Top Takeaways From Raven Summit

Perspective   The specter of the “Great Midwest Drought of 2012” hung over Sioux Falls as more than 200 equipment dealers, customers, and media types gathered at Raven Industries’ world headquarters for the company’s second Raven Innovation Summit.

The overarching discussion, as it often does in a roomful of stressed out aggies, was all about what’s going on with the crops, and the news was not good. In this area and south toward Omaha where we drove in along I-29, the corn looked every bit as bedraggled as has been described to us in the news. Growers should fare better here than farther east, as the corn is taller and has produced some ears. But there’s not much to be jealous about.

The beans look better but opinions are varied on how much, or even whether, they will produce in terms of pods. Optimists believe a little bit of moisture will do some serious good, but the jury is out.

Despite the challenges, there was a lot of enthusiasm among the Raven faithful this week. The company’s recent investments in a new training facility and a manufacturing plant, as well as renovations happening now at the headquarters building downtown are impressive and demonstrate the commitment Raven has to agriculture and to its future direction. I was particularly impressed that in an era where so little in the way of electronics is made here in the US that virtually everything Raven makes for agriculture – down to the wire cabling – is built domestically.

The specific updates and upgrades to products are being demonstrated today and released officially tomorrow, so we’ll be covering those in next week’s PrecisionAg eNews. But we did gets a chance to talk to a number of attendees and Raven luminaries, and as always we have some key takeaways to share.

API Update. It’s been a couple of years now that Raven opened itself up to partnership with other ag manufacturers through its Slingshot API program. The result is that to date, 34 companies have signed on the dotted line with Raven and are actively working on projects, and some have offerings all ready to go. Early success stories include manufacturers SST Software and Software Solutions Integrated, AgIntegrated, and AgSync, and more are on the way. Matt Burkhart, vice president and division general manager, said that creating this “open but controlled platform” is essential to “fulfill the vision to build the precision ag business platform of the future.”

Hardware Still Important. I’ve been wondering aloud if we’ve seen the pinnacle of new hardware advances in the in-cab computer/controller as agriculture comes to terms with the power of the cloud, and the compatibility and user-friendliness of tablet computers like the iPad. In talking with Burkhart and Paul Welbig, Raven’s director of marketing, product management and Slingshot operations, the hardware side will continue to be important but where the value is captured is starting to shift toward the services and solutions from outside the cab via API partners and Raven’s own initiatives.

I did not get a definitive idea how this change in value capture will affect the hardware strategy for its line of displays. Viper Pro, which was first released as the Viper some 10 years ago and is a predominant display in agriculture, would seem to be on an upgrade path in the near term, but with the API initiative and so much capability coming in from outside the computer (not to mention a new version of Windows on the horizon), it may take a bit longer for a decision to be made on what’s next for the popular display.

Welbig did add at the end, “Our engineers are always asking for more.”

Demonstrating The Benefits of Connectivity. There were a number of ride and drives and demo booths from API partners that demonstrated how connectivity can work and feel when fully executed, and there’s no doubt it’s impressive. The core of any plan like Raven’s Slingshot is the reliability and consistency of the communication platform … if growers are to be expected to fully buy in and engage, it has to feature iron clad reliability.

Monsanto Comments. I had to ask Burkhart his view on Monsanto’s acquisition of Precision Partners and its impact on the precision market. His take was that Monsanto’s very public challenges to raise yield goals by 2050 included traits, genetics and precision, and the acquisition is “confirmation of the value that precision holds in the ability to reach those goals.” It confirms what he says Raven has “believed all along, and we provide a full suite of technology available to help increase yield” in all four seasons of equipment.

Engaging The Unengaged. Despite advances in precision and the proliferation of technology there are still a lot of growers that don’t use technology they own effectively, don’t have interest in engaging in technology at all. I asked Welbig about this, and he said that education – leading to increased confidence – is really key. The evidence was all around us as we toured the company’s gleaming new training facility.

