from growers.”

“I think the difference between is during the first boom, it was primarily grid sampling and variable-rate fertilizer,” says Harlan Schafer, vice president of agronomy at Cooperative Producers Inc., Aurora, NE. “Today, precision ag is so much more.

“We‘ve had good growth, about 25% growth on precision programs last year, and we are tracking to exceed that growth this year,” he continues. “We are seeing through some of the data analysis we do that we can document where we are getting responses out of inputs, and how we are maximizing not only the utilization of crop nutrients, but the soil types and seed populations. It has become more important to the growers to understand how precision agriculture works, and how in a downturned market it will allow them to maximize the utilization of their inputs to improve yields and profitability.”

Precision services today focus on a wider range of benefits than in the past. Schafer recalls that one of the primary drivers of precision ag during the first wave was use of variable rate fertilizer designed to reduce input cost, but there was no way to quantify the benefit at the end of the year. The emphasis now, with all the technology growers have that is built into machinery, is for retailers to help them figure out what to use and how to use it.

“Growers are starting to really utilize the technology they have on planters and combines more effectively, and our role is to help them optimize what they are using,” says Schafer.

Pat Schaddel, technical support manager at Brandt, Pleasant Plains, IL, agrees that technology investment on the grower side of the precision equation has been substantial, especially over the past three to five years. This should help precision practices sustain the momentum it has picked up recently, he says.

The other important factor Schad­del notes is the deepening relationships his agronomists have established with growers as Brandt has worked to help them get the most out of those investments. A big part of building those relationships has been through the company’s research farms where technologies and techniques are displayed and demonstrated, and data is collected and used to support decisions.

“We’ve become experts at making best recommendations using data,” says Schaddel, “at building insightful decisions with data analysis. We have leveraged the things that growers have gotten themselves aligned with as far as equipment, seed and fertility, and we are more engaged in the decision aspect of our business with our customers.”

Retailers across the board noted that the increased level of engagement they have experienced during the most recent wave of precision agriculture adoption has solidified the retailer’s role as a key consultant in yearly crop planning.

“When it comes to precision recommendations, we are continuing to reaffirm and validate our own
proprietary algorithms in our system,” adds Schaddel. “It takes low years like the drought last year to create a more robust algorithm centered on expertise with localized data, and providing best recommendations helps us build tremendous confidence with grower customers that we are their trusted advisers.”

