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
ManagementWashington Visit and Bayer/Monsanto Deal Update
May 26, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discusses a recent trip to DC and the latest news on the proposed pairing Read More
Fertilizer closeup in hand
Industry NewsVerdesian: Striking A Balance Between Yield & ROI
May 26, 2016
Finely tuned nutrient management plans are helping farmers throughout the U.S. improve nutrient use efficiency, increase return on investment (ROI) Read More
Crop InputsLand O’Lakes Announces Minnesota Water Quality Pa…
May 25, 2016
Governor Mark Dayton and Land O’Lakes, Inc. President and CEO Chris Policinski today announced a new public-private partnership to protect Read More
Soybean Plant closeup
Industry NewsMonsanto Rejects Bayer Bid; Open To More Talks
May 25, 2016
Monsanto Co, the world’s largest seed company, turned down Bayer AG’s $62 billion acquisition bid as “incomplete and financially inadequate” Read More
Corn close up
Crop InputsArysta LifeScience Establishes Global Headquarters In R…
May 25, 2016
Arysta LifeScience has announced plans to relocate its global headquarters from West Palm Beach, FL, to Cary, NC, over the Read More
fertilizer blending and storage, Top 100
BlendersCHS Dakota Expansion Features AGCO’s GSI InterSys…
May 25, 2016
The continued growth of precision agriculture has increased farmer use of customized fertilizer blends best-suited for their soil conditions. Several Read More
ManagementAgriculture 3.5: A Bumpy Road Ahead
May 24, 2016
You may have read my article a few years ago on Agriculture 3.0, which is a term I coined to Read More
Topcon’s X30 display with CropSpec sensors
EquipmentGPS Autosteer Systems: Product Updates From Precision A…
May 24, 2016
Throughout 2015 GPS Steering solutions continued to evolve from what was once an after-market add on, to today’s cab where Read More
Trimble TMX-2050 In-Cab Display
Eric SfiligojThe Precision Ag Revolution Continues
May 24, 2016
It’s funny how much “the first time” tends to mean to someone as they get older. I sometimes can’t recall Read More
Eric Wintemute, AMVAC
Precision AgAMVAC Ups The Ante With New Precision Ag Technology
May 24, 2016
A potentially industry-changing at-plant soil treatment system from American Vanguard Corp., or AMVAC, is coming soon to large growers in Read More
Dry and Liquid Plant
CropLife 100CropLife 100 Map
May 24, 2016
The new CropLife 100 map shows the locations of each of the headquarters of the 2015 CropLife 100 retailers. The interactive Read More
Southern States Cooperative
Corn Field
Industry NewsTiger-Sul Names Veteran Account Manager To Lead Central…
May 23, 2016
With the continuing growth of the sulphur bentonite and precision crop nutrient industry, global agriculture firm H.J. Baker has announced that Read More
Bayer sign
Industry NewsReuters: Bayer Defies Critics With $62 Billion Monsanto…
May 23, 2016
German drugs and crop chemicals group Bayer has offered to buy U.S. seeds company Monsanto for $62 billion in cash, Read More
Eric SfiligojPity The Monsanto Haters
May 23, 2016
An old saying goes thus: “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.” Given current events, there Read More
Industry NewsCompass Minerals Hires Industry Veteran To Lead Plant N…
May 19, 2016
Compass Minerals has hired plant nutrition industry veteran Vatren Jurin to steer the company’s portfolio expansion into specialty liquid micronutrient Read More
ASMARK Retailers LIVE! Tour 2016 Group shot The Andersons
CropLife 100The Andersons Rejects Unsolicited Proposal From HC2
May 19, 2016
The Andersons, Inc. has announced that its Board of Directors has rejected two non-binding, highly conditional, unsolicited proposals from HC2 Read More
glyphosate
Crop InputsWHO: Glyphosate ‘Unlikely’ To Cause Cancer
May 16, 2016
Via Reuters.com reporter Kate Kelland: The weed-killing pesticide glyphosate, made by Monsanto and widely used in agriculture and by gardeners, Read More