PERSPECTIVE Last summer, a number of individuals came up to me and lamented that the InfoAg Conference was in its off-year — that there was a lot going on in ag technology that needed to be discussed, but no event to bring people together.
So going into this year’s meeting, I felt like there could be a bump up in attendance and interest in the meeting, but none of us involved in it knew we’d be topping 1100 once the dust settled. It was an impressive outpouring of interest and excitement about the role technology will play in agriculture in the years ahead.
I think there were a few factors driving the numbers. Near the top is the impact that Monsanto’s FieldScripts initiative is having on agriculture. For years, we’ve wondered aloud and among each other as to which organization would recognize the power of precision technology and field data to improve yields – and actually make a move to do something with it. Monsanto’s purchase of Precision Planting was a bellwether event, and InfoAg attendees came to find out what it will mean for the future of ag technology. Monsanto has 150 growers with test plots in the FieldScripts pilot launch … and the proof will be in the yield numbers. Everyone will be watching closely.
Another factor was the noticeable increase in attendees with the title “precision ag specialist.” Retailers and cooperatives are bringing these folks on board in greater numbers, and InfoAg served as a one stop shop for these recent hires to get immersed in what’s happening in precision.
Next, as the wave of discussion about collecting and fully utilizing data accelerated over the past 12 months, the conference was a place to gather and learn more. The number of companies featuring a solution for moving data seamlessly and improving data use was the most significant change on the exhibit floor, and being discussed in every corner of the conference.
Finally, I have to give a nod to interest in drone technology … the exhibit hall featured no less than 6 drone designs for attendees to check out, including three that were demoed during the pre-conference field day. The market will continue to sort itself out over the next few years, but the idea of being able to collect remote imagery anytime, anywhere (and operate a cool-looking, GPS driven aircraft to boot) has wide appeal.
So once again, as it did in the mid-1990s, precision technology has hit an apex with increased interest and investment as evidenced by a successful InfoAg Conference. Individuals from outside the traditional technology circles are finally, after having been told by us here at PrecisionAg.com and others for years, seeing the power of technology to deliver real yield and efficiency benefits. The challenge is keeping the momentum going.
We’ll have a chance to do that if the industry continues down the path of greater collaboration and cross-platform operability – something that appears to be happening, and must move forward. There’s always the temptation when times are good to move products and services toward a proprietary vision, but growers have told us repeatedly that they want choices, and they want choices that work. We need to listen to growers and deliver on the promise.