PrecisionAg Innovation Series 2016: 5 Takeaways

The 2016 Precision Ag Innovations Series "Happy Hour: Farmer Perspective On The Day's Discussion" Panel.
The 2016 PrecisionAg Innovation Series “Happy Hour: Farmer Perspective On The Day’s Discussion” Panel.

Having just returned to the North Coast from a week in Des Moines that kicked off with our annual Precision Ag Innovation Series meeting and wrapped with a trip to the massive 2016 Farm Progress Show in nearby Boone, IA, my brain is literally swimming with ideas, thoughts, clever turns of phrase, etc., that I picked up from the many panel discussions and presentations, as well some good old fashioned late-night brain picking over cocktails in the hotel lobby bar.

Now somewhat firmly entrenched in my cozy little cubicle wonderland here at the office, it’s time to go backwards down the number line (it’s a Phish song, don’t ask) and think about the implication of some of the things we heard in Iowa this week.

And with that, here are 5 takeaways from the 2016 Precision Ag Innovation Series meeting:

  1. Minnesota farmer and drone professional Todd Golly
    Minnesota farmer and drone professional Todd Golly

    Merger & Acquisition Mode is Holding Back Adoption: Oftentimes panel discussions can end up turning into a veritable celebrity roast of sorts, depending on the topic, of course. Basically, when we humans get into a large group with our professional peers we are much more likely to lament and bond over the negatives/challenges surrounding that topic than we are to heap praise upon it (stupid humans, AMIRIGHT?). And no, I don’t have any scientific studies to back that baseless assertion up, you’re just going to have to trust me here. Anyways, I couldn’t count on two hands – and I’ve been told I have rather large hands – the number of times panelists criticized the Johnny-come-lately mindset in precision agriculture data management software circles where everyone is always looking at the next big software package and a new next big software package comes around just about every other month. Southern Minnesota farmer and drone professional Todd Golly perhaps summed up the current go-kick-rocks attitude many feel when it comes to the FMIS companies: “Today we have all of these data companies, one of them sells us on their service and we put all of our data into this new system, and in two years it’s gone. They leave, and we’ve got nothing on the market that’s been stable enough to earn farmers’ trust. I’ve chosen not to do anything ‘til somebody wins.”

  2. Illinois grower Steve Pitstick and moderator Lisa Prassack of Prassack Advisors.
    Illinois grower Steve Pitstick and moderator Lisa Prassack of Prassack Advisors.

    Imagery Continues to Take Flight: Time for a sports metaphor! For the last five years yield data has been the New England Patriots – almost universally fawned over, respected by all – of the precision ag industry, while imagery has been treated about as politely as my favorite team (hate to admit this) the Cleveland Browns (laughed at, ridiculed, trivialized – LOTS of adjectives we could go with here). However, it seems the tables may be turning a bit when it comes to using imagery for in-season management decisions. “The yield map is like a report card – once you’ve received it, unfortunately it’s too late to do anything to change it,” explained Illinois grower Steve Pitstick. “I have a feeling in-season imagery is going to be very important going forward. I haven’t figured out how to use it yet, but I feel it’s going to be very important.”

  3. Still Too Much Grower Involvement in Data Collection: Pitstick had another metaphor that stuck with me from the week. He was discussing his original reluctance to embrace text messaging fully back in the early 2000s, reasoning to himself at the time “Why the heck would I text somebody when I can just pick up the phone and call them?” Then smartphones began adding keyboards, and Pitstick estimates he now sends over 3,000 text messages per month (NOT those kind of text messages, you guys!). It seems data collection efforts are stuck in the same boat currently, with adoption hovering around the estimated 15-20% range with growers, as many like Pitstick with his text messaging holdout just won’t embrace it until it becomes easier. “Passive data collection” is the term that was used, if my notebook is correct, and, as Nebraska grower Kerry Knuth states “that’s what we want. We don’t want to have to touch the data. As a grower for us that’s everything; the more information we can gather without the farmer having to do anything, the better for everyone.”
  4. A shot of the crowd during the 2016 Precision Ag Innovations Series meeting August 29, 2016, in Des Moines, IA.
    A shot of the crowd during the 2016 Precision Ag Innovation Series meeting August 29, 2016, in Des Moines, IA.

