15 Years, 15 Innovations

A feature on the 15 most significant innovations in precision agriculture seemingly would be best served through rigorous, scientific information gathering and iron-clad statistical analysis. This feature contains none of that.

• Innovations:

Instead, we asked the ultimate variable — PEOPLE — for opinions and insight from their personal point of view on what they see as the top-ranking precision technologies. The result was a diverse and interesting look at what products are viewed as most innovative by agronomists, growers, and consultants.

Well, maybe a little too diverse. Since summarizing the commentary down to 15 key innovations proved pretty unwieldy, we condensed the consensus responses from individuals and conducted an electronic survey to try to put the list in some level of priority. Thankfully, from this exercise we gained some clarity, and we are proud to share the list with you in addition to a little context to put the list in perspective.

Enjoy! And with us celebrate the rapid progress of technology in agriculture.

15. Electrical Conductivity

It sounds like science fiction — send electrical pulses into the earth and generate a soil profile upon which you can build an agronomic program. But for thousands of growers, EC was and is a key measuring stick for doing just that. Veris, which launched the EC machine in 1997, continues to sell the technology today along with several other manufacturers.

14. Handheld Computers

Introduction of the Compaq iPAQ attracted many growers and agronomists to buy and bring computing out to the field to help with scouting and data logging. Batteries were short lived and the units were fragile, but it revealed the power and potential of portable computing.

13. Remote Imagery

Satellite and aerial field imagery has always had a small but loyal following, especially in specialty crop and cotton regions. Companies are at work on satellite systems and airplane-based imagery to try to overcome the limitations created by weather and cloud cover, and image delivery continues to improve.

12. Data Cards/Mobile Data

While wireless technology is threatening to make data cards obsolete over the next three to five years, everyone mentioned that the ability to take information from one unit to another via a data storage card has made an enormous impact on productivity and accuracy.

11. ISOBUS

The ISO 11783 standard that’s promising every tractor and application rig will be “plug and play” still has some distance to go, but folks see its potential and put it among the top innovations in precision agriculture technology — hopefully, it will move up the list for our 20th anniversary for the betterment of agriculture.

10. Lightbar Guidance

Remember the video game “Pong?” Every new product category must have that early entry, and the lightbar was that first entrée for growers and retailers into guidance products.

9. The PC

The personal computer is another technology not invented for ag, but as one expert put it, “without the PC nothing would have happened.”

8. On-The-Go Sensors

On-the-go sensor technology got its start in the early 1990s at Oklahoma State University, and after passing through a few hands landed in California in 1998 with a group now known as NTech Industries. With the right algorithm, this technology has been able to identify and spray herbicides on weeds, or recognize stress in crops and make appropriate applications of products. Several precision experts noted that this technology will be one to watch in the years ahead.

7. Controller Technology

Several individuals we talked to felt it was important to recognize the big leaps forward that controller technology has made over the years. “Rate controllers — which vary the application to match the exact gallons per acre rather than the traditional method of a pump putting out gallons per minute (forcing the driver to go a specified speed to obtain the proper application rate) has been a big development,” wrote one grower. “It saves lots of dollars, makes applications more exact, and makes us better environmental stewards.”

6. Automatic Boom Control

Here’s another technology that came out of nowhere just a few years ago and is becoming an indispensable component of an application rig. Less product used, less overspray to protect the environment, and more accurate … what’s not to like?

5. GIS Software

Geographic In­formation Systems tie all our data together and provide the colorful maps that cause us to beam with pride or recoil in horror, revealing the fruits of a solid agronomic plan or the consequences of a bad one.

4. Yield Monitor

The yield monitor is (or at least it should be) the ultimate scorecard at the end of the season for corn and soybean growers. Commercialized in the mid-1990s by Al Myers thanks to tireless work and research in his garage, he and his company Ag Leader made it possible to tell us in hard numbers how the field performed. Later, when tied to GPS, the whole thing became a data layer that could be compared with other field-specific data to help evaluate total field performance. Incredible!

