The Cost Of Doing Business

Since it first appeared on the agricultural scene back in the mid-1990s, precision agriculture has been part perceived savior and part curiosity. While many growers and ag retailers looked to technology to help improve their levels of efficiency and bottom lines, others simply viewed it as something optional — a strictly high-tech plaything for larger operations to figure out.

Today, however, the marketplace has significantly shifted. Over the past 18 months, worldwide commodity prices have improved from a few dollars per bushel to $4 for corn and more than $10 for soybeans. Furthermore, the demand for these crops for use in the biofuels movement has effectively absorbed the worldwide grain surplus, keeping commodity prices from retreating.

This, says Bruce Erickson, director of cropping systems management at Purdue University, has entirely altered the way precision agriculture fits into the scheme of things. “The economic decisions in agriculture in 2008 have all shifted,” says Erickson. “Until now, there were usually small shifts in crop prices and technology taking place in the industry. Now, there’s a revolution at work. Where using precision agriculture used to be worth about a $300 to $600 savings per one acre, it’s twice that now. Making this an even bigger deal is that crop input costs have skyrocketed in recent years as well, adding to the pressure to save money where you can and keep more of it for yourself. Basically, we’ve had a pretty profound incremental change take place, forever.”

Rhett Schildroth, precision agriculture product marketing manager for Topcon Positioning Systems, Inc., agrees with Erickson’s assessment. “Precision agriculture is much more than just steering a tractor,” says Schildroth. “In today’s agriculture environment, it is necessary to run the farm like any other successful business. By controlling every step of the farming process — planning, planting, managing, harvesting, and documentation — it is possible for a grower to increase yields by 20%, 30%, even 40% or more.”

Luckily, many long-standing members of the agricultural community understand the importance precision agriculture and technology now plays in their lives. At a recent computer users’ conference in Missouri, one grower made the following statement regarding the ever-expanding field of technology: “As long as Bill Gates is in charge, something will be obsolete tomorrow.”

Gauging Market Activity

Looking forward to what precision agriculture areas will be the most active in 2008, market observers point to variable-rate applied (VRA) seeding to be at the top of the list. During 2007, with the drive among growers to add more corn to their fields higher than at any time since the end of World War II, ag equipment companies scrambled to upgrade their seeding products accordingly. As Topcon’s Schildroth describes it, precision agriculture technology uses GNSS satellite signals to place every seed in the exact location that best guarantees the maximum chance for survival. “VRA seeding techniques ensure maximum seeding, and thus, maximum yield occurs on every pass,” he says.

Besides VRA seeding, Schildroth believes autoboom leveling is another area that will see plenty of activity in 2008. “Today’s technology extends to boom leveling, which optimizes placement of chemicals by controlling the distance from the spray tip to the crop,” he says.

Sid Parks, manager of precision farming for GROWMARK, Inc., agrees. “With the higher input and fuel costs affecting growers today, I want to be efficient as I can with my precision technology,” says Parks. “That being the case, automatic boom leveling would be one of the top things on my list of technologies to have in my operation.”

As for the fastest growing precision agriculture product area the past few years — automatic steering — analysis say it will continue forward, but at a slightly slower pace. Perhaps more significantly, the reason for adding an automatic steering system to a user’s operation is shifting. “It used to be that people bought automatic steering systems to help reduce their operator fatigue,” says Purdue’s Erickson. “But now, with the agricultural environment looking harder at the money part of the equation, you will start to see more agronomic reasons for putting in an automatic steering system begin to come to the forefront.”

Coupled with this, Dr. Harold Reetz, Jr., president of the Foundation for Agronomic Research, foresees automatic guidance becoming more important during 2008. “There’s much more pressure being put on growers and ag retailers to interpret the massive amount of data that’s out there,” says Reetz. “Autoguidance and the ability to vary your application or product rates across the field will be really important in this regard.”

Beyond 2008, precision agriculture observers can expect many other technologies coming to light. According to Topcon’s Schildroth, within the next few months, operations utilizing multiple machines in multiple locations will be able to monitor each machine remotely. “This will extend right down to the amount of fuel used, engine temperature, whether a machine needs maintenance, and the exact machine location,” he says.

Better yet, these types of systems will be much less complicated to run and understand than has previously been the case. “Anything that takes complication out of the equation is a plus,” says Purdue’s Erickson. “But the industry is looking for more automation, for technologies that can make decisions in a split second, apply the correct amount of product, and move on to the next equation, without that much input required from the user. Those systems are out there now, and more are coming.”

Furthermore, the level of understanding regarding what benefits precision agriculture brings to the marketplace should keep expanding. In fact, this is perhaps the biggest change taking place within the industry, says GROWMARK’s Parks. “I describe it this way: agriculture used to be like going to a basketball game and not keeping score,” he says. “After 40 minutes, how would you know which team was winning under those conditions? Precision agriculture provides a scorecard for the entire industry. When you are dealing with the kind of money as in today’s market, why would you ignore something that can help keep track of where it’s going?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