“We invest an awful lot of time in education with our dealers,” says Welbig. “We encourage them to put demo units into their trucks, both to get themselves fully comfortable and confident with the technologies and to provide demonstrations to growers.”

He also noted that Raven continues to try to engage growers that feel “left behind’ by the rapid advancement of technology by investing in education programs that champion education in the basics of precision such as the PrecisionAg Institute, in which they are a supporting partner.

Short Term Concerns. As I said, optimism tends to run very high at these dealer gatherings, but the drought has many dealers concerned about sales going into the fall. One dealer said growers, while not panicked, are frozen in place on purchasing decisions. “It’s as if they want proof that it is actually going to rain again,” one dealer quipped. “Because it feels like it’s never going to.”

Hopefully we can break out and get that magic moisture soon that revives confidence, and perhaps saves a bit more of the precious crop. But this week, it was really the one cloud in an overall sunny outlook in South Dakota.

Topics: , ,

Leave a Reply

Guidance Stories
Trimble-GFX-750-Display
GuidanceTrimble Introduces GFX-750 Display System with Advanced Guidance Controller
October 30, 2017
Trimble has introduced the Trimble GFX-750 display system for agriculture applications. The display system comes with the simple-to-install, roof-mounted NAV-900 Read More
Beacon
GuidanceDigiFarm VBN Announces Supplier Agreement with AGCO
September 7, 2017
DigiFarm VBN LLC, an agricultural technology company, announces it has signed a supplier agreement with AGCO Corp., a world-leading manufacturer Read More
Young Corn Field
GuidanceOutback Guidance Launches Hands-Free Farming Campaign at Farm Progress Show
August 30, 2017
Outback Guidance, a leader in automated steering and advanced precision farming solutions, and a part of AgJunction, Inc., is launching Read More
GuidanceRaven Announces 2 New In-Cab Technologies
August 23, 2017
Raven Industries announces the release of two new precision agriculture products: RS1 and CR7. The RS1 combines autosteer, GPS, and Read More
Trending Articles
Industry NewsNFMS 2018: Case IH Talks Autonomous Agriculture, Announces Pilot Program
February 20, 2018
Since the reveal of the autonomous concept vehicle, Case IH has been evolving the technology and further defining automation and Read More
India-Farm-Irrigation
AsiaCloud-based Irrigation Could Double India’s Crop Yield and Halve Water Use
February 12, 2018
A cloud-based, micro-irrigation system tested on a farm in India has cut water use by up to 80%  and doubled Read More
Tools & Smart EquipmentAutonomous Tractors Could Work in Wetter Conditions than Traditional Tractors
February 8, 2018
March 20th is the first day of spring, making spring much closer than even I expected. On the farm I Read More
AmericasPrecision Farming Companies to Watch in 2018 (OPINION)
January 17, 2018
My friends, as many of you told me repeatedly throughout the last 12 months, 2017 was an interesting year in Read More
John-Deere-Cab-GPS
Data ManagementPrecision Ag Hardware and Software: A Little Off-Season Maintenance Goes A Long Way
January 11, 2018
All service technicians have heard this line. Most often when spring makes its anticipated return to our lives. It is Read More
Anez-Consulting-Paul-Anez-and-Michael-Dunn
Service ProvidersAnez Consulting: Focus On Fertility
January 9, 2018
Central Minnesota features variability aplenty when it comes to soil characteristics and topography, from flat, black expanses rich in organic Read More
Latest News
AmericasNFMS 2018: Precision Farming, Ag Tech Developments from…
February 21, 2018
Last week’s annual National Farm Machinery Show (NFMS) in Louisville, KY, was this author’s first experience attending the mid-winter Midwest Read More
Vineyard
Specialty CropsMaximize the Benefit of New Farm Technology
February 21, 2018
We have access to technology and information as never before. Working with vineyards in Virginia, I see examples of growers Read More
