Bruce Erickson, E-Learning Director in the Department of Agronomy at Purdue University, has spent many hours examining the role of service providers in precision adoption. In addition to teaching and conducting research at the university, Erickson has in recent years played a key role in the development and interpretation of the CropLife® magazine/Purdue University Precision Services Adoption Survey, now in its 18th year.
His experience tracking the role of the precision service provider has provided him with a unique perspective on how successful precision departments should be structured for maximum success.
“Since its start, precision agriculture has always been multidisciplinary — traditionally a mix of agronomy, agricultural engineering, and agricultural economics,” says Erickson.
Not every person will possess all necessary skills, but as a company or department these are the six skill sets Erickson sees as essential:
- A foundation of agronomy knowledge: This includes soils, pest management principles, nutrient management, crop growth and development, and crop diagnostics.
- A foundation of technology knowledge: The ability to work and utilize spatial software; move data around efficiently; and understand how sensors. telematics, and controllers fit in the system.
- A foundation of agricultural economics: An understanding of the business, the farmer’s expected revenues and costs, how to calculate returns on technology investments, and how farmers manage production, marketing, and enterprise risks.
- Analytical skills: Basic farm math of calculating field areas, input rates, and crop stands; equipment calibration; how to set up a valid field comparison; differentiating real numbers from normal field variation.
- Communication skills: Listening and asking questions to understand the customer’s operation, needs, and preferences; communicating value as much as product features.
- Ethics: Acting for the right reasons. Considering people and environmental consequences along with profit motives.