Thoughts From The 10th International Conference on Precision Agriculture

It was truly an international experience at the conference this year, with more than 40 countries represented in Denver at the biennial International Conference on Precision Agriculture. Here are a few of the most interesting observations I made this week during the two and a half days of the event:

Stand Tall
The tone was set from the beginning presentation — we’re going to need to feed a lot more people in 40 years, predicted at more than 9 billion by 2050 — and everyone attending the conference needs to take that role to heart. Even the lunchtime entertainment, an Indiana farmboy turned comedian named Damian Mason, reminded the audience that after churning through dozens of 20-minute research summaries, rubber chickens and reception cocktail chats, the mission couldn’t be clearer — you’re feeding the world folks, be proud and have at it.

Creation of the ISPA
Many months of work and coordination culminated in the christening of a new organization, the International Society of Precision Agriculture (ISPA). Sponsored by Colorado State University, the Foundation for Agronomic Research, and the International Plant Nutrition Institute, the ISPA’s mission is to advance the science and practice of precision agriculture globally.

Dr. Raj Khosla, who has been primarily responsible for reestablishing the links between international precision agriculture educators, universities and research that had been fading since the untimely passing of Dr. Pierre Robert in 2003, was rightly voted in as the association’s first president. His supporting cast includes Dr. John Stafford, editor of the International Journal of Precision Agriculture as president-elect, Nicholas Tremblay, research scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada as secretary, and Angela Guidry, soil service manager and field research scientist at SGS North America as treasurer. All will serve a two-year term.

Formalizing an organization was a great idea, because international research desperately needs to be coordinated and shared more readily. And frankly, it will necessarily take pressure off Dr. Khosla to personally maintain the momentum toward international cooperation and networking that he worked so hard to restart.

On-The-Go Sensors On The Go
The hardware is sound, the algorithms make sense, and the market is paying attention. On the go sensor technology was one of the most discussed technologies at the conference, and after more than a decade of work it is inching closer to the mainstream for use in nitrogen application. Talking to Ted Mayfield, who toiled away on the Greenseeker and Weedseeker technologies for many years before Trimble purchased the company in 2007, he feels that the technology is turning the corner and poised to gain wider acceptance.

It won’t be an easy road forward. One psychological challenge has been the required change in mindset for the grower about applying nitrogen, the mother’s milk of crop nutrients. N must be applied partially in spring and partially in season, with the sidedressed in-season portion allocated automatically and instantaneously by the sensor . Where sidedressing is not traditionally practiced, there’s an additional equipment requirement.

Then there’s the fact that the payback is often not in a reduction in nitrogen applied, but in nitrogen utilization by deficient plants — in other words, more nitrogen is used than was originally planned. But the resulting increase in yield from feeding deficient plants creates the payback. Ag Leader’s Roger Zielke, who’s heading up research work on the OptRx sensor in partnership with Holland Scientific, says recent research on wheat is indicating that a substantial dollar per acre benefit will be realized once the harvest is in. That’s taking into consideration the additional expense of more nitrogen used against what looks to be a significant boost in yield.

Bottom line is, in-season N application through the use of on the go sensors is worth a serious look.

Wireless — Can We All Just Get Along?
Back in 2005 I predicted that repeatable (RTK level) global positioning signal access would evolve into a utility like electricity that would make it more available and useful to growers and the individuals and businesses that serve them. Being of some experience with technology adoption I did not state a timeline, which in hindsight was brilliant. Five years later we are still plugging along.

What I did not foresee was the proliferation of cell-based RTK, and the revelation that paring a whole host of capabilities and connectivity solutions and riding on the cell-based signal would not only become a reality, but proliferate in rapid fashion. The year 2010 has become the year when wireless everything, from GPS to data transfer to Internet access to vehicle tracking, is becoming a reality. In the rush to climb onto the bandwagon, solutions are rolling out that range widely in price, compatibility, and completeness of offering.

I think we’ll see a real sorting out of technologies and players in the near term, so dig deep and ask a lot of questions if you’re taking the plunge on these wireless solutions. I’m guessing that the Farm Progress Show will be buzzing about this topic, and that manufacturers will have a lot to show prospective buyers.

Awards
The PrecisionAg Institute sponsored the fourth annual PrecisionAg Awards of Excellence, which I got to present at the conference lunch in front of the entire group. It was a tremendous thrill to honor excellent individuals and companies, including Illinois grower Ken Dalenberg, the OptiGro team at Jimmy Sanders, and Dr. Terry Griffin from the University of Arkansas.

But it was particularly gratifying to present two legacy awards this year to two remarkable individuals. Dr. Jess Lowenberg-DeBoer today can more often be found globetrotting to exotic locations like Africa and Afghanistan, working with the local ag institutions to upgrade curriculums and, in the case of the latter, literally rebuild the ag schools. But back in the early 1990s he was hard at work on trying to find the benefits of early guidance and variable rate technologies. The book he edited, PrecisionAg Profitability, still has a place on my bookshelf.

The other legacy award went to Dr. Harold Reetz, who has done more to bring people, governmental agencies, organizations, and companies together than almost anyone ever has in precision agriculture. He was the catalyst for the InfoAg Conference. Science is nothing if not applied, and Harold has spent a career shining a light on those best ideas and getting them on the table for discussion.

Leave a Reply

Data Management Stories
Vector-and-Raster-image
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
Young Corn Field
Data ManagementPurdue Online Tool to Help Farmers Make Precision Decisions, Keep Data Private
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
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
Data ManagementPrecision Farming: What’s Your Data Worth to You?
September 8, 2017
Today’s farm equipment today comes with more bells, whistles and blinking lights than Captain Nemo’s submarine, and most of those Read More
Trending Articles
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
deepfield-robotics-bonirob
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
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
Latest News
Brazil-Soybean-field
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
Vector-and-Raster-image
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
Lettuce-with-a-binary-code
DronesYuma Growers Embrace Precision Production
October 3, 2017
From the Rose Garden at the White House, to the laser-leveled fields of Yuma, AZ (home to 90% of this Read More
Drone
EuropeUK: Robotic Farm Completes First Fully Autonomous Harve…
October 3, 2017
It’s harvest season in many parts of the world, but on one farm in the United Kingdom, robots — not Read More
APSUL overview
AmericasFuture of Digital Agriculture Arrives at South American…
October 2, 2017
Last week I attended the fourth South American Congress of Precision Agriculture and Precision Machinery (IV APSUL America 2017). The 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
AgDNA
Industry NewsAgDNA Launches Profit Spatial Analysis Tool
September 29, 2017
This week AgDNA has launched a product it says has the ability to analyze profit spatially throughout a field. The Read More
Algae Lake Erie
Service ProvidersAg Retailers Report Progress on Products and Services t…
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
PrecisionAg InstitutePrecisionAg Institute Partner Perspectives: Winfield Un…
September 27, 2017
Joel Wipperfurth talks about the challenges of compatibility and collaboration in ag technology, and some of the key findings that the the company’s Answer Plot program is delivering for farmer customers. Read More