Industry NewsCropMetrics Names New CEO
February 20, 2018
CropMetrics, a leader in smart irrigation services in the U.S., and developer of the Virtual Optimizer software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, has Read More
Joel-Greiner-Fybr
Specialty CropsHow Wireless Technology Found its Way to a Central Cali…
February 20, 2018
At first glance, the story of Fybr isn’t an unusual one: a technology company looks toward U.S. agriculture as a Read More
Farmers-on-tablet
AmericasAg Tech News: Mavrx Opens Satellite Platform to Entire …
February 20, 2018
The team at San Francisco, CA-based Mavrx has announced an initiative to increase access to advanced decision support tools in Read More
Industry NewsNFMS 2018: Case IH Talks Autonomous Agriculture, Announ…
February 20, 2018
Since the reveal of the autonomous concept vehicle, Case IH has been evolving the technology and further defining automation and Read More
Real-time-VRA-cotton
Sensors/IoTWhy Are Service Providers Slow to Adopt Crop Sensors fo…
February 20, 2018
Recently, we have seen important discussions about key aspects of precision agriculture. One of these articles, about the value in Read More
Harvested-Corn-Field-Clouds
Industry NewsUnderstory Patents Solid State Weather Sensor
February 16, 2018
Understory today announced that it received a patent for its mechanical strain-based weather sensor, a key component in its weather Read More
Retailer Grower
Business ManagementAgriculture and Technology: Industry Progress Lies in C…
February 16, 2018
Water is essential for agriculture. While this may seem obvious, nowhere is it more apparent than the Sonoran Desert of Read More
Agtegra_SDSU
Industry NewsAgtegra Cooperative Pledges $500,000 to SDSU Precision …
February 15, 2018
Agtegra Cooperative, Aberdeen, SD, today in Pierre announced a $500,000 donation to South Dakota State University for the Precision Agriculture Read More
Ag Retailer and Grower WinField United
Business ManagementThe Importance of Teamwork for Successful Precision Ag …
February 15, 2018
Interdependency is defined as the quality or condition of being mutually reliant on each other. I’m not a huge sports Read More
Texas-and-Oklahoma-Panhandles-Google-Earth
Data ManagementAgriculture Impacts Weather: The Case for Connected Eco…
February 15, 2018
It’s fascinating to see how modern technology has helped us increase our agricultural productivity in areas not otherwise suited for Read More
Adapt-N VRT
Decision Support SoftwareDTN Partners with Adapt-N to Provide Weather and Nitrog…
February 14, 2018
DTN has announced a partnership today at the National Farm Machinery Show with Agronomic Technology Corp (ATC), a Yara International Read More
Corn close up
Imagery/SensingSyngenta Acquires Satellite Imagery Provider FarmShots
February 14, 2018
Syngenta has acquired FarmShots, Inc., a North Carolina-based innovator of high-resolution satellite imagery that detects plant health by analyzing absorbed Read More
Pexels-Agriculture_Fields_Tractor_Precision_AG
Tools & Smart EquipmentMachine Learning: The Secret Sauce of Precision Agricul…
February 13, 2018
With the development of agricultural technologies, crop and plant diseases have been advancing as well, causing degradation of both quality Read More
Farmers Edge Truck
Africa/Middle EastFarmers Edge Aligns with PartnerRE to Streamline Crop I…
February 13, 2018
Today Winnipeg-based FMIS giant Farmers Edge announced a partnership around crop insurance with Zurich-based PartnerRE. Although a bit short on Read More
Robotics Specialty Crops
AmericasHortau, Agrian Announce Strategic Partnership
February 12, 2018
Hortau today announced a strategic partnership with Agrian Inc. to deliver an expansive precision irrigation service for commercial agriculture. “With Read More
India-Farm-Irrigation
AsiaCloud-based Irrigation Could Double India’s Crop Yield …
February 12, 2018
A cloud-based, micro-irrigation system tested on a farm in India has cut water use by up to 80%  and doubled Read More