Advancing Precision Programs: One Agronomist’s Perspective

Despite industry concerns that 2014 could bring a downturn in precision use with the lower overall outlook for commodity crop prices, Bill Aiken says that there is a considerable level of optimism among their grower members.

Aiken is precision agronomy lead at Stateline Cooperative, Burt, IA, and he has been working on the conundrum of building a successful precision program for many years at different retail organizations. His charge at Stateline, where he started last fall, is to help redefine precision farming and help nudge along the adoption process.

“What the leadership and the board of Stateline have challenged me to do is to examine our definition of precision agriculture and precision farming,” says Aiken. The main reason, he says, is because the early definition of precision farming has been misleading. “At a 30,000-foot view, many growers still have the perception that if they implement precision ag technology that they will cut input costs.” Growers who view this as the end game will tell you that they believe they are paying Cadillac prices for a Chevrolet product.

“We have found out that the reduction in input cost is not one-size-fits-all and predictable, nor should it be the driver of change. Optimizing production inputs, in a manner that enhances profitability while having a neutral environmental impact appeals more to us than merely reducing input costs. It requires a tremendous amount of due diligence amongst trusted advisors to determine if it is even viable,” he adds. Even the “bleeding edge” category – those willing to try new things even without a definitive return on investment, are going to expect sound, tested science based programs, or well-designed “On Farm Discovery” projects with an opportunity to minimize risk long term.

There is another factor, too. Some service providers have also leaned too heavily on the sale of components to drive profitability in precision programs as well, says Aiken. With few exceptions, precision has not evolved far enough beyond “component management” – selling individual products or components of a precision program, such as variable rate seed or fertilizer, and data analysis, rather than a cohesive program. “It has evolved that way because it can generate cash flow, but in the end it can be disruptive to a full program approach because we end up talking about the tools and not the toolbox,” he adds.

Like many cooperatives that have emerged from consolidation, acquisitions, and expansion over the past decade, Stateline is a collaboration of eight independents and local coops. With different dynamics in each place, precision programs will need to be fluid and flexible to address each situation. And, growers across the strata of experience with precision will need to be able to understand the benefits.

“If it’s a leading edge grower, the top one-third of the marketplace, he will generally be willing to invest an extra dollar with a questionable return. But the next two segments, the early adopters and what I call the “tell me” (late adopters) segments that make up the remaining two-thirds, are not going to invest a dime unless you can tie some predictability to it. Our job is to provide ‘equity’ regardless of segments and address viable ROI to both the grower and retail.”

One of Aiken’s first exercises in the redefinition of Stateline’s precision program was to go out and survey growers, retail managers and agronomists, consultants and academia in the area to identify barriers, roadblocks and opportunities.  “If I could summarize where things have evolved among growers, it’s with a phrase I have adopted: Autopsy Ag,” he explains. “That is, basically many of the decisions we are making for this year are based on post mortem analysis.”

Aiken terms Stateline’s desire is headed to “predictable production.” Working with a deeply involved trusted adviser, the entire toolbox, using applied research and localized on-farm discovery, growers will be able to buy into precision programs that provide a holistic approach to crop production that is tailored to his specific crops, fields, and goals. “We are not completely sure where it will take us, but our main message is that we are going to deal in predictable production and complete, cohesive programs,” says Aiken.

Changing approach is absolutely necessary in order to bring hesitant growers to the table. Aiken pointed out that adoption numbers among retailers, as reported in the CropLife magazine/Purdue University Retail Precision Adoption Survey, have essentially flatlined since 2008. “I think it’s a lack of confidence in precision programs that has left that bar unchanged,” he says.  “Our industry has and is rethinking the message relative to precision ag, but then we need to effectively ‘manage the message.’”

