Getting Started In Precision Agriculture

As a vendor of precision agricultural services, one of the first questions I get from a new customer is “How do I get started?” This customer may be representing him or herself or a consultant group, grower cooperative, or large company.

Given the rapid changes in the agricultural industry and the steady evolution of technologies supporting precision agriculture, this is not an easy question to answer. I usually answer the customer, whom I am assuming for the sake of discussion is a male and works for a farming operation, with my own set of questions:

  • What role does he play in the farming operation?
  • Who are the other critical personnel in the decision making process?
  • What is the customer’s and personnel’s knowledge and skill level?
  • What is the geographic location of the farming operation and how big is it?
  • What crops are being grown and for what markets?
  • What is the current suite of equipment, devices, software and data services?
  • What short and long-term goals are dictating management decisions in the operation?
  • What are buyers demanding in terms of produce quality and production history?
  • What local regulations affect production practices?
  • Are there security and privacy issues with respect to production information?

These and other questions set the stage for getting someone started in precision agriculture.

Goal Identification

Continuing with the assumption that the customer is representing a farming operation, I found the best strategy for introducing precision agricultural services is to first identify both the short and long-term goals. Is the operation represented by the customer raising a crop for the fresh or process market and is it selling produce outside the U.S? Countries importing fresh produce may restrict varieties and set maximum residue limits (MRLs) for some active ingredients in chemical applications. For overseas markets, produce may need to be certified that it is free of certain pests, which could be a potential invasive threat to the importing country. Domestic and foreign buyers may demand that a crop be grown sustainably or that there is at least evidence that a grower conserved a specific resource, such as water. Government funded programs, such as for soil conservation, may require physical data about a field and require a change in management practices. The customer interested in precision agricultural services will need to sort through the positives and negatives of specific markets, government programs and buyer requirements and then set realistic goals.

To that end, the first precision agricultural service would be a record keeping program. The selected program would not only track whole field practices, expended resources and at-harvest yields, but also as-applied data from subfield, variable rate applications. Without baseline records, documenting, assessing and responding to short and long-term goals becomes at best very difficult.

The second strategic step for introducing precision agricultural services is an assessment of the knowledge and skill sets of the customer and his colleagues in the farming operation. The lack of a long-term, working relationship with the customer makes any assessment difficult. However, one can get a first-order understanding of someone’s knowledge and skill set by reviewing their current production practices and decision-making process. By paying special attention to favorite devices and software programs, one can get a sense for how an individual gathers information along with their comfort level with existing technologies.

For example, if a person does most of his or her decision making in the field using a mobile devise, then the focus would be on precision agricultural tools that provide information anywhere via the Internet. Mobile applications or “apps” that provide weather alerts and forecasts, pest predictions, irrigation amounts and management guidelines would be the first order of business. Other mobile applications could include a scouting program for recording pest observations in a field or a smart sampling program for collecting grid soil samples or verifying subfield zones. Depending on the customer’s decision making needs, analyzed data in various formats, such as high resolution landscape maps, could be delivered to a mobile device as advanced products.

The third strategic step for introducing precision agriculture services addresses security and privacy issues. Security is concerned with protecting the storage and delivery of information, while privacy is concerned with protecting the content of information. Both issues are becoming increasingly important to growers and other professionals in the agricultural community. Precision agricultural programs that facilitate the transfer of data and information between growers and third-parties must employ encryption and have a “share” button. By clicking the share button, the customer can manually control the sharing of his data with a known recipient. The need for security measures is especially true for programs accessible over the Internet or “in-the-cloud.” In addition to security, the same programs must respect the privacy of the customer by separating personal from professional information when communicating with third parties.

The fourth strategic step for introducing precision agriculture services has to do with the awareness of local regulations. Dwindling resources, such as water in some locations, have necessitated the enforcement of preset allocations. Chemical applications made on fields that border residential neighborhoods may be regulated for unfavorable weather conditions or be banned during certain hours of the day.

