Learning Curves

When asked what technology challenges are facing retailers for the New Year, precision agriculture equipment and software companies came up with no less than a baker’s dozen, covering everything from iron to data to people.

For one, there’s still uneasiness among retailers and growers about the “technical persona” presented by precision ag, notes Jason Lenhardt, product marketing manager with AGCO Global Technologies in North America.

In many cases, companies are striving to keep it simple because growers and retailers cannot “spend hours and days learning how to operate their software applications when the window to plant, spray, or harvest is so small,” says Emily Harringa, communications specialist with John Deere Ag Management Solutions.

Cost is also a challenge — but it is being overcome. “Many farmers who abandoned experimenting with precision farming techniques 8 to 10 years ago or earlier are revisiting the practice because of affordable GPS-driven precision steering systems,” says Michael Helling, manager – flow controls, Trimble.

Top Five Trends

Besides challenges, here’s some good news:

1) Huge autosteer gains.

By far the trend mentioned most often was an increase in use of autosteer technology. “Expect an explosive adoption rate for automatic steering as producers discover the benefits and incredible return on investment,” says Rick Heiniger, president of Hemisphere GPS. “This will, in turn, trigger even higher expectations on applicators. Automatic steering is an absolute requirement for applicators from 2007 going forward.”

In fact, automated and assisted steering is helping alleviate labor shortages in many areas, says Helling. “A few minutes training of an unskilled operator can produce excellent results with today’s easy-to-use GPS machine control systems.”

2) More multi-tasking equipment and controls.

On Rigs. “Customers are looking for multi-functional equipment, be it applicators that can be converted from dry to liquid systems and back, or GPS systems that can be moved from one machine to another,” says AGCO’s Lenhardt. “Such modular system design extends the use season for equipment and spreads the investment out across more hours and acres.”

Company reps say rigs will use equipment to apply more variable rates — with multiple products. Also gaining are products that help reduce costs, such as boom section control and planter section control

In Cabs. Dave King, marketing and international business manager with Ag Leader, sees more focus on software that integrates with the hardware. Case in point: Multiple functions can now be controlled with the press of a button, thanks to on-board memory and electrohydraulic control systems, says Lenhardt. A map-based controller can start and stop application, adjust rates, and alert the operator to possible problems.

A single console also monitors machine function, collects data, and allows the operator to make adjustments from the cab. “Consolidating in-cab electronics reduces cab clutter, provides one consistent user interface for multiple operations, and provides the user with less of a learning curve,” says Helling. “All of these translate into savings of time and money.”

3) Higher accuracy GPS

Sub-inch, repeatable GPS signals are becoming more available in some regions. One contributor is the development of RTK (real-time kinematic) networks. Dealers and customers recognize that it is both possible and desirable to share RTK base stations and form user networks to make this technology more accessible and affordable, notes Harringa.

Heiniger says that high levels of accuracy become even more important as more growers continue the switch to specialized-till, strip-till, and controlled traffic practices.

4) Adoption of network standards (ISO11873) and open architecture.

“As companies fully adopt the standards, we will see full interconnectivity between brands and machines,” says Lenhardt. And being able to incorporate precision agriculture on equipment fleets that include different brands and model years allows users to maximize their investments in machinery, emphasizes Deere’s Harringa.

5) Better customer service.

Customer service expectations are growing. A trend mentioned by tech companies was the need to “have staff on board who can effectively sell and support precision agriculture /technology products,” says Ag Leader’s King. “The demand for these products is increasing and dealers need to be prepared to answer their customers’ questions and be able to support the products. If they’re not capable of doing that, the customer will go elsewhere for their precision agriculture needs, which may cause them to go elsewhere for their other product needs as well.”

AGCO’s Lenhardt points out that “the beauty of many of the newer precision technologies is they offer both improved efficiency and enhanced customer service benefits.”

Dave Craft, vice president of marketing for SSI, believes dealers will use the Internet even more for communication, sales, and their own purchases. “E-mail is still king, but providing on-line access to customer account activity and field data is starting to gain a lot of traction.” He also notes that Web services are being used to facilitate e-commerce between retailers and suppliers. “Electronic delivery notices can be sent to the retailer and imported as a bill of lading to save time and ensure better accuracy.”

