New Technologies vs. Agronomic Knowledge in Precision Agriculture

As the days are getting longer and the temperature is starting to rise, Australian broadacre growers are gearing up for another summer crop season. The Australian winter has been extremely dry in most areas, with a lot of growers receiving no significant rainfall between March and October. This means that winter crop yields are down and prospects for dryland summer crop plantings are not looking good. However, irrigated growers are looking at decent amounts of water available in most major dams, and with prices of cotton and other commodities holding up, they are hoping for another good year.

One of many decisions that growers have to make pre-season this year, is how much “new technology” spending to budget on, and where exactly to use this budget. As the range of new technologies available to assist growers becomes longer and longer, the choice of which new technology to adopt becomes ever harder. Under new technologies, I categorize any technology that is available now but is not directly replacing another (older technology). Some examples include in-field sensors, NDVI images, and yield/soil maps. I have been reading a lot of opinions about the agronomist vs. new technology debate recently and whether these new technologies will replace agronomists. Can they really?

As growers generally only invest in those things that can make or save them money, how can new technology investments be rationalized? Are they expected to increase yields, decrease inputs, or maybe cut some other type of spending? One of the first metrics of any new technology that growers tend to look at in my experience, is the amount of work they will need to perform. Drones are a prime example of a technology that most growers only tend to use for ‘hobby’ usage or as a ‘nice to have’ — employing them for scouting or other purposes on scale simply takes more time than most can afford at this stage. However, as technologies become less labor intensive (e.g., more autonomous in the case of drones), adoption and usage will change as well.

The other question that often comes up when looking at any new technology together with a grower is: “so how will this save me money or which other cost does this allow me to cut out?” And often the answer is not as straight forward as the question. In the long run you might be able to save on certain inputs, for example, but in the short to medium term it often means that you target your inputs better, are able to make better decisions, or aim to improve yields. You might not be able to make a direct savings as such. A part of this discussion is the often heard phrase: “so if I get all this data I don’t need an agronomist anymore, right?” Although often jokingly said, the question arises more and more often, and where does the traditional agronomist fit in with technology?

I firmly believe that agronomists play a major role in any cropping operation and, notwithstanding all new technology available, that role is not about to get any smaller. Sure, with a lot of field sensors available, for example, it might become easier and quicker to scout certain field conditions. And other technologies such as moisture probes, NDVI imagery, and yield maps all provide a great snapshot of information to agronomists as well. But this information all still needs to be ground-truthed and analyzed. All the information a map shows needs to be verified and, taking in an enormous amount of other factors, the agronomist and grower have to make a decision.

We are a long way off, however, from having all this technology replace agronomists. Sure, it might make agronomists a lot quicker and more efficient in making certain decisions and yes, it might mean that agronomists will spend some more time in front of a computer. But the future where you have a large amount of IOT devices feeding data into a Big Data Cloud and an AI platform that makes the decisions for you, is not here yet. Will we get there? I am not sure, but most people didn’t know 30 years ago what they would be able to do with a smartphone in 2017 either, so nothing can be ruled out.

So which new technologies should a grower invest in and what are the expectations that growers can have with adopting them? Agronomists are well-placed to answer these questions. As they already have a close relationship with their growers, they will have a good idea of what might be needed to improve production and which technologies will fit well with the existing way of operating.

So no, your agronomist will not be doing your agronomy from his beach chair in the near future and yes, agronomists do welcome farmers investing in new technologies that enable them to make better decisions and improve production. I for one think that it is very exciting to see which metrics we will be able to collect reliable data on in the near future and how this will allow us to enhance our decision making process!

For more information, feel free to contact me on [email protected].