3. Computer-Driven Variable-Rate Application

The most used, analyzed, lauded, and maligned technology all at the same time, VRA was the Holy Grail for the early pioneers of computerized ag electronics in the 1980s. Profitability has been as variable to VRA aficionados as fertilizer itself, but most users consider the technology a “best management practice” with benefits beyond merely profit (e.g., environmental stewardship).

2. Automatic Steering

This technology was a relative oddity back in 2000 when growers trying out Trimble’s system started spreading the word about its benefits. But boy, was it expensive! Four years later, the price point was blown up by less accurate, but less expensive, products taking advantage of the Wide Area Augmentation System. Adoption grew steadily as the technology got better and less expensive, and as users saw tremendous returns on investment. The recent Precision Adoption Survey of ag retailers by CropLife magazine put adoption of automatic steering at better than 50% in 2009, so it’s No. 2 ranking is no surprise to us.

1. The Global Positioning System

Technically, this is not an agriculture-based invention of course, having been born of the U.S. military necessity and later shared with the rest of the world. But you could argue quite successfully that GPS is the foundation of the most beneficial technological breakthrough in precision agriculture. GPS provides the positioning that serves as a base for all data, and it drives the guidance products that allow us to stay on rows and move through the field predictably and accurately.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 comments on “15 Years, 15 Innovations

  1. Are you interested in innovation?
    internal expansion , low volume, high pressure 100% rotary steam powerplant.

    The galaxy engine is a light weight, high power, fuel efficient, environmentally friendly engine. The galaxy can be configured with a variable number of expansion chambers and can be daisy- chained along a common drive shaft to increase power requirements. The engine can be designed to accommodate land, sea and aircraft applications for civil and military use.

  2. Was Trimble first with the AutoPilot systems? BeeLine Technologies had commercially available RTK autosteer systems running around in Australia in 1998/99. They were also very expensive. They have gone by the wayside now, but they were the company that started the autosteer industry in Australia.