    I Think We’re Getting Close on Zone vs. Grid: When I first started dabbling with precision ag industry coverage back in my early CropLife days, it took me a little while to get the whole zone vs. grid thing the industry has been grappling with for the past couple decades. Monday’s meeting, however, was the first instance that I can remember where a general, pretty much unopposed consensus emerged that zone management is the best way to go. Where Zones seem to win out over Grid is in helping growers embrace field variability, according to panelist Dustin Spears. “Farmers seem to think the goal of precision ag is to remove variability from the field, but we’ve got to take that variability and embrace it. There are some really good spots in every field, and there’s probably even better areas within those spots that we can optimize. What acres are super productive to farm and which acres are a waste, or areas where it’s not economically feasible to farm? Sometimes we need to let those acres go. As farmers we’re always trying to fix things, and we think we can fix those bad spots, too. But why keep dumping inputs into crappy areas?”

  5. Farmers Edge's Andrew Nadler during the 2016 Precision Ag Innovations Series panel "From Weather Datat to Nutrient Managment: Challenges and Opportunities in Precision Integration."
    Farmers Edge’s Andrew Nadler during the 2016 Precision Ag Innovations Series panel “From Weather Datat to Nutrient Managment: Challenges and Opportunities in Precision Integration.”

    Will Weather Data Ever Pay? Some Say Yes, Some Say No: One panelist gave an unofficial estimate that 50-60% of final yield variability is due to extreme weather events throughout the growing season. With that statistically significant of an impact on the final bottom line, one would think weather data has the promise to really change the way growers interact with their crops throughout the season, and that person wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. Here comes that V word again though, variability. In this case, weather oftentimes varies so much across even a single, say 20 acre, field – for example NOAA may report your area received 3 inches of rain overnight but one area of the field only got 1 inch while this other area got all 3 inches and it all fell within an hour. That’s a much different set of circumstances for those two areas of one field, and they should be treated as such. How can we capture that weather variability and use it to fuel management decisions? Panelist Andrew Nadler, weather data specialist, Farmers Edge, had an idea: “You could have a program where weather data is used to dictate when you look at satellite imagery, and produce a ‘change map’ that shows a grower where in-field a weather event had its greatest impact and it can be geo-referenced so that it can be immediately ground-truthed and investigated.”