If the customer’s farming operation is subject to restrictions, he may want to choose a precision agricultural program that accounts for regulatory limits. Specifically, he may want to choose a program that identifies and filters practices affected by regulations. In the minimum, a chosen program should at least provide alerts when practices are at odds with local regulations. Adhering to the old cliché that “regulation is the mother of adoption,” programs that address regulations may in the long run help the customer make more sustainable and community-acceptable decisions.

Don’t Overlook Ease

While checking off the various strategic steps, one important point should not be overlooked when introducing precision agriculture services. That point is “ease-of-use.” Customers interested in precision agriculture services want programs that can be easily integrated into their current decision making habits. If a program is too complicated or takes too much time, it could result in a delayed or bad decision. A program that requires a lot of effort to get tangible results will be perceived as burden and not a benefit. Furthermore, the mistimed introduction of a program that results in a bad experience will make a customer hesitant about trying a new precision agriculture service. This reluctance negatively affects not only the customer but the industry as a whole.

In summary, the successful introduction of precision agriculture services requires matching the data and information needs of a customer with his or her knowledge and skill set while all the time being aware of the short and long term goals of his or her employer. This edition of the PrecisionAg magazine focuses on stories of individuals who use precision agriculture in their operations. Their stories can serve as examples of how to successfully introduce precision agricultural tools into existing farming enterprises.