Leave a Reply

Australia/New Zealand Stories
Australian Harvest
Australia/New ZealandEnabling Digital Agriculture in Australia
March 28, 2018
The Accelerating Precision to Decision Agriculture (P2D) project is supported by funding from the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture and Read More
AmericasIn Granular’s Deal with Planet, Satellite Images Deliver Peace of Mind
March 27, 2018
If only software from precision agriculture companies was more like Facebook or Google, no one in North America would be Read More
Precision-ag-Western-Australia
Australia/New ZealandWestern Australia: 9 Agtech Companies to Watch in 2018
March 23, 2018
The launch of Western Australia’s first ag-tech accelerator program has ushered in a new era for agricultural innovation, writes Cally Read More
Australia/New ZealandGrowingProduce.com: New Zealand Tour Showcases Apple Grower Innovations
March 21, 2018
Innovation is a part of Kiwi lifestyle, GrowingProduce.com’s Christina Herrick writes in her wrap up coverage of the International Fruit Read More
Trending Articles
Ernie-Chappell-Screenshot
EventsEFC Systems Sponsorship Demonstrates Commitment to Continuing Education for Retail Dealerships
May 16, 2018
Enterprise software manufacturer EFC Systems, scholarship sponsor of the inaugural PrecisionAg® Professional Accelerator professional development conference this June in Brookings, Read More
Dr Brian Arnall Oklahoma State Paul Schrimpf
Excellence AwardsPrecisionAg Awards Of Excellence Nominations Accepted Through May 18
May 14, 2018
Nominate an outstanding individual for one of four PrecisionAg Awards of Excellence. Recipients will be honored at a special ceremony during the 2018 InfoAg Conference in July. Read More
EventsMeister Media Debuts Growing Innovations
May 10, 2018
As a service provider, you and your grower customers probably can agree on this much: While innovation abounds in agriculture, Read More
UCANR_booth_Food_IT_forum
EventsForum Calling All Innovators of Agriculture Technology
May 2, 2018
The challenges that come with feeding the world continue to grow. Luckily, so do advances in information technology that are Read More
Farm-Storm-Clouds-Photo-Eden-Hills
Data ManagementThe Precipitation Problem in Agriculture
April 17, 2018
Precipitation is arguably the most important agricultural weather parameter, yet it is the most difficult variable to precisely measure. For Read More
SDSU-drone
Business ManagementInside the Key Strategies For Selling Precision Ag Services
April 13, 2018
In its earliest manifestation, the motive for developing precision agriculture service was entirely pure. Agronomists knew that crops were responding Read More
Latest News
Plumblee
Industry NewsNew Clemson Precision Ag Expert Bringing High-Tech Solu…
May 24, 2018
The Clemson Extension Service has hired a new Extension associate to help South Carolina farmers learn how to use technologies Read More
InfoAg ConferenceThe InfoAg Conference Offers Early Bird Registration Di…
May 24, 2018
Since 1995, The InfoAg Conference has been the premier event for discussion and advancement of precision agriculture. The event, organized Read More
CAMP3-team
Data ManagementHow AI, Data and Voice Analysis May Transform Farming —…
May 22, 2018
In 2015, an estimated $800 million worth of crops in Georgia — a number that amounted to about 13.8% of Read More
Farmer-tablet
Data ManagementWhen It Comes to Farm Data, How Good Is ‘Good Enough’?
May 21, 2018
Ron Farrell, a frequent sounding board for my wacky ideas and a source of ongoing encouragement to stay the course Read More
Imagery/SensingMavrx Acquires Israeli Imagery Provider
May 17, 2018
Taranis, an Israel-based provider of high-resolution agriculture aerial imagery and deep learning, today announced the acquisition of all Mavrx assets, one Read More
PrecisionAg Professional Accelerator
EventsWhat’s Stopping You From Maximizing Your Precision Prog…
May 16, 2018
Day 2 of the PrecisionAg® Professional Accelerator will challenge you to evaluate and improve your approach to customer value and Read More
Raven-screenshot
EventsRaven Focused on Retail Education with Top Gun Training…
May 16, 2018
It’s no secret that the demand for precision ag technology is growing. As the world population increases, so does the Read More
Ernie-Chappell-Screenshot
EventsEFC Systems Sponsorship Demonstrates Commitment to Cont…
May 16, 2018
Enterprise software manufacturer EFC Systems, scholarship sponsor of the inaugural PrecisionAg® Professional Accelerator professional development conference this June in Brookings, Read More
Industry NewsPinnacle Joins Crowded E-Commerce Segment With My Pinna…
May 16, 2018
Pinnacle announced today the launch of its new website along with a new interactive grower-customer portal, My Pinnacle. The No.6-ranked Read More
Veris Soil EC
Sensors/IoTUsing Electrical Conductivity (EC) Sensors in Precision…
May 16, 2018
The measurement of soil EC is widely used in agriculture. However, there is still confusion around the meaning of the Read More
Corn Field Sunset
Industry NewsRaven Announces DOT Joint Development Agreement
May 16, 2018
Raven Industries announced today it will be utilizing its precision agriculture technologies to power the autonomous farming solutions of the Read More
Field-Equipment
Sensors/IoTTop 6 Digital Transformation Trends in Agriculture
May 15, 2018
In recent years, technology in agriculture, also known as AgTech has rapidly changed the industry, writes Daniel Newman on Forbes.com. Read More
Data ManagementDigital Farming: Keep It Simple Analytics
May 15, 2018
In previous articles, I tried to lay out some logical components and processes that enable digital farming to get inside Read More
NOAA-Snow-Depth-Analysis-April-15
Data ManagementRebounding Spring for 2018 Planting: Cold April Weather…
May 14, 2018
This month, I am taking a break from discussing weather technology or opining on how to better apply weather and Read More
Dr Brian Arnall Oklahoma State Paul Schrimpf
Excellence AwardsPrecisionAg Awards Of Excellence Nominations Accepted T…
May 14, 2018
Nominate an outstanding individual for one of four PrecisionAg Awards of Excellence. Recipients will be honored at a special ceremony during the 2018 InfoAg Conference in July. Read More
Ag Retailer and Growers with tablet WinField United
Industry NewsCommoditAg Announces Enhanced E-Commerce Platform
May 11, 2018
CommoditAg launches CommoditAg LIVE, described as “an enhanced ecommerce platform providing more benefits to growers, and a superior customer experience”. According Read More
Industry NewsTrimble Adds Crop Health Imagery, Work Orders Features …
May 10, 2018
Trimble announced today that it has added Crop Health Imagery and Work Orders features to its Trimble Ag Software. The Read More
Parkland College Student Training
AmericasBushel Garners $7 Million Private Investment Round
May 10, 2018
Bushel today announced a $7 million private investment round to accelerate its patent-pending digital platform for the grain industry. The Read More