How about employees at the counter? Consider the trend in increased sophistication of point-of-sale retail systems for ag, utilizing bar codes, touch screen monitors, and integrated credit card payment capabilities for all types of products, says Craft. 

Leave a Reply

Latest News
Eric SfiligojThe British Leave Vote Impact On EU Agriculture
June 27, 2016
Like virtually everyone else in the world this past week, I’ve watched the global reaction to Britain’s vote to exit Read More
Valent David Nothmann
Crop InputsValent Names David Nothmann Vice President Of Marketing
June 27, 2016
Valent U.S.A. Corp. has announced the appointment of David Nothmann as vice president of marketing. Nothmann will be responsible for Read More
The Andersons Waterloo
ManagementFirst Indiana Facility Certified Under 4R Nutrient Stew…
June 27, 2016
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced that The Andersons, Inc.’s Waterloo, IN, facility has been added to its Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Contributes To Mayo Clinic
June 27, 2016
BRANDT, a leading agriculture retailer and manufacturer of specialty agriculture products, has pledged a sizable donation to the Mayo Clinic Read More
ManagementReport: U.S. Farmland Values On Average Continue Gradua…
June 27, 2016
Land price movement has been in the forefront for farmers, landowners, lenders and land brokers for a decade now during Read More
AdjuvantsPrecision Laboratories Introduces Intact Xtra For Use W…
June 27, 2016
Precision Laboratories announces the launch of Intact Xtra, an adjuvant designed for applicators who want to maximize spray applications and Read More
Key Cooperative’s new liquid fertilizer, crop chemical, and seed facility in Grinnell, IA stores 1.5 million gallons of liquid fertilizer and 120,000 gallons of crop chemicals.
Retail FacilitiesKey Cooperative Facility Features The Latest In Murray …
June 27, 2016
When Key Cooperative wanted to improve the overall efficiency at its new state-of-the-art facility in Grinnell, IA, it turned to Read More
Allen Summers Asmark Institute PSM Training
EmployeesAsmark Institute Sponsors 25 ResponsibleAg Auditor Trai…
June 21, 2016
The Asmark Institute has announced plans to provide 25 scholarships through their affiliated State fertilizer and agrichemical associations to help encourage Read More
Kennebec Elevator
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Celebrates Kennebec Elevator Grand Openin…
June 21, 2016
Over 250 patrons and guests were on hand to celebrate Wheat Growers’ Kennebec Elevator grand opening. South Dakota Secretary of Read More
Land O Lakes
Industry NewsLand O’Lakes To Acquire Ceres
June 20, 2016
Land O’ Lakes, Inc. and Ceres, Inc. have announced that they have signed a definitive merger agreement under which Land O’Lakes Read More
Food IT
Industry NewsCalifornia Event Will Mix Ag And Tech Professionals To …
June 20, 2016
Silicon Valley is hot on agriculture, and an upcoming event in California will bring together the food and tech industries Read More
LegislationVilsack Christens WinField Crop Adventure, Talks Monsan…
June 17, 2016
The WinField Crop Adventure grand opening ceremonies at Fair Oaks Farms (near Winemac, IN) welcomed USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Read More
Crop InputsFields of the Future: WinField Doubles Down with Agri-E…
June 16, 2016
Land O’Lakes, Inc., joined by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, today will host Fields of the Future, a live broadcast about Read More
Bayer sign
Crop InputsMonsanto Turns Back Bayer Again
June 14, 2016
Bayer AG’s bid to buy Monsanto Co. for more than $60 billion has hit an impasse that could pose a Read More
Young Corn Field
Crop NutritionNext Generation Of Nitrogen Efficiency Technology Conve…
June 13, 2016
Commodity price projections indicate farmers will continue to face tight margins again this year. Delivering higher yields and more bushels Read More
Industry NewsLa Crosse Seed Acquires Cover Crop Solutions Brand
June 10, 2016
La Crosse Seed announces that it is the new and exclusive owner of the entire family of brands of Cover Read More
ManagementTravel Plans and EU Rejection of Glyphosate, Biotech Cr…
June 9, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about upcoming trips and the latest in the European Union’s moves against glyphosate Read More