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
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
Exterior view of CPS Big Lake facility which includes enclosed receiving and load out area
CropLife 100New Alternative Weed Resistance Traits Could Experience…
May 12, 2017
It wasn’t too many years ago that ag retailers and their grower-customers could hardly wait for new options to fight Read More
Diane Allemang and Dan Jacobs
Crop InputsFMC Agricultural Solutions, Casa Pacifica Partner to He…
May 11, 2017
FMC Agricultural Solutions is teaming up with Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families, an organization that supports vulnerable children Read More
UncategorizedWhat’s Up With ARA
May 11, 2017
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj talks with Brian Reuwee regarding what issues are on the docket for the Agricultural Retailers Association. Read More
BASF Maglis tablet retailer grower
Precision AgQ&A: What BASF’s Latest Foray into Precision …
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
Pam Marrone
Crop InputsMarrone Bio Innovations Enters into Distribution Agreem…
May 11, 2017
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc., a leading global provider of bio-based pest management and plant health products for the agriculture markets, Read More
Bayer
Crop InputsBayer to Sell Liberty Business to Seal Monsanto Deal
May 8, 2017
Bayer has agreed to sell its Liberty herbicide and LibertyLink-branded seeds businesses to win antitrust approval for its acquisition of Read More
Trump, Senate, Cabinet
LegislationTrump’s EPA Appointee Dismisses Half of Major Sci…
May 8, 2017
(Via NYTimes.com) EPA has dismissed at least five members of a major scientific review board, the latest signal of what Read More
Winter Wheat
FungicidesREGALIA Rx Available from Koch Agronomic Services for 2…
May 8, 2017
Koch Agronomic Services, LLC has announced that REGALIA Rx biofungicide is available for U.S. corn, wheat and soybean growers who Read More