Guidance Stories
AgJunction, InfoAg 2014, Autosteer, GPS
GuidanceAgJunction, TeeJet Technologies Form Partnership
July 6, 2016
AgJunction Inc. and TeeJet Technologies, one of the world’s leading application technology providers for agriculture, have entered into a global Read More
GPS, Guidance
GuidanceDeere Launches Plethora of Precision Ag Products
June 1, 2016
Two new row guidance products available for John Deere sprayers Two new AutoTrac products are available to help row crop Read More
GuidanceNovAtel Launches TerraStar-L Precise Point Positioning Service
April 27, 2016
NovAtel today announced TerraStar-L, a new 40 centimetre (cm) Precise Point Positioning (PPP) correction service. TerraStar-L is a subscription based Read More
GuidanceTallysman Adds 2 Triple Band GNSS Antennas To Product Line
April 27, 2016
Tallysman is pleased to announce the addition of two triple band GNSS antennas to our multi-band antenna line: The TW3970 Read More
Trending Articles
Business2016 Farm Science Review: Talkin’ New Products, Education and Big Data
September 21, 2016
The Ohio State University’s Farm Science Review has become an annual rite of fall for Buckeye State growers, retailers and Read More
Mitchell Technical Institute students with drone
IntegratorsMTI Precision Ag Students Use Drone Technology
September 19, 2016
After weeks of sitting in the classroom, several Mitchell Technical Institute students were able to spend a few hours outside Read More
Robotics AGCO Fendt Guide Connect
Market ImpactReport: Ag Robots And Drones May Be A $10 Billion Market By 2022
September 7, 2016
Robots and drones have begun to quietly transform many aspects of agriculture. In fact, the IDTechEx Research report on Agricultural Read More
SDWG Bret Weisenburger
BusinessMZB Technologies, Climate FieldView Announce Data Integration for 2017 Season
September 6, 2016
MZB Technologies announces a data connectivity agreement with The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., providing increased precision agriculture Read More
Deere R4023 cab
BusinessReport: Smart Agriculture Market Worth $19 Billion By 2021
September 6, 2016
Research and Markets has announced the addition of the “Smart Agriculture Market – With Forecast (2016-2021)” report to their offering. Read More
SDWG Bret Weisenburger
IntegratorsThe Top 10 People In Precision Agriculture
August 15, 2016
Precision agriculture — with all its wacky technologies and advanced algorithms and such — remains a people business. So, without Read More
Latest News
Western Canada Wheat field
DataFarmers Edge Partners With New Holland Dealer
September 28, 2016
Farmers Edge, a global leader in precision agriculture and independent data management solutions, has partnered with Mazergroup, North America’s largest Read More
A Satshot NDVIR analysis running on an iPad.
BusinessSatshot’s Landscout IOS Now API Linked With John …
September 28, 2016
Satshot’s Landscout IOS mobile software is now connected with the John Deere Operations Center through John Deere’s API services. Landscout Read More
Ag Drone
BusinessDroneDeploy Launches Turbo Uploader
September 27, 2016
DroneDeploy today announced a new solution that addresses drone data portability challenges in remote areas that have Internet bandwidth constraints. Read More
FUSE Farm Graphic
DataAGCO Is Founding Member Of The DKE Data-Hub Initiative
September 26, 2016
AGCO Corp., a world-leading manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment, has announced its participation as a founding member of the DKE Read More
Ian Yule, ISPA
ResearchLeading Ag Technology Researcher Appointed ISPA Preside…
September 26, 2016
Massey University’s Professor Ian Yule, one of the world’s leading agri-tech researchers, has been voted president of the International Society Read More
BusinessADAPT Conversion Toolkit Making In Roads With Equipment…
September 22, 2016
A leading group of equipment manufacturers will soon release products that greatly enhance a grower’s ability to manage data across Read More
Business2016 Farm Science Review: Talkin’ New Products, Educati…
September 21, 2016
The Ohio State University’s Farm Science Review has become an annual rite of fall for Buckeye State growers, retailers and Read More
Farmers Edge Truck
DataFarmers Edge Awarded $6.1M Investment From Sustainable …
September 21, 2016
Farmers Edge, a global leader in precision agriculture and independent data management solutions, has announced that it will receive $6,107,563 Read More
BusinessGMO Aphids to Battle Weeds? It’s Not as Far Fetch…
September 21, 2016
No, I am not talking about optimizing aphids for a global agricultural armageddon. That would be silly. I’m talking about Read More
Young Corn Field
Best PracticesNitrogen: The Key to Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
September 20, 2016
Precision ag can play a key role in reducing agriculture’s impact on greenhouse gases by limiting the nitrogen rate. Read More
W. Wade Robey, Raven
Industry NewsRaven Adds New Director Of Engineering
September 19, 2016
W. Wade Robey, Ph.D., joined Raven Applied Technology in August 2016 as Director of Engineering. In this role, he leads Read More
Mitchell Technical Institute students with drone
IntegratorsMTI Precision Ag Students Use Drone Technology
September 19, 2016
After weeks of sitting in the classroom, several Mitchell Technical Institute students were able to spend a few hours outside Read More
BusinessOPINION: Climate Corp. is the Jewel in Bayer’s Monsanto…
September 15, 2016
PERSPECTIVE: Over the next few days and weeks in the ag media space the major players will examine this latest Read More
Sugarcane India
Market ImpactPlantations International Brings Precision Farming Tech…
September 14, 2016
Hong Kong-based plantation and farm management company Plantations International has announced it is moving its contact centre from the Indian Read More
Corn close up
Start-UpsLewis & Clark Ventures Raises $20 Million For Agric…
September 13, 2016
Lewis & Clark Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on Series A and B stage investments, has announced $20 million Read More
BusinessSentera Joins Forces With Another Drone Distributor
September 13, 2016
Sentera has signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Dynamic UAV Solutions North America, LLC, a new distributor in the commercial Read More
New Zealand agriculture
Market ImpactPrecision Ag Technology Helping New Zealand Agriculture…
September 12, 2016
New Zealand has an enormous opportunity to use technology as a means to support the economic growth of its agri Read More
Robotics AGCO Fendt Guide Connect
Market ImpactReport: Ag Robots And Drones May Be A $10 Billion Marke…
September 7, 2016
Robots and drones have begun to quietly transform many aspects of agriculture. In fact, the IDTechEx Research report on Agricultural Read More