Back in 1996 the possibilities for precision agriculture services at the ag retail operation were generating tremendous excitement in the industry. Advancing microprocessor technology was shrinking the size of computing technology while increasing its power. The potential of the emerging “World Wide Web” was becoming more apparent. And increasing access to the Global Positioning System (GPS) provided a window into the possibilities of geo-referenced data.
Of course, the convergence of these enormous tech trends led to big developments for equipment manufacturers, who were hoping to own the customer experience by pulling it all together in one grand offering.
At right is a February 1996 advertisement from Ag-Chem Equipment, since purchased by AGCO, for its Soilection multi-product, variable-rate fertility system. Not just a piece of equipment but a total offering, incorporating application, computer driven rate control, and global positioning.
The headline’s promise was bold: “Profitable Site-Specific Application from Concept to Reality.” And to its credit, it laid the groundwork for what it took to be profitable and gave reason for taking an integrated approach. “Get the experience and help you need to be profitable from Ag-Chem,” the ad copy reads. “Let us help you evaluate your needs, train your personnel, and obtain farmer commitments. Only after these steps are you ready to buy the equipment to make your site-specific program an effective reality.”
Then, as now, we understand that the road to precision profitability takes a lot more than a tricked-out rig and big dreams. But Ag-Chem was at the leading, if somewhat bleeding, edge of the precision market, and inspired much of what was to come in equipment and software development for years to come.