Choosing Precision Agriculture Technologies

With the end of winter in sight, many in the agricultural industry are starting to get serious on their choices of precision agriculture technologies for the upcoming growing season. Whether the choice is equipment, software, or just taking soil samples in a new pattern, a lot of thought — accompanied with a lot of anxiety — precedes the actual decision. This decision is commonly made without an appreciation of the value expectations on the part of the user (e.g., grower, consultant, rep) and the hidden costs on the part of the provider of the technologies. In this article, I wish to discuss how the precision agriculture “ante” for making a choice is much greater than the purchase price — with some important implications for an organization. I have added some visuals to help elucidate my arguments.

The precision agriculture ante can be best understood with the interplay of two curves: perceived or demonstrated value of new technology to improve production (technology value) vs. user cost, and the necessary user education of the new technology (user education) vs. seller cost. I have assumed in my arguments that the seller will initially bear the cost of educating a user on a new technology. As a technology becomes mature, third-party vendors may provide another educational option. I will first discuss each curve and then discuss the interplay between them. A graph of the technology value (in terms of improved production) versus user cost curve is in Figure 1 , while a graph of the user education versus seller cost is in Figure 2.

The technology value vs. user cost curve in Figure 1 is the classic “diminishing return” curve. There is a diminishing return in the production value for each successive investment in new technology (dotted lines in figure). Viewed another way, you get the biggest bang for your buck on your first purchase of a new technology with lesser returns on future purchases relative to the improvement in production (e.g., higher yields, more efficiency).

The user education versus seller curve in Figure 2 has the inverse relationship to the “diminishing return” curve in Figure 1. There is an increasing return in the education of the user of a new technology for each successive investment in training (dotted lines in figure). In other words, a user can more quickly grasp new technologies after getting an initial grounding with the first technology. However, the increase in user education comes at an increasing cost to the seller. Now, with an understanding of what each curve means alone, we combine them to get greater insight into the precision agriculture ante.

The Education Equation

The interplay of the curves reveals the age-old struggle between introducing a new technology to a user and at the same time providing adequate education to support that technology. In the best case for both the user and seller, the introduced technology is simple to use (little education at little cost to seller) and has been proven to have high value towards improving production (high value at little cost to user). Since the best case rarely happens, we can explore other more likely scenarios, the extreme of which are dreaded by both the user and seller alike.

The first more likely scenario is that the user needs more education and support to use the new technology (more training at more cost to seller), but there is a demonstrated value of improved production after adapting the technology (high value at little cost to user). The result is that the seller is frustrated (because of additional training costs) even though there is delivery on the technology.

The second more likely scenario is that the user sees little value in the new technology even after receiving adequate education from seller. The result of this second scenario is the user is frustrated (because of diminishing return in value of the new technology relative to earlier technologies) even though there is delivery on the technology. The most dreaded interplay of the curves is when the user fails to see the value of the new technology in production and the seller keeps spending on the education of the user to adapt the technology. In this worst case, both the user and seller are frustrated and there is no delivery on the technology (at least as perceived by the user).

The best and worst cases for the interplay of curves have far reaching implications for an organization. In the best case of high value to user with little education cost to seller, both the user and seller end up on a positive note. The user sees the value that precision agriculture brings to its organization and will be favorably disposed to try new technologies in the future. Furthermore, the same user will be more patient if there is the need for more education with a new technology since the value of the first technology has been established. The seller needs, however, to be aware that the user may see a diminishing return on the next technologies relative to the success of the first and therefore must adjust marketing goals accordingly.

In the worst case of low or no value to user with ongoing education costs to seller, both the user and seller immediately start off on a negative note. The user rejects the technology and with it all future innovations in precision agriculture, while the seller goes out of business. In this worst case, the organization of the user very likely will become less competitive with its neighbors as the new technologies bring benefits to them. The “gun shy” user organization and the failed seller company represent a setback to all of precision agriculture.

The take-home message of the “curves” is that both the user and seller must be aware of the value of a new technology relative to previously adapted technologies and set expectations accordingly. Both the user and seller must be aware of the true educational needs of the user when introducing a new technology. Without this awareness, the ante for technology adoption may be so high that neither the user nor the seller will want to gamble on precision agriculture.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the Spring 2007 issue of PrecisionAg Special Reports.

