Central Valley Ag Cooperative’s (CVA) Glen Franzluebbers, technology director, doesn’t exactly mince words when quizzed on the budding prospects of CVA’s precision ag division, Advanced Cropping Systems (ACS).
“Unlimited potential,” he responds. “Guys are willing to spend money on this stuff and more and more guys are using tablet and smartphone apps in the field. The benefits easily outweigh the risks.”
Launched in 2011, CVA’s two-year-old ACS program offers a plethora of precision ag services, from the traditional (variable rate fertilizer application) to the somewhat non-traditional (variable rate irrigation), at least in CVA’s trade area.
Already in heavy demand, according to Franzluebbers, are ACS’s MyWay RTK services. Franzluebbers and his team of four full-time employees build and service local RTK base stations and sell signal subscriptions to growers, bringing sub-inch accurate cell and internet based GPS to an area that demands it due to its rolling farmscape.
“We’ve had great results with MyWay RTK after our first season and heading into our second year there’s the potential for us adding more base stations throughout our territory,” says Franzluebbers. “We’ve got a lot of guys that farm in the hills and since the signal is cell-based, it’s bouncing off our base stations, and they can be up to 25 miles from a base station and still maintain sub-inch accuracy.”
Grid soil sampling and variable rate applications are two high-demand services within ACS, especially considering how hard the 2012 drought hit northeast Nebraska, where an estimated 65% of CVA’s growers are irrigated to some degree.
“We’ve seen over the years that doing the grid sampling for soil pH and variable rate lime applications are two of the bigger selling points of the program,” says Franzluebbers. “There’s so much variability in the soils in this area and in most cases they can pay for the grid sampling just with what they save on lime applications. Plus, they’re not under or over applying it and either coming up short or hurting the ground.”
ACS variable rate seeding with Precision Planting equipment, of which ACS is a certified dealer (along with Ag Leader, AgCam and Intuicom), is another popular service for the CropLife 100 No. 13-ranked retailer.
“We’ve been doing that for about eight years now and it’s really started to take off in the last couple years,” says Franzluebbers. “There’s a lot of talk about it in the magazines and the seed companies are starting to push it a little more. Plus seed costs are getting so high that if growers can control their inputs on seed plus get better yields, it’s pretty much a no-brainer.”
For this coming season, Franzluebbers predicts increased demand for ACS precision irrigation services.
“It’s been around for a few years, but the awareness hasn’t been there until this past year with the drought, and now they’re talking even more water regulations and restrictions,” says Franzluebbers. “We’ve been doing our research and this year we’re really going to roll out our soil moisture monitoring and variable rate irrigation.
“I think that’s going to be a huge growth area for ACS, especially if they start regulating the amount of water that guys can pump,” he continues. “The more efficient you are in putting that water where it needs to go and limiting runoff, that’s going to be pretty big.”
Coming from a farming background, Franzluebbers still finds himself astounded at the rapid advancement and adoption of precision technology in his lifetime.
“When I was growing up, we didn’t have any technology like this on the farm, we didn’t even have cell phones,” says Franzluebbers. “We’re at the point now where pretty much everybody is using some sort of new technology, and it’s just going to keep getting bigger and better and keep growing. There’s really no doubt.”