Leave a Reply

Special Reports Stories

Fertilizer Tender close-up
MicronutrientsHow Micronutrients Fit Into 2017 Fertility Plans
January 10, 2017
Where do micronutrients stand going forward in fertility plans? For one thing, Tim Mundorf, Field Representative with Midwest Laboratories, says Read More
Fertilizer application
State of the IndustryCautious Optimism On Fertilizer In 2017
January 10, 2017
What kind of fertilizer rates are growers and retailers looking at in 2017 and beyond? According to stakeholders CropLife magazine Read More
Asmus Farm Supply crop protection products in storage
State of the IndustryCrop Protection Products Market: Complexity Begets Opportunity
January 10, 2017
While other key market segments in agriculture continue to see tumultuous shifts in sales volumes going forward (large equipment sales are Read More
Pioneer corn seed in storage
Special ReportsState Of The Seed Industry: Better Later Than Never
January 3, 2017
Traditionally, the majority of the nation’s grower-customers made their seed planting decisions in the late fall. Normally, when folks attended Read More
Trending Articles
Farmer and aptop
Matt Hopkins10 Warning Signs Your Website Is Grossly Outdated
February 8, 2017
Your Website is often a visitor’s first impression of your ag retail business. A positive first impression can set the Read More
AgriSync
Matt Hopkins17 Agriculture Apps That Will Help You Farm Smarter In 2017
December 9, 2016
Ag professionals are working smarter, not harder, than ever before. Smart farming technologies have enabled them to reduce costs, maximize Read More
R4023 Sprayer, John Deere
CropLife 100Ag Retail Equipment Report: The Green Party Continues
December 7, 2016
In the annual race for sales in the ag retail equipment marketplace, the color schemes for participants are a little Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls And Bears Impacting This Year’s Marketplace
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
Latest News
Greenleaf Technologies TADF03-D Dual Fan Nozzle
NozzlesSix Greenleaf Nozzles Approved For XtendiMax With Vapor…
February 22, 2017
Greenleaf Technologies has announced that six of its TurboDrop D Series nozzles have been approved for use with Monsanto’s XtendiMax Read More
Winter Wheat
Industry NewsTiger-Sul Hires Manitoba And Eastern Canada Account Man…
February 22, 2017
Tiger-Sul, a global leader in sulphur fertilizers and crop performance products, has announced that sales veteran Trevor Loewen has joined Read More
NFMS 17 Hagie Sprayer
Eric SfiligojThe Read From Louisville: Uncertain
February 22, 2017
By the time this column appears across the country, the annual Commodity Classic will be in full swing. This means Read More
SprayersApache 1000 Series Sprayer Earns 2017 EquipmentWatch Hi…
February 21, 2017
ET Works has been named a winner in the 2017 EquipmentWatch Highest Retained Value Awards program, the industry’s only award Read More
Measuring Bulk Tanks
StewardshipMeister Media Among 2017 Award Winners Presented By The…
February 21, 2017
The Pesticide Stewardship Alliance (TPSA) held its annual conference in San Diego, CA, earlier this month where three awards were Read More
John Reifsteck
CropLife 100GROWMARK’s Reifsteck Earns NCFC Director Of The Y…
February 21, 2017
GROWMARK Chairman of the Board and President John Reifsteck has earned the prestigious Director of the Year Award from the Read More
Roy Blunt
LegislationARA Recognizes Blunt, Heitkamp For Legislative Efforts …
February 17, 2017
Agricultural industry continues to face federal regulatory challenges. Thankfully, agriculture’s allies in the U.S. Senate stepped forward. The Agricultural Retailers Read More
LegislationThe Fertilizer Institute Commends Senate On Confirmatio…
February 17, 2017
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) President Chris Jahn issued the following statement on the Senate confirmation of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Read More
Trump, Senate, Cabinet
LegislationBREAKING: Trump EPA Nominee Scott Pruitt Confirmed by S…
February 17, 2017
Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma’s attorney general spent years suing the Environmental Protection Agency over its efforts to regulate various Read More
ManagementFebruary Road Trip Edition
February 17, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss their recent visits to Indiana and Kentucky. Read More
Heritage Cooperative Finished Building Aerial
ManagementHeritage Cooperative, Agland Co-op Approve Merger
February 17, 2017
Agland Co-op and Heritage Cooperative stockholders have both approved the merger agreement between Agland Co-op and Heritage Cooperative. Now begins Read More
LegislationARA Fly-In: Ag Retail Descends on Capitol Hill, Lawmake…
February 15, 2017
More than 100 agricultural retailers, distributors and suppliers headed to Capitol Hill Tuesday morning for the Agribusiness Congressional Fly-in, according to a Read More
Untreated soybean seed Heartland Coop
Seed/BiotechMarrone Bio Innovations, Groundwork BioAg Bio-stacked M…
February 13, 2017
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. and Groundwork BioAg, Ltd have announced successful seed treatment field trials of the world’s first all-biological Read More
NL5000 With G5 Technology
SpreadersNew Leader Introduces NL5000 Dry Nutrient Applicator Wi…
February 13, 2017
New Leader, a division of Highway Equipment Company (HECO), has announced the next generation of spreading technology with the NL5000 Read More
Fertilizer Storage
Crop InputsThe State Of The Fertilizer Industry
February 9, 2017
He’s all hat, no horse.” It’s a humorous way of describing a person who tells a good story, but is Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Agrees To Credit Agreement Amendme…
February 9, 2017
Pinnacle Operating Corp. has entered into an amendment (the “Amendment”) to its First Lien Credit Agreement that will provide for, Read More
ManagementUpdates on Upcoming Trips, Dow-DuPont, and the Des Moin…
February 9, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj review a few future travels, along with the latest on big company mergers and Read More
Championship Tractor Pull
EquipmentNational Farm Machinery Show Highlighted By Championshi…
February 9, 2017
The scream of monster engines, the stench of burning rubber and the ground-pounding vibrations of the country’s largest, loudest and Read More