IF BIG PICTURE stuff is what you’re looking for at InfoAg 2015, Marc Vanacht’s presentation “2015-2035: What’s Coming For Precision Ag” is a sure bet to get the creative juices flowing, if a recent phone conversation with the presenter is any indication.
“Precision agriculture over the last 20 years has largely developed in a narrow environment in the sense that it was based on certain technologies and the needs of a certain subset of farmers,” he said. “Now there is a massive influx of outside technologies coming into the industry that will revolutionize precision agriculture.
“We have seen precision focused mostly on agronomy – variable rate application, seed variety selection, etc – but there is so much more to be done in the areas of automation and robotics. We really haven’t seen anything yet. Precision ag is going to become mainstream and it will go around the world.”
Vanacht, having spent the first twenty years of his career with Monsanto and the last twenty doing consulting work around the industry, foresees a fast approaching technology.
“Within 20 years it is highly likely ag equipment will have switched to wire-distributed (electric) or hybrid power,” he explains. “Powered managed by electric engines is much easier to measure variations and changes, easier to direct and control, there’s no oil or transmission and they self-correct.
“Distributed power by wire combined with sensors, actuators and telematics – now you are redefining the agricultural equipment market. These are things that I know are creating some uncertainty in the market and I know most manufacturers are already working on this.”
More driverless vehicles is another trend Vanacht sees going mainstream in the next 20 years.
“Long before 2035 most people will have some experience with self-driven vehicles – and it doesn’t necessarily mean they will own one – they might encounter it at the local golf course or riding on the airport shuttle or somewhere else,” Vanacht says. “Actually, I think that by 2025 most vehicles in precision ag will have the capability to self-operate, because between now and then telemetry technologies will advance and it will make self-piloting vehicles much more palatable.”
Current popular practices will be turned on their heads as well, according to Vanacht.
“Most drone applications today are more superficial in nature than they should be,” he says. “If you want to do real business, than you have to fly the drone again after each nitrogen application to measure the immediate effect of the practice on the plant itself, and then you have to fly again ten days later to measure the delayed effect. Then, in the fall we do the ultimate measurement in bushels.
“It’s going to take a fundamental change in mentality across the industry where, for every decision we make we must start to measure the immediate and delayed results, not just the harvest effect (yield). It really is fascinating what is going on right now.”
If you’re at InfoAg in two weeks be sure to check out the presentation (this piece covers maybe a fraction of what Vanacht is going to discuss in St. Louis), July 28 at 2:00 pm CST in Regency C at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel. There is also a reprise of Vanacht’s talk later that afternoon at 4:30 pm in the same room.