Leave a Reply

Systems Management Stories
Imagery/SensingPlanet Announces New Hi-Res Imagery Products
September 21, 2017
Since our acquisition of Terra Bella, and the SkySat constellation of seven satellites, we’ve been focused on making this high-resolution Read More
Systems ManagementBayer Dismisses Antitrust Concerns about Digital Farming
September 20, 2017
Bayer said it was unable to propose the sale of any digital farming assets to allay EU concerns about its 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
Decision Support SoftwareSyngenta Helps Lead Efforts for Farm Management Software Integration
September 19, 2017
Ag data from tractors, combines, planters, and other farm machinery present a huge opportunity for growers to manage their operations Read More
Trending Articles
John-Deere-labs
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
BASF Maglis grower retailer tablet
Data ManagementWhat Will Happen to My Data? Understanding Your Rights in Precision Agriculture
September 12, 2017
The use of precision agriculture-based decision making to determine fertilizer rates and hybrid types and planting rates is becoming more Read More
Robotics/Labor SaversBlue River, Deere Deal Will Accelerate Farm Robot Innovation
September 11, 2017
No, Blue River Co-founder and CEO Jorge Heraud has not been deposed — Gaddafi-style — by big, bad corporate overlord Read More
Farming at Sunset
Business ManagementAgtech Issues: The Shiny Object Syndrome
September 6, 2017
Do you remember those cartoons where someone lures someone else by placing a piece of candy, small amount of money, Read More
AgQuip overview
Australia/New ZealandAgQuip 2017 Displays New Ag Technology in Australia
August 28, 2017
The annual AgQuip field days took place in Gunnedah, NSW on August 22-24. Being the largest agricultural field days in Read More
Agri-AFC-cotton-baler
Business ManagementBringing a Southern Sensibility to Precision Agriculture
August 7, 2017
Amy Winstead considers herself blessed to have gotten in on the ground floor of precision ag adoption in the Southeast. Read More
Latest News
Imagery/SensingPlanet Announces New Hi-Res Imagery Products
September 21, 2017
Since our acquisition of Terra Bella, and the SkySat constellation of seven satellites, we’ve been focused on making this high-resolution Read More
Systems ManagementBayer Dismisses Antitrust Concerns about Digital Farmin…
September 20, 2017
Bayer said it was unable to propose the sale of any digital farming assets to allay EU concerns about its 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
Robotics Specialty Crops
EventsPrecision in Specialty Crops Gains Momentum
September 20, 2017
When John Deere acquired Blue River Technologies (BRT) recently, BRT’s See & Spray technology received plenty of play. Yet many Read More
Decision Support SoftwareSyngenta Helps Lead Efforts for Farm Management Softwar…
September 19, 2017
Ag data from tractors, combines, planters, and other farm machinery present a huge opportunity for growers to manage their operations Read More
Petra-Andren-Cicada-Innovations
Australia/New ZealandGrowLab’s Rocket Fuel for AgTech in Australia
September 19, 2017
Despite its superpower status as a producer and exporter of agricultural goods and services, up until now Australia has had Read More
CropIn-Team-Photo-credit-BW-Disrupt
AsiaCropIn Aims to be a Global Leader in AgTech Sector
September 19, 2017
Krishna Kumar created AgTech startup, CropIn Technology in 2010, along with co-founders Kunal Prasad and Chittranjan Jena. The trio went Read More
China-Beidou-Navigation-Satellite-System
AsiaChina’s Navigation System Gets Powerful Chip to I…
September 18, 2017
A new powerful chip technology has been introduced in China’s national satellite navigation system to provide high-precision positioning, according to Read More
Tablet Grower
Industry NewsFieldReveal Names Hesse New CEO
September 18, 2017
Matt Hesse has been selected as the Chief Executive Officer of FieldReveal, a newly launched joint venture formed to deliver Read More
John-Deere-labs
Tools & Smart EquipmentHow John Deere’s New AI Lab Is Designing Farm Equipment…
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
Wheat sunrise
Australia/New ZealandSparkLabs Group Launches an Agricultural Tech Accelerat…
September 15, 2017
SparkLabs Group, which claims to be the largest startup accelerator group in Asia, is stepping into agricultural tech with a Read More
Sensors/IoTCollaboration Leverages Internet of Things, Sensors in …
September 15, 2017
The vision of having license-free community sensor networks for agricultural users has made a giant leap closer to reality. A Read More
Young Corn Field
Data ManagementPurdue Online Tool to Help Farmers Make Precision Decis…
September 14, 2017
An innovative online tool developed by a Purdue University engineering professor will allow farmers to process data collected from their Read More
forbes-agtech-summit
Precision IrrigationImproving Water Management: Can Silicon Valley Help?
September 13, 2017
I recently attended the Forbes AgTech Summit in Salinas, CA, where roughly 50 start-up companies originating from Silicon Valley and Read More
Nate-Dorsey-Field-Trial-Curve-Compensation
Systems ManagementField Trial: Precision Application and Curve Compensati…
September 13, 2017
Several months ago I wrote an article about curve compensation in planters and how these systems can help create more Read More
Diamondback moth
Tools & Smart EquipmentTechAccel Invests in Unique Sprayable RNAi Pesticide Te…
September 12, 2017
TechAccel, the Kansas City-based technology and venture development company, has announced it has awarded the first grant under its “Path Read More
BASF Maglis grower retailer tablet
Data ManagementWhat Will Happen to My Data? Understanding Your Rights …
September 12, 2017
The use of precision agriculture-based decision making to determine fertilizer rates and hybrid types and planting rates is becoming more Read More
Terra
Imagery/SensingAerial Imagery Aids Decision-Making
September 12, 2017
As the growing season has progressed, aerial imagery has been part of the world record setting data-collection efforts for Terra, Read More