Perspective: Precision Agriculture, Step By Step

One of the most common questions I get asked in grower presentations or at ag shows is: “How do I get started in precision ag?” Perhaps a better question is: “What do I need to do to be successful in precision agriculture?”

The precision success stories in this issue provide good examples of individuals who have been successful over the years. But it is sometimes helpful to think back on what are the steps to this success. This thought process is especially instructive to folks who are getting their feet wet for the first time in precision agriculture.

The first step to success is determining whether there is a need for precision agriculture in your enterprise. Just running out and getting a bunch of software or going online may be more of a liability than an asset if there is no well-defined need for the effort. This need can be in the form of expected efficiency in operations or in having better records of decisions made and actions taken in production. The need could be driven by regulatory demands or a proactive position to be in the lead with new ideas in the industry. Whatever the reason, it is important to recognize why one gets involved in precision agriculture.

The second step is determining the specific requirements that will fulfill the identified need or needs. Requirements can be synonymous with technology tools. For example, if I have a need to map my farm, I may require geographic information systems (GIS) software to make boundaries of my fields. If better records are my need, I may require an on-line record keeping program. If I need to report my production practices to buyers, a tracking program may be in order.

Once the requirements have been enumerated, the third step is to identify the personnel within your organization who are going to use IT tools. If you do not have the right people, the tools will be of little or no value. While everyone wishes for a program with a “magic” button that gives an answer, the truth is a user must have a minimum understanding of how a tool works. Before making an investment in tools or education, it is important to find the right individual(s) for the job.

The fourth step to success is training and support, whether from within an organization or outside. Handing someone a set of tools without training can be both frustrating and costly to all involved. Furthermore, the lack of follow-up support for a program can waste untold hours and leave participants feeling abandoned at the most inopportune time. Support is probably one of the most important but least appreciated aspects of any precision agriculture effort.

The fifth step is back-up, whether in the form of an alternate plan to do something or just archiving important information. Back-up also pertains to people. At least two individuals should be trained to perform the same skills. There should be at least two computers with similar configurations to ensure a possible failure of one. Back-up is more than just an insurance policy; it provides added capability in times of short-term, high demand.

Some Steps Beyond
The five steps for success in precision agriculture — determine need, specify requirements, identify personnel, train and support, and provide back-up — must be accompanied by other common sense practices. One such practice is allowing for adequate time to incorporate a precision agriculture technology into an existing enterprise. Whatever time was planned for adding a tool, you should double it. Everything takes longer because of integration issues, resistance to change, and just normal feedback during installation.

Another common sense practice is constant communication during the step-by-step process for incorporating precision agriculture tools. Communication in the form of documentation, check-off lists, and periodic updates on progress keeps everyone focused and on the same page. Lastly, common sense dictates that you never take on more than you can handle. It is better to have one small tool delivered and working, than a number of them incomplete and behind schedule. The careful planning and allocation of resources in any application always pays off in time and savings.

As a final note, precision agriculture is about harnessing technologies to improve decision making and production practices. New technologies, by their nature, are going to be disruptive to an existing operation. But this disruption can be for the betterment of the enterprise if the right steps are taken in combination with a common sense approach.

Joseph Russo, an early pioneer in the precision agriculture movement, is president of ZedX Inc., Bellefonte, PA.