PrecisionAg Institute Stories
Winfield video
PrecisionAg Institute1 On 1 With Paul Schrimpf: WinField
September 1, 2016
WinField’s Joel Wipperfurth share insights from the company’s recent Answer Tech Summit, including challenges that retailers are facing with technology Read More
Climate Corp. Video
PrecisionAg Institute1 On 1 With Paul Schrimpf: The Climate Corp.
September 1, 2016
The Climate Corp.’s Brandon Rinkenberger discusses why the company has developed connections with many retailers and equipment companies, and shares Read More
PrecisionAg InstituteThe PrecisionAg Institute Partners
April 27, 2016
Learn more about the companies that have committed their corporate and financial support to the PrecisionAg Institute, an independent global forum dedicated to the sharing of precision agriculture practices, ideas, research, products, services and success stories. Read More
PrecisionAg InstituteAbout The PrecisionAg Institute
April 27, 2016
Through advocacy, education and research, the PrecisionAg Institute advances precision technology and its efficiency, stewardship and profitability on farms around the world. Read More
Trending Articles
Ian Yule, ISPA
ResearchLeading Ag Technology Researcher Appointed ISPA President
September 26, 2016
Massey University’s Professor Ian Yule, one of the world’s leading agri-tech researchers, has been voted president of the International Society Read More
Business2016 Farm Science Review: Talkin’ New Products, Education and Big Data
September 21, 2016
The Ohio State University’s Farm Science Review has become an annual rite of fall for Buckeye State growers, retailers and Read More
Mitchell Technical Institute students with drone
IntegratorsMTI Precision Ag Students Use Drone Technology
September 19, 2016
After weeks of sitting in the classroom, several Mitchell Technical Institute students were able to spend a few hours outside Read More
Robotics AGCO Fendt Guide Connect
Market ImpactReport: Ag Robots And Drones May Be A $10 Billion Market By 2022
September 7, 2016
Robots and drones have begun to quietly transform many aspects of agriculture. In fact, the IDTechEx Research report on Agricultural Read More
SDWG Bret Weisenburger
BusinessMZB Technologies, Climate FieldView Announce Data Integration for 2017 Season
September 6, 2016
MZB Technologies announces a data connectivity agreement with The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., providing increased precision agriculture Read More
Deere R4023 cab
BusinessReport: Smart Agriculture Market Worth $19 Billion By 2021
September 6, 2016
Research and Markets has announced the addition of the “Smart Agriculture Market – With Forecast (2016-2021)” report to their offering. Read More
Latest News
BusinessFarm Bureau Insurance Services, Granular Announce Partn…
September 29, 2016
American Farm Bureau Insurance Services (AFBIS Inc.), a Managing General Agent (MGA) for Approved Insurance Providers (AIP’s), has partnered with Read More
Sentera Rise Above
BusinessRise Above Selected To Resell Sentera Solutions Through…
September 28, 2016
Sentera, LLC, a global provider of remote sensing hardware and data management solutions signs a reseller agreement with Rise Above Read More
Western Canada Wheat field
DataFarmers Edge Partners With New Holland Dealer
September 28, 2016
Farmers Edge, a global leader in precision agriculture and independent data management solutions, has partnered with Mazergroup, North America’s largest Read More
A Satshot NDVIR analysis running on an iPad.
BusinessSatshot’s Landscout IOS Now API Linked With John …
September 28, 2016
Satshot’s Landscout IOS mobile software is now connected with the John Deere Operations Center through John Deere’s API services. Landscout Read More
Ag Drone
BusinessDroneDeploy Launches Turbo Uploader
September 27, 2016
DroneDeploy today announced a new solution that addresses drone data portability challenges in remote areas that have Internet bandwidth constraints. Read More
FUSE Farm Graphic
DataAGCO Is Founding Member Of The DKE Data-Hub Initiative
September 26, 2016
AGCO Corp., a world-leading manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment, has announced its participation as a founding member of the DKE Read More
Ian Yule, ISPA
ResearchLeading Ag Technology Researcher Appointed ISPA Preside…
September 26, 2016
Massey University’s Professor Ian Yule, one of the world’s leading agri-tech researchers, has been voted president of the International Society Read More
BusinessADAPT Conversion Toolkit Making In Roads With Equipment…
September 22, 2016
A leading group of equipment manufacturers will soon release products that greatly enhance a grower’s ability to manage data across Read More
Business2016 Farm Science Review: Talkin’ New Products, Educati…
September 21, 2016
The Ohio State University’s Farm Science Review has become an annual rite of fall for Buckeye State growers, retailers and Read More
Farmers Edge Truck
DataFarmers Edge Awarded $6.1M Investment From Sustainable …
September 21, 2016
Farmers Edge, a global leader in precision agriculture and independent data management solutions, has announced that it will receive $6,107,563 Read More
BusinessGMO Aphids to Battle Weeds? It’s Not as Far Fetch…
September 21, 2016
No, I am not talking about optimizing aphids for a global agricultural armageddon. That would be silly. I’m talking about Read More
Young Corn Field
Best PracticesNitrogen: The Key to Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
September 20, 2016
Precision ag can play a key role in reducing agriculture’s impact on greenhouse gases by limiting the nitrogen rate. Read More
W. Wade Robey, Raven
Industry NewsRaven Adds New Director Of Engineering
September 19, 2016
W. Wade Robey, Ph.D., joined Raven Applied Technology in August 2016 as Director of Engineering. In this role, he leads Read More
Mitchell Technical Institute students with drone
IntegratorsMTI Precision Ag Students Use Drone Technology
September 19, 2016
After weeks of sitting in the classroom, several Mitchell Technical Institute students were able to spend a few hours outside Read More
BusinessOPINION: Climate Corp. is the Jewel in Bayer’s Monsanto…
September 15, 2016
PERSPECTIVE: Over the next few days and weeks in the ag media space the major players will examine this latest Read More
Sugarcane India
Market ImpactPlantations International Brings Precision Farming Tech…
September 14, 2016
Hong Kong-based plantation and farm management company Plantations International has announced it is moving its contact centre from the Indian Read More
Corn close up
Start-UpsLewis & Clark Ventures Raises $20 Million For Agric…
September 13, 2016
Lewis & Clark Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on Series A and B stage investments, has announced $20 million Read More
BusinessSentera Joins Forces With Another Drone Distributor
September 13, 2016
Sentera has signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Dynamic UAV Solutions North America, LLC, a new distributor in the commercial Read More