Mid-Year Precision Agriculture Update: Staying The Course

For service providers offering precision programs, hope springs eternal in winter. Services are evaluated, new offerings are considered, growers are consulted, and plans are developed in the spirit of bringing better value to customers, and more profit to the bottom line.

Half-way into 2017, and well into the spring season, we wanted to get a sense for how well battle plans survived amid nagging low crop prices and ongoing upheaval and evolution in the precision technology market. To gain some insight, PrecisionAg® Professional conducted an electronic survey of the audience for this mid-year report.

Of the 186 responses, those who indicated their precision service program has emerged better (37%) or significantly better (8%) than expected was exactly equal to the number who said the season has played out as expected (45%). Just 10% said the precision program has performed worse than expected.

David Swain, Manager of Precision Agriculture for Southern States Cooperative, said that a hopeful winter plan has netted mixed results, but good growth in some areas. “Our goals were very positive going into last fall and continued positive heading into spring,” says Swain. “In a time that our economy has seemed to drive toward cost-cutting, we — and a number of our customers — are more focused on a higher level of resource management and return on investment. We believe that our program is a key tool in that higher level of management.

“So far, we are seeing mixed results,” he continues, “although there are areas that we have actually grown our precision agriculture business. The balance of our business has remained consistent in our program with minimal growth, but really haven’t see any significant drop.”

Top 10 Services That Deliver Customer Value. Click to enlarge.

2017 Sales of Precision Services vs. Expectations. Click to enlarge.

At NEW Coop, Ft. Dodge, IA, growing the customer base was necessary for the company to meet aggressive departmental goals against the specter of low commodity prices. “The addition of labor in our precision agriculture department has helped with being more visible to our customers and building stronger relationships,” says Shane Carlson, manager of precision agriculture.

Heartland Coop, West Des Moines, IA, also focused on the workforce in its precision program. “The past year, we continued extension and development of a support and service team that enhances the precision agriculture offerings to Heartland Coop customers thru Heartland’s agronomy sales team,” says Craig Orr, Director of Marketing.

Heartland’s offering is a “customized blend” of its proprietary Farm Field precision program with Climate Corp.’s FieldView, the R7 Tool from Winfield United, and the AgSolver return on investment platform.

“It is tailored to each grower’s individual needs along with a calendar plan for each grower to deliver the contracted services in a timely manner,” says Orr. “Acre growth is taking place within all four.”

Darrin Martin, precision agriculture manager at equipment dealer Wakarusa LLC, Wakarusa, IN, says an uptick in advertising spend has helped the dealer group improve sales by 20% in 2017. Pushing service has been key.

“Providing support over the phone or remote access free of charge on older equipment that I didn’t sell has been gaining trust and relationship with customers that wouldn’t be customers today if I would have blew off or charged a lot for my time,” says Martin. “They came to me because of a poor customer experience with other businesses.”

Asked to identify services that deliver the highest value, respondents indicated that the “tried and true” offerings continue to deliver consistent value: variable rate application, traditional soil sampling, and seed recommendations.

“The Precision Planting 20/20 monitors we have sold are bringing a lot of value to customers — they tell us it’s a better interface than what they had previously,” says Bryce Jennings, Van Horn Inc, Cerro Gordo, IL.

Greg Musson, general manager at Gar-Tootelian, Reedley, CA, lists a number of new technologies that have driven value. “The water division is bringing many things of value to our customer base,” says Musson. “Drone work to detect pest pressures and nutrition stress within a crop using different camera views has been an innovation of the current season. And the use of EM38 to address zone management irrigation, nutrition, and soil types highlights the use of hands on practices.”


A series of “gut check” questions seem to indicate that despite optimism about the 2018 season (more than 7 in 10 expect service sales to increase) there are several looming obstacles:

  • About two-thirds of respondents say commodity prices and farmer income are significant impediments to precision sales.
  • Nearly half cannot hire enough qualified people because they are not available.
  • A lack of availability of wireless connectivity is a hinderance according to more than eight in 10 respondents.
  • Nearly half of respondents see input and/or equipment manufacturers as a threat to marginalize the role of service providers.

Many of the service providers we talked to concur with the results of the survey, but some also pointed the finger back at themselves and their ability to deliver on promises as a potential threat.

Gut check Graphic

“When you buy a car or anything else, and you receive shabby service, you’re not going to patronize that business again,” says Hennings. “Also having the right people in the right positions is crucial to running a business properly.”

Musson says that a lack of consumer knowledge is an issue they are working hard to mitigate.

“As the average age of the grower increases, so does the hesitance to the use of new technology,” he explains. “Encouraging growers to try something new becomes much more difficult when the grower does not have the prior knowledge on how technology works.

“Our business has found, though, that through the use of simplified examples, on-site field demonstrations, and consistent customer support, our threat has actually decreased. It is our job to make our growers feel comfortable and to increase their bottom lines. Our hands-on approach with technology assistance brings a level of comfort to the grower when using a product that they may not be familiar with.”

