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
AmericasMFA Precision Head Talks Precision Ag, Cover Crops at 2018 4R Summit
June 18, 2018
Although implicit to anyone that spends a good chunk of their career in agriculture, the link between advanced precision technology Read More
David-Perry-featured-image
AmericasIndigo Touts ‘New Approach to Agricultural R&D’
June 13, 2018
Indigo, the Boston-based microbial crop technology startup that has raised more than $400 million, announced it is expanding its research 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
Agronomist with iPad
Decision Support SoftwareAg Tech Mobile Tools: Talkin’ Climate’s New Seed Scripting Platform
May 7, 2018
It’s reportedly been a busy spring down at The Climate Corporation offices in Creve Coeur, MO, a tony bedroom community Read More
Trending Articles
JDandPessl
Sensors/IoTJohn Deere, Pessl Instruments Team Up to Create Opportunities
June 18, 2018
John Deere is best known for its line of tractors, combines, sprayers, and implements. However, in an effort to help Read More
Matt-Waits-featured
Decision Support SoftwareSST’s Matt Waits: Innovative Data Solutions Key to Transforming Global Agriculture
May 31, 2018
Proagrica, part of RELX Group, earlier this year acquired U.S.-based precision agriculture solutions company, SST Software, in a move set Read More
InfoAg ConferenceThe InfoAg Conference Offers Early Bird Registration Discount
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
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
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
Latest News
dropcopter
DronesNew York Apple Orchard Claims World First in Pollinatio…
June 18, 2018
Beak & Skiff Apple Orchard in LaFayette, NY, is the first orchard in the world to use drones to pollinate Read More
Farmer with iPad
Decision Support SoftwareAgrian Enhances Field Scouting App
June 18, 2018
Agrian has added a new feature to its robust field scouting app – a pest trap counting solution. The new Read More
AmericasMFA Precision Head Talks Precision Ag, Cover Crops at 2…
June 18, 2018
Although implicit to anyone that spends a good chunk of their career in agriculture, the link between advanced precision technology Read More
Iron Man
UncategorizedAgFunder News: Forget Self-Driving Tractors; Agricultur…
June 18, 2018
Marvel’s Iron Man suit might seem an unlikely source of inspiration for growers, writes Joseph Byrum on AgFunderNews.com. Once the Read More
Soil-Corn-plants-field
Data ManagementRemote Soil-Sensed Management Zones Help Increase Crop …
June 18, 2018
Accurate prescription maps are essential for effective variable rate technology (VRT) fertilizer application. Grid soil sampling is frequently used to Read More
JDandPessl
Sensors/IoTJohn Deere, Pessl Instruments Team Up to Create Opportu…
June 18, 2018
John Deere is best known for its line of tractors, combines, sprayers, and implements. However, in an effort to help Read More
computer-in-field
Business Management3 Questions to Ask When Looking for Your First Job in P…
June 18, 2018
Let me begin this column by extending my congratulations to all of my fellow students who have just graduated – Read More
Robotics/Labor SaversStine Seed Plunks Down $5 Million on Smart Ag’s D…
June 14, 2018
Stine Seed Farm has invested $5 million in Smart Ag Inc., an Iowa technology firm that has developed a full Read More
David-Perry-featured-image
AmericasIndigo Touts ‘New Approach to Agricultural R&…
June 13, 2018
Indigo, the Boston-based microbial crop technology startup that has raised more than $400 million, announced it is expanding its research Read More
Ag Drone
EventsAgTech Conference of the South Dedicated to Innovation,…
June 12, 2018
Join current and emerging agtech business leaders and investors at the AgTech Conference of the South, a premiere conference dedicated Read More
Munckhof Machinefabriek equipment
EuropeEurope: Precision Farming at Heart of Munckhof Deal
June 11, 2018
One of Europe’s oldest suppliers of machinery used in fruit production, the Dutch firm Munckhof Machinefabriek, has been purchased by Read More
Australian-Farmers
Australia/New ZealandCrunching the Ag-Tech Numbers Saves Time for Australian…
June 5, 2018
Time management is key on the Walker family’s farm, where a mix between cropping, commercial sheep and two studs means Read More
Drone-exhbitor-at-Drone-Show
AmericasDroneShow Highlights UAV Technology in Latin America
June 4, 2018
Editor’s note: The DroneShow Latin America is an annual trade fair hosted by MundoGEO, a media and communications company founded Read More
Imagery/SensingImagery in Agriculture: Time for a Reality Check
June 4, 2018
Where do I begin….I’ve been dealing with imagery in agriculture since I was 10 when my dad started Satshot. At Read More
AmericasNAAA Issues Drone Pilot Reminder: Watch Out For Aerial …
May 31, 2018
With more than 1 million UAVs registered with the FAA, it is vitally important for UAV operators to be aware Read More
Matt-Waits-featured
Decision Support SoftwareSST’s Matt Waits: Innovative Data Solutions Key t…
May 31, 2018
Proagrica, part of RELX Group, earlier this year acquired U.S.-based precision agriculture solutions company, SST Software, in a move set Read More
CROO Robotics’ automated strawberry harvester
Specialty CropsGrowingProduce.com: Fruit Growers, It’s Time to Mechani…
May 30, 2018
If you’re into conspiracies, you might be interested to know that I have stumbled onto a doozy. And it looks Read More
Service ProvidersDeere Launches Bale Mobile App with Hay and Forage Yiel…
May 30, 2018
John Deere introduces its Bale Mobile app to help hay and forage producers get detailed information, improve efficiency, identify bale Read More