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
Soybean Closeup
FungicidesNew CROSSOVER PRO Formulation Offers Insect and Disease…
March 29, 2017
INNVICTIS CROP CARE, LLC has launched CROSSOVER PRO as a first of its kind formulation combining propiconazole and lambda-cyhalothrin for Read More
Trade Summit
Crop Inputs3 Compelling Reasons to Attend the AgriBusiness Global …
March 29, 2017
The AgriBusiness Global Trade Summit is the world’s premier sourcing event for crop protection and plant health products. Its core Read More
ManagementStudy: Farming Becoming Riskier Under Climate Change
March 28, 2017
Scientists the world over are working to predict how climate change will affect our planet. It is an extremely complex Read More
Young Corn Plants
Crop NutritionProtecting Nitrogen Provides Economic, Environmental RO…
March 28, 2017
Every business looks to improve its return on investment and reduce its risk of loss. Farmers are no different, yet Read More
Water Drainage
Eric SfiligojDMWW Lawsuit Dismissal Good News for Ag
March 27, 2017
On March 17 while most of the nation was toasting St. Patrick’s Day, agriculture was likely lifting a glass (or Read More
Eric Jenks, Wilbur-Ellis
Crop InputsWilbur-Ellis Launches ADVANTIGRO Plant Growth Regulator…
March 27, 2017
Wilbur-Ellis Agribusiness, a recognized leader in the marketing and distribution of crop protection, seed and nutritional products, as well as Read More
Yara West Sacramento Ribbon Cutting
Crop InputsYara West Sacramento Is Newest Addition
March 27, 2017
Yara’s West Sacramento Terminal was officially welcomed March 21 as the newest Yara North America facility in the U.S. While continually Read More
UncategorizedPrecision Ag, Iowa Water, and GM Corn Updates
March 24, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj look at the state of precision agriculture, the dismissal of the Des Moines Water Read More
Pam Marrone
Crop InputsMarrone Bio Innovations Enters Biostimulants Market Wit…
March 23, 2017
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. is expanding beyond biopesticides and crop protection and into the biostimulant market by commercially launching Haven Read More
Nutrients for Life Foundation Teacher
FertilizerNutrients For Life Foundation Celebrates 10 Years Teach…
March 23, 2017
Those in agriculture know fertilizer is a vital ingredient to grow strong, productive crops. In fact, fertilizer is responsible for Read More
ManagementThink You Know Water? Take WinField United’s R…
March 22, 2017
Water is among our most precious resources, and arguably the hardest working, with just one percent available for human use, Read More
Corn Field
LegislationTFI Hopes Court Dismissal Is ‘Final Chapter’…
March 20, 2017
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) released the following statement from President, Chris Jahn on the March 17, 2017, federal court dismissal Read More
Wheat Growers
Industry NewsWheat Growers CEO Dale Locken To Retire
March 20, 2017
CEO Dale Locken has announced that he plans to retire from Wheat Growers. Locken has served almost 15 years as Read More
Bayer Monsanto
Eric SfiligojBayer-Monsanto: Life, LibertyLink, And The Pursuit Of R…
March 20, 2017
As the calendar officially turns to spring, life is in full renewal mode. Flowers are blooming, birds are singing, and Read More
Corn Field
Crop InputsUltra Yield Micronutrients Acquires Kronos Micronutrien…
March 16, 2017
Ultra Yield Micronutrients, Inc. ”Ultra”, an affiliate of Cameron Chemicals, Inc., is pleased to announce that it has acquired the Read More
ManagementSnowstorms, Asset Sales, and Soybeans Prices
March 16, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss the weather, precision ag, crop protection company mergers, and commodity prices in this Read More
Soybean Field
Seed/BiotechBayer Invests $8.1 million In Soybean Advancement In Th…
March 16, 2017
Growers in Illinois and across the Midwest now have the added benefit of a state-of-the-art soybean research facility, increasing accessibility Read More
CHS
CropLife 100CHS Acquires Western Co-op Transport Association
March 16, 2017
CHS Inc., North America’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, has purchased Western Co-op Transport Read More