Leave a Reply

Grower Services & Solutions Stories
Ag Retailer and Grower WinField United
Grower Services & SolutionsFarmers’ Trusted Partners And Their Roles
February 2, 2017
For farmers to successfully adopt technology, their trusted advisers must serve key functions in the crop production process. AGCO Corp.’s Read More
Ag Retailer and Growers with tablet WinField United
Grower Services & Solutions6 Essential Competencies For Any Precision Agriculture Staff
February 2, 2017
Bruce Erickson, E-Learning Director in the Department of Agronomy at Purdue University, has spent many hours examining the role of Read More
Ag Retailer and Grower WinField United
Grower Services & SolutionsFinding The Essential Link Between Grower And Ag Retailer
February 1, 2017
The farmer-trusted adviser relationship has had a long, storied relationship that has ushered in new technologies and advanced the practice Read More
John Reifsteck in cab
Grower Services & SolutionsThe Grower Perspective: What I Want From My Ag Retailer
January 31, 2017
Henry Ford supposedly remarked, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Now, there Read More
Trending Articles
Connected Farm Scout Trimble Agriculture - featured image
Decision Support Software17 Field Scouting Apps For Precision Agriculture
February 6, 2017
There are dozens of easy-to-use mobile apps that are ideal for every day field scouting tasks. From record keeping and Read More
John Deere Dealership
Business ManagementAg Retailer, Equipment Dealer Improve Service By Working Together
January 27, 2017
Some believe that in many aspects of life, timing is everything. Among those believers, please count Randy Bartholomew, Integrated Solutions Read More
Innovation SeriesPrecision To Lead Agriculture In 2017?
January 25, 2017
Another new year is upon us! And I’m certain I speak for many in the agricultural world when I say Read More
Terry Griffin
Business ManagementUsing High Tech To Make Farm Decisions
January 17, 2017
Raj Khosla, professor of precision agriculture at Colorado State University, challenged farmers to think about how far the technology of Read More featured image
ProfessionalsWelcome to the Newly Enhanced
December 29, 2016
Talk a quick look around our website and we hope you’ll notice it’s significantly different as we head into 2017 Read More
Ryan Raguse and Matthew Grassi
ProfessionalsIndustry Executives Talk New PrecisionAg Professional Brand
December 19, 2016
EFC Systems President and CEO Ernie Chappell Myriad Mobile Cofounder and Chairman Ryan Raguse Read More
Latest News
Sentera drone
DronesPrecision Ag Professionals Will Find Advice, Applicatio…
February 22, 2017
The upcoming ASCEND Conference & Expo will deliver practical information about using drones to improve processes in precision agriculture. ASCEND Read More
Case IH - AFS AccuStar and UAV Offering - Magnum MX210 AccuStar Receiver
DronesCase IH Adds New GPS Solution, UAV Package To AFS Offer…
February 21, 2017
Driven by the growing demand for efficient data management, the latest Advanced Farming Systems (AFS) solutions from Case IH help Read More
Mobile Phone in field
Systems ManagementBayer Enters Farm Recommendations Arena With Yara Colla…
February 20, 2017
Crop protection and ag biotech giant Bayer and fertilizer producer Yara International ASA have entered into a software collaboration and Read More
Hort Smart Vineyards Set to Revolutioniz…
February 17, 2017
Phil Asmundson is by no means a veteran viticulturist, but a half-dozen years ago, after watching his wife and business Read More
Soil testing
Data ManagementOpinion: Soil Testing Needs Sensors To Get More Accurat…
February 17, 2017
We are entering a very exciting time in agriculture. With so many great software platforms and data collection tools we Read More
Australian Harvest
Decision Support SoftwareGarden City Co-op Added as MZB Regional Mapping Center;…
February 17, 2017
Garden City Co-op (GCC), through a retailer agreement, has been using MZB Technologies as their precision ag platform for a Read More
DronesLand O’Lakes Drone Challenge Crowdsourcing Compet…
February 17, 2017
Land O’Lakes, Inc. is calling on innovators from the tech industry to enter the Land O’Lakes Prize: Drone Challenge, a Read More
DronesDrone Startup Hits VC Jackpot: Skyward Acquired by Veri…
February 16, 2017
Building on its strategy to drive innovation and adoption for IoT services in high-growth markets, Verizon today announced that it Read More
GuidanceCase IH Launches AccuTurn Automated Headland-Turning Te…
February 15, 2017
New AccuTurn automated headland-turning technology from Case IH takes the guesswork out of turning on headlands, which gives you improved Read More
ProfessionalsDeere Details New Connect Mobile App, C850 Air Cart
February 15, 2017
To help growers monitor, adjust and learn from the performance of their planter or sprayer while it moves through the Read More
drones, UAVs, DJI, Aerial Imagery
DronesNDVI Imagery Under $5K? Sentera Outfitting DJI Phantom …
February 15, 2017
Sentera today announced its ability to convert a DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone into a precision scouting tool that collects Read More
Wheat sunrise
Systems ManagementNew Holland Announces New Product Launches
February 15, 2017
New Holland Agriculture expands its product offering with the introduction of three Precision Land Management technologies, PLM Drone Data Management, Read More
Data ManagementJANZEN LAW BLOG: Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms at Center of…
February 14, 2017
A number of poultry growers have filed suit against Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, and other poultry integrators alleging that growers’ Read More
Southern States grower in cab
Innovation SeriesPrecision Agriculture: A Place For Everyone At The Tabl…
February 13, 2017
Over the last 30 days, I’ve been immersed in all things precision agriculture. If you received your personal copy of Read More
Farmer and computer
ProfessionalsPassionate Precision Agriculture Writers Wanted To Join…
February 10, 2017
About The Opportunity: is looking for people to join our team and submit original content to our website about Read More
Mobile Phone in field
Sensors/IoTIoT Will Transform The Agriculture Supply Chain –…
February 10, 2017
Supply chain visibility and efficiency is a big part of running a profitable agricultural business. There are a variety of Read More
Field Sky Beauty shot
Data ManagementField to Market Announces New Metrics Platform Integrat…
February 9, 2017
Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture today announced a comprehensive integration between the sustainability metrics and algorithms of Read More
AGCO White planter 9800VE
Tools & Smart EquipmentAGCO Introduces High Speed White 9800VE Series Planters
February 8, 2017
AGCO Corp., a worldwide manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment, is bringing to market White Planters™ 9800VE Series planters equipped Read More