Since 1995, the International Plant Nutrition Institute has hosted the InfoAg Conference, a gathering of manufacturers, retailers, researchers, advisers and consultants, producers and policy makers within the precision ag industry. Ongoing partnerships formed in 1997 with PAQ Interactive and PrecisionAg in 2005 have helped the conference become the premier event to discuss and view applied precision ag technology. With over 1,400 attendees, the 2014 conference was the largest ever.
Considering the current state of declining crop prices, several presentations and discussions at the conference were focused on the return on investment (ROI) of precision agriculture practices. “Yield matters, even when prices are low” is a quote from one of the presenters at the conference and suggests that spreading input costs over more production units (e.g. higher yields) lowers unit costs of production, thus, increasing maximum net returns. Precision agriculture allows growers to accomplish this goal in a variety of ways.
Dale Bartholomew of GROWMARK said: “ROI [for precision agriculture] comes by doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done.” One could also add, “where it needs to be done,” as GPS guidance is often cited as a profitable precision ag investment. RTK auto-guidance on planters, tillage equipment, sprayers, and combines has been shown to result in an average savings of 5% (ranging from 2 to 7%) on input costs. Auto-swath technology is another popular and profitable technology among dealers and growers. A study conducted by Dr. John Fulton at Auburn University indicated that, on average, a 4.3% savings on input costs could be observed for a farm with a payback of around two years. If the savings due to GPS guidance were included, the total cost savings could be in the 20% to 30% range.