Leave a Reply

Business Management Stories
Univ.-of-Illlinois-Palmer-in-soybean1
Business ManagementOpinion: How to Leverage Precision Agriculture to Launch Your Aggressive, High-Pressure Telemarketing Business
August 14, 2017
To continue where my last article left off (which you can check out here), a precision ag company that specializes Read More
Corn
Business ManagementCrop Pro Insurance Closes $8 Million in Series A Funding
August 8, 2017
Crop Pro Insurance today announced the close of an $8 million Series A round of financing co-led by top agriculture Read More
Agri-AFC-cotton-baler
Business ManagementBringing a Southern Sensibility to Precision Agriculture
August 7, 2017
Amy Winstead considers herself blessed to have gotten in on the ground floor of precision ag adoption in the Southeast. Read More
Field-sunset
Business ManagementOpinion: Are We in a Precision L-Ag Moment?
August 1, 2017
Yes, you read that headline right. I said Precision Lag, as in I have this feeling we are in the Read More
Trending Articles
Agri-AFC-cotton-baler
Business ManagementBringing a Southern Sensibility to Precision Agriculture
August 7, 2017
Amy Winstead considers herself blessed to have gotten in on the ground floor of precision ag adoption in the Southeast. Read More
Sensors/IoT2017 Yield Monitor Calibration Checklist — Part I
August 4, 2017
With fall harvest a few weeks away for most of the country, ag service providers from every walk of life Read More
Wade-Barnes
Excellence AwardsBuilt By Agronomists: 2017 Award Of Excellence Winner Wade Barnes on the Making of Farmers Edge
August 2, 2017
Farmers Edge President And CEO Wade Barnes reflects on the process of building his company, shortly after receiving the Crop Adviser/Entrepreneur Award during the InfoAg Conference in July. Read More
Data ManagementInfoAg 2017 Recap: Service Providers Take Center Stage
July 28, 2017
As I sit here and ponder just what it was that we all experienced last week, off the top of Read More
Resistant-weeds-in-Brazil
InternationalUsing Precision Agriculture to Control Herbicide-Resistant Weeds in Brazil
July 24, 2017
The occurrence of weeds in agricultural fields of grain and fiber production has caused losses to farmers for a long Read More
Yield Data Image
Data ManagementYield Data: More Than a Pretty Picture
July 13, 2017
It is mid-July, which, for the Australian cotton industry, means that picking is still going on for some growers. A Read More
Latest News
Grower Services & SolutionsAgribusinesses Launch FieldReveal Platform for Local Ag…
August 22, 2017
Four leading agribusinesses, Wheat Growers, Landus Cooperative, Central Valley Ag and WinField United, have signed a letter of intent to Read More
Industry NewsTrimble to Distribute Promising SIMPAS Application Syst…
August 21, 2017
AMVAC Chemical Corp. has signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with Trimble. The two companies are working toward an agreement Read More
Data ManagementBeck’s Builds Out ‘Freemium’ FMIS Off…
August 17, 2017
Beck’s today announced the release of several new tools available in their precision farming service, FARMserver, which enhances farmers’ ability Read More
Israel-Irrigation-system-featured-image
InternationalIsraeli Precision Ag Companies Lead in Water Use Effici…
August 16, 2017
In the last week, AgriHub, formed by farmers and consultants from Brazil, visited 10 Israeli agribusiness companies, including the Ministry Read More
Gregoire-tractor
ProfessionalsMechanization Key to the Future of Vineyard Management
August 15, 2017
Precision technology moves at different speeds across different segments of agriculture. For example, technologies like curve compensation, precision spraying, and Read More
Area-of-Interest-Web-Soil-Survey-screenshot
Data ManagementSignificant Updates Made to SoilWeb, Web Soil Survey Pr…
August 15, 2017
Agronomic professionals and technicians dealing with precision farming must understand the soils within the field before writing effective prescriptions.  A Read More
Univ.-of-Illlinois-Palmer-in-soybean1
Business ManagementOpinion: How to Leverage Precision Agriculture to Launc…
August 14, 2017
To continue where my last article left off (which you can check out here), a precision ag company that specializes Read More
Industry NewsFarm Dog Inks Non-Funded Cooperative Agreement with USD…
August 14, 2017
Farm Dog, a pest and disease management platform for growers and agronomists, has entered into a Non-Funded Cooperative Agreement (NFCA) Read More
Lisa-Prassack-Photo-Credit-Weekly-Times-Now
InternationalAgtech: What the Umbrella Term Really Means
August 10, 2017
Acclerator, incubator, start-up, connectivity — the buzzwords of the digital age can be clear as, well, mud, writes Alex Sampson Read More
Spray Drift
Data ManagementJanzen: Data to Play Key Role in Sorting Out Dicamba Di…
August 10, 2017
You would have to live under a rock to not have heard about farmers’ issues with dicamba this growing season. Read More
New-Zealand-Precision-Ag-Tour
InternationalNew Zealand Study Tour to Demonstrate Recent Advances i…
August 10, 2017
If you’re interested in an intense, week-long immersion in the use of high-tech products and practices in New Zealand agriculture, Read More
Data ManagementDuPont Acquires Ag Tech Startup Granular for $300 Milli…
August 9, 2017
DuPont announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire San Francisco-based Granular, Inc., a provider of software and Read More
EventsSDSU Prof to lead Profit-Focused Panel at Upcoming Inno…
August 9, 2017
Convening a day prior to this summer’s Farm Progress Show at the I Hotel in Champaign, IL (about an hour’s Read More
AGCO White planter 9800VE
ProfessionalsAGCO Crop Tour 2017 Features Precision Planting Add-Ons
August 8, 2017
Higher yields and greater returns are the ultimate goals for crop producers. To help corn growers better understand the role Read More
Corn
Business ManagementCrop Pro Insurance Closes $8 Million in Series A Fundin…
August 8, 2017
Crop Pro Insurance today announced the close of an $8 million Series A round of financing co-led by top agriculture Read More
Agri-AFC-cotton-baler
Business ManagementBringing a Southern Sensibility to Precision Agricultur…
August 7, 2017
Amy Winstead considers herself blessed to have gotten in on the ground floor of precision ag adoption in the Southeast. Read More
Satshot imagery
Imagery/SensingImagery in Agriculture: Some Sage Advice
August 6, 2017
SatShot President Lanny Faleide has been a fixture on the remote imagery scene for as long as about anyone still Read More
Blue-River-See-Spray-technology
ProfessionalsHow Blue River’s See & Spray Technology Could Chang…
August 5, 2017
The blistering West Texas heat rocketing towards triple digits, the affable cotton grower trudged across his dusty field and approached Read More