Leave a Reply

Business Management Stories
Business ManagementIvy Tech, Farmers Partner to Help Precision Ag Education
September 20, 2018
Harvest time has taken on a new meaning for some Wabash Valley farmers, and Bobbi Hunt-Kincaid hopes her family’s first Read More
PenelopeNagel
Business ManagementWhy Is Funding a Challenge for Women-Led Agtech Companies?
September 17, 2018
When it comes to women-led agtech companies the funding discussion never seems to cease. In June after the The New Read More
Business ManagementTop 20 Two-Year Colleges for Precision Agriculture
September 10, 2018
Earlier this year, I compiled a list of the 25 best colleges for precision agriculture. It was quite the process. Read More
Osage-Co-op-Elevator-Osage-IA.-Finished-Bldg.-2
Business ManagementCo-ops and Precision Ag: Finding an Advantage in a Changing Environment
September 4, 2018
The business outlook for many co-operatives offering growers retail, marketing, and agronomic services is one that has changed greatly over Read More
Trending Articles
Soil-Hand
Data ManagementAre You Using Your Soil to Its Full Potential?
September 14, 2018
Harvest is progressing across most parts of the U.S. and those growers who aren’t already harvesting are gearing up to Read More
Grower-Retailer
Imagery/SensingAgtech: 10 Things I Hate About You!
September 4, 2018
Before you get bent out of shape from the title, remember if you’ve read my articles before you know I Read More
Kansas State University
Industry NewsKansas State University, Topcon Form Precision Ag Research Partnership
August 30, 2018
Kansas State University and Topcon Agriculture are collaborating to develop tools and systems to advance precision agriculture and support farmers. Read More
Blockchain building block graphic
Specialty CropsIs Blockchain the Future of Food Safety?
August 24, 2018
When the Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) was standardized in 1982, permitting the worldwide proliferation of interconnected networks and eventually the Read More
WinField’s Joel Wipperfurth On Empowering Data-Driven Decisions
InfoAg ConferenceOne on One with Joel Wipperfurth, Winfield United
August 15, 2018
Winfield United's Joel Wipperfurth discusses ag technology trends and topics during last month’s InfoAg Conference. Read More
Geosys
Industry NewsUrtheCast to Acquire Geosys from Land O’Lakes in $20 Million Deal
August 15, 2018
UrtheCast Corp. and Land O’Lakes, Inc. today announced they have entered a binding term sheet for the purchase of Geosys Read More
Latest News
Business ManagementIvy Tech, Farmers Partner to Help Precision Ag Educatio…
September 20, 2018
Harvest time has taken on a new meaning for some Wabash Valley farmers, and Bobbi Hunt-Kincaid hopes her family’s first Read More
Sensors
Sensors/IoTThe Answer to Agriculture’s Daunting Challenges – Soil …
September 20, 2018
According to the United Nations, 9.6 billion people will live on planet Earth by 2050. Feeding these mouths will require Read More
Google-Earth-Map-featured-image
Data ManagementRainfall Revisited: Accurate Observations and Beyond
September 18, 2018
As a provider of weather analysis and forecast services to the agricultural industry, one of the most common questions I Read More
PenelopeNagel
Business ManagementWhy Is Funding a Challenge for Women-Led Agtech Compani…
September 17, 2018
When it comes to women-led agtech companies the funding discussion never seems to cease. In June after the The New Read More
Mobile Phone in field
Decision Support SoftwareWhy Are 570 Million Farmers Not Yet Using Agricultural …
September 17, 2018
Until recently, using agricultural apps and software was a rare practice among growers. This is now changing. The mass adoption Read More
Soil-Hand
Data ManagementAre You Using Your Soil to Its Full Potential?
September 14, 2018
Harvest is progressing across most parts of the U.S. and those growers who aren’t already harvesting are gearing up to Read More
Grower Services & SolutionsDeere-Granular Collaboration Produces New Profit Maps T…
September 14, 2018
The newest development from the ongoing John Deere-Granular product development and marketing collaboration is Profit Maps, now available to farmers Read More
Wingtra
DronesOpinion: Combining Two Pluses with the WingtraOne UAV
September 13, 2018
For the every-day consumer interested in UAVs, there is an ocean of products from which to choose. This includes the Read More
Farmer-tablet
AsiaShould Agri-Input Manufacturers Outsource E-Commerce to…
September 12, 2018
Editor’s note: Venky Ramachandran is a contributing writer for PrecisionAg.com’s sister site, AgriBusinessGlobal.com. This article was originally published on LinkedIn. Now, Read More
ICON-Link-Licensing_featured-image
Industry NewsValley Irrigation Adds Remote Irrigation Management Opt…
September 11, 2018
Valley Irrigation, an industry leader in smart irrigation solutions, has announced enhancements to its remote management technologies. Multi-Year Licensing In Read More
Reflex-Connect-Agri-Inject-featured-image
Variable Rate ApplicationVariable Rate Fertigation System Expands with Mobile Co…
September 10, 2018
Building on the success of its Reflex Variable Rate Fertigation system, Agri-Inject has taken fluid injection to the next level Read More
Industry NewsTeralytic Earns Ag Data Transparent Certification
September 10, 2018
Soil analytics company Teralytic has completed the Ag Data Transparent certification, affirming that their data use is private, secure, and Read More
Business ManagementTop 20 Two-Year Colleges for Precision Agriculture
September 10, 2018
Earlier this year, I compiled a list of the 25 best colleges for precision agriculture. It was quite the process. Read More
Industry NewsRaven, Topcon Announce Slingshot API Agreement
September 6, 2018
Raven Industries and Topcon Agriculture announced today a licensing agreement for Topcon Agriculture’s use of the Slingshot Application Programming Interface Read More
Tablet Grower
Data ManagementThe Power of Predictive Analytics in Agriculture
September 5, 2018
Years ago if we would have been told computers, data, and technology would be scattered around every farm there may Read More
DronessenseFly Launches eBee X Drone, Breaks Through 1,000 ac…
September 5, 2018
senseFly today reportedly sets a new standard in mapping tools with the launch of the eBee X. Launched with the Read More
AmericasOn The Scene: 2018 Farm Progress Show Wrap Up
September 5, 2018
Former Monsanto President (now Bayer CropScience Chief Operating Office) Brett Begemann’s opening salvo during his first appearance at a Farm Read More
EventsAg Experts Discuss Big Data Challenges in Agriculture
September 5, 2018
Agricultural experts at a Houston conference praised the advancements in unmanned aerial vehicles, sensors, and data-collecting technology used in precision Read More