Leave a Reply

Data Stories
MappingMapShots Announces 2015 Customer Conference
October 15, 2014
MapShots, Inc. will hold its 2015 Customer Conference on February 11-14, 2015 at the Georgia Institute of Technology's Global Learning Center in Atlanta, GA. Read More
DataPlantBeat To Debut At InfoAg 2014
July 21, 2014
Phytech will reveal PlantBeat — a new service that assists farmers in the optimization of crop yields by translating plant needs into real-time alerts and expert recommendations — at the 2014 InfoAg conference in St. Louis, MO. Read More
ImageryFAA: We Plan To Meet September 2015 UAV Integration Deadline
July 15, 2014
Jim Williams, manager of the FAA’s Office of Unmanned Aerial Systems Integration, recently spoke at the Delta AgTech Symposium on the current state of commercial UAV regulation in the U.S. Read More
SensorsNORAC Celebrates 40 Years In Business
June 25, 2014
NORAC, a leading precision ag manufacturer who pioneered the use of ultrasonic sensing in the development of control equipment, is celebrating its 40th Anniversary. Read More
Trending Articles
DataClimate Corp: We’ve Mapped Nearly 45% Of U.S. Corn And Soybeans
June 25, 2015
Today, The Climate Corporation, a division of Monsanto Company, announced that farmers have mapped more than 75 million row crop Read More
Precision Ag Innovation Series
DataAugust Event To Focus On Data Platforms In Agriculture
May 27, 2015
The PrecisionAg Innovation Series is proud to present "Data Platform Solutions: Putting Knowledge to Work." This one-day forum delves into the state of data platform offerings in agriculture, what's working, and where things are headed in the future. Join us on August 31 in Champaign, IL. Read More
DataFarmers Edge Adds Investment Partner
May 27, 2015
Data management and precision solutions provider Farmers Edge, announced the backing of new investment partner Mitsui & Co., Ltd. Read More
SoftwareTrimble Opens Up Irrigate-IQ
May 4, 2015
Trimble announced today that it has launched a new fully scalable version of its Irrigate-IQ precision irrigation solution that also Read More
AwardsNominations Deadline Extended For 2015 PrecisionAg Awards Of Excellence
April 28, 2015
The PrecisionAg Award of Excellence program sheds light on some of the most important people and programs that have helped agriculture realize the full benefits of technology to improve agronomy, efficiency, and stewardship in crop production. Read More
DataCropMetrics, DTN Announce Collaboration On Weather, Irrigation Data
March 11, 2015
The new collaboration will enable growers with real-time, site specific weather and crop modeling information dedicated to helping improve grower’s irrigation management decisions. Read More
Latest News
GuidanceProTrakker Debuts Hydraulic Hitches, Accessories
July 2, 2015
Advancements in precision agriculture continue to provide producers with technology that gives them more control over maximized yields, inputs, and Read More
DataAg Data Platforms Conference Coming August 31
July 2, 2015
Join more than 200 attendees and a wide variety of industry leaders in Illinois to discuss current and future trends and offerings in data platforms for agriculture. Read More
Industry NewsValley Irrigation Appoints New VP Of Global Ops
June 30, 2015
Valley Irrigation has appointed Joshua Dixon as the vice president of global operations. An experienced global manufacturing executive, Dixon has Read More
EquipmentCase IH Launches New Precision Air Carts
June 29, 2015
Case IH recently introduced its new Precision Air 5 series air carts, developed to get the most from every plant’s Read More
SoftwareAgren Unveils Sustainability Solution For Ag Retail
June 29, 2015
Agren, Inc., a provider of sustainability technology to agriculture, unveiled their three-tiered Sustainability Solution for ag retailers today. Agren’s Sustainability Read More
DataClimate Corp: We’ve Mapped Nearly 45% Of U.S. Cor…
June 25, 2015
Today, The Climate Corporation, a division of Monsanto Company, announced that farmers have mapped more than 75 million row crop Read More
UncategorizedInterDrone Conference Lands in Vegas This September
June 23, 2015
From thorny business and regulatory issues to the latest technologies and techniques for agriculture markets and beyond, the InterDrone Conference will present a multifaceted educational and networking program. Read More
Dave Cox Davco Farming
GPSGPS Landforming Improves Surface Drainage, Water Infilt…
June 22, 2015
GPS Landforming is the latest precision agriculture tool to hit mainstream adoption by farmers looking to increase production and profits Read More
EquipmentFAA: Commercial Drone Regs Should Be Finalized In 12 Mo…
June 18, 2015
U.S. commercial drone operations could take flight on a large scale by this time next year, as federal regulators finalize Read More
Computing17 Innovations That Shaped The Precision Ag Revolution
June 17, 2015
Nothing generates as much debate as a ranking of top anything, from NFL quarterbacks and restaurants to pickup trucks and Read More
FarmLink, True Harvest, data, precision ag, yield data
DataFarmLink, Jackson-Jennings Co-op Form TrueHarvest Agree…
June 17, 2015
Jackson-Jennings Co-op and FarmLink today announced a new agreement that offers co-op members access to TrueHarvest, the yield benchmarking tool Read More
DataGearing Up For InfoAg 2015
June 16, 2015
Coming off a 2014 InfoAg which saw a record-setting number of attendees, InfoAg 2015 – the premier event in precision Read More
ComputingAgriCharts Launches Online Marketplace Grains.com
June 16, 2015
AgriCharts, a division of Barchart.com, Inc. and a provider of information and technology solutions for agribusinesses, today announced the launch Read More
DataAutoProbe Brings On NC Ag Services As Distributor
June 15, 2015
AutoProbe Technologies, manufacturers of the AutoProbe automated soil sampler, names NC Ag Services, Inc. of Pantego, NC, its North Carolina distributor. David Read More
ComputingValley Irrigation Launches Mobile Website
June 11, 2015
As smartphones become more integral in farm management and increasingly prevalent among growers, it’s essential for agriculture companies to provide Read More
AwardsAwards Of Excellence: Dave Scheiderer Receives 2015 Cro…
June 11, 2015
Dave Scheiderer, founder, Integrated Ag Services (Milford Center, OH), has been named 2015 PrecisionAg.com CropAdvisor/Entrepreneur award winner. Scheiderer was nominated Read More
AwardsAwards Of Excellence: Dr. Raj Khosla Named 2015 Precisi…
June 11, 2015
Colorado State University professor Dr. Raj Khosla, a distinguished Monfort professor of precision agriculture and an assistant dean of international Read More
AwardsAwards Of Excellence: Colorado Grower Named 2015 Farmer…
June 11, 2015
Rod Weimer, a farm manager at Fagerberg Farms along the Front Range in Eaton, CO, has been named the 2015 Read More