Leave a Reply

Service Providers Stories
Ohio State
Data ManagementRecap: The Ohio State University Explores Ag Tech ROI at Soybean Workshop
October 19, 2017
How do soybean producers begin to extract value from the vast selection of digital tools available in agriculture today? At Read More
PrecisionAg InstituteThe PrecisionAg Institute Partners
October 1, 2017
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
Algae Lake Erie
Service ProvidersAg Retailers Report Progress on Products and Services that Improve Water Quality
September 28, 2017
Ag retail-serviced acres of variable rate technology (VRT), cover crops, rotational soil testing, and other phosphorus-saving strategies continue to grow Read More
Tools & Smart EquipmentHow John Deere’s New AI Lab Is Designing Farm Equipment for a More Sustainable Future
September 15, 2017
On a block in San Francisco’s SoMa district, near LinkedIn’s headquarters and dozens of startups, a 180-year-old company best-known for Read More
Trending Articles
AmericasIPNI Brazil: Precision Agriculture to Improve Nutrient Use Efficiency
October 16, 2017
As I mentioned in my last article, the IPNI Brazil Symposium on Precision Agriculture was held in early October in Read More
Decision Support SoftwareFarmers Edge, Service Provider Talk High-Frequency Imagery Deal
October 11, 2017
As the domestic ag tech market continues to mature and develop as we barrel into 2018, another intriguing partnership has Read More
Corn Field Sunset
Industry NewsEFC Systems’ FieldAlytics Now Available in Canada
September 29, 2017
According to an AgPR news release, FieldAlytics is now available in Canada through FieldAlytics Solutions Canada, Inc. This new company Read More
Decision Support SoftwareSciFi in Ag: Chatbot with your Plants?
September 26, 2017
(Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The Read More
Robotics/Labor SaversDeepfield Robotics to Showcase Precision Agriculture Technology at Agrilevante
September 22, 2017
Deepfield Robotics is preparing to showcase its robotics and automation technologies for the agriculture market at the Agrilevante event, in Read More
Farmer with iPad
Australia/New ZealandAgrian Expands into Australia
September 20, 2017
In line with a familiar growth trajectory, Agrian Inc. is moving into Australia with a physical support and sales presence Read More
Latest News
Specialty CropsOpinion: Agriculture’s Big Data is Coming to You
October 20, 2017
If you think your world is changing at a dizzying pace, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. That’s my takeaway from Read More
Ohio State
Data ManagementRecap: The Ohio State University Explores Ag Tech ROI a…
October 19, 2017
How do soybean producers begin to extract value from the vast selection of digital tools available in agriculture today? At Read More
Industry NewsAGCO, Climate Corp. Announce Digital Partnership
October 19, 2017
AGCO announced today a new digital partnership with The Climate Corp. that will provide AGCO customers the option to connect Read More
Industry NewsFieldReveal Inks Agreement with Texas Agronomy Outfit
October 19, 2017
FieldReveal has entered into an agreement with Ag Producers Cooperative of Dalhart, TX, to offer the full FieldReveal precision ag Read More
corn weather
Data ManagementSeasonal Weather Outlooks: High Risk Worth the Reward?
October 18, 2017
Often, when discussing weather service needs with a potential client, I am asked about the possibility of providing long-range weather Read More
Industry NewsAgDNA Announces Dealership Expansion
October 18, 2017
This week AgDNA surpassed their growth projections, announcing partnerships with eight new multi-store dealerships across the mid-west, mid-south and east Read More
AsiaIndia Maps 185 Districts Through Remote Sensing for Hor…
October 17, 2017
India’s Union Ministry of Agriculture has mapped 185 districts under a project using remote sensing technology to identify areas best Read More
AmericasIPNI Brazil: Precision Agriculture to Improve Nutrient …
October 16, 2017
As I mentioned in my last article, the IPNI Brazil Symposium on Precision Agriculture was held in early October in Read More
Data ManagementUsing Vector Soil Data in a Raster World?
October 16, 2017
Why spend the time and resources to extract the NRCS ‘Soil SURvey GeOgraphic’ (SSURGO) soil polygons only to display the Read More
Precision Irrigation
Precision Irrigation4 Important Ways Precision Technology Is Impacting Irri…
October 12, 2017
Water management is becoming an increasing concern in agriculture, whether that’s dealing with too much or too little water. This Read More
DronesDroneLife: Global Ag Drone Industry Potentially Worth $…
October 12, 2017
Via DroneLife.com’s Jason Reagan: According to an August study by Esticast Research & Consulting Market Research, the global commercial drone Read More
Decision Support SoftwareFarmers Edge, Service Provider Talk High-Frequency Imag…
October 11, 2017
As the domestic ag tech market continues to mature and develop as we barrel into 2018, another intriguing partnership has Read More
Planet Labs satellite imagery
Industry NewsFarmers Edge, Planet Labs Announce Multi-Year Exclusive…
October 11, 2017
Farmers Edge announced today a strategic partnership to bring Planet’s best-in-class global monitoring platform to the Farmers Edge precision agriculture Read More
John Deere Combine Harvester at Hagen Farms
Decision Support SoftwareAg and Rail Equipment Uptime Critical for Good Harvest
October 9, 2017
Across the American Heartland, growers have started harvesting their crops for what the USDA predicts will be a good yield Read More
Ag Drone
Industry NewsBotlink, SST Announce Integration
October 6, 2017
Botlink has announced a seamless flow of actionable aerial data into the agX Platform. This integration makes it quick and Read More
corn field
Industry NewsEFC Purchases AgSolver Assets, Establishes New Sustaina…
October 6, 2017
EFC Systems announced it has purchased the assets of AgSolver Inc. The move establishes a new Agronomic Planning and Sustainabilty Read More
Ag Retailer and Grower WinField United
Australia/New ZealandNew Technologies vs. Agronomic Knowledge in Precision A…
October 4, 2017
As the days are getting longer and the temperature is starting to rise, Australian broadacre growers are gearing up for Read More
Field Sky Beauty shot
Industry NewsClimate, West Central Distribution Join Forces on Phosp…
October 3, 2017
To help farmers improve productivity and return on their investment, West Central Distribution and The Climate Corporation have teamed up Read More