How Does Technology Fit in With Agronomy?
Agriculture today has been exploding with new advancements in technology, posing the future for a farm filled with data and information. Decoding and understanding this data through analysis and agronomics is key for success and finding the opportunities in the connected farm today. As technology continues to grow for agriculture, it is critical to understand how these pieces of the agronomic puzzle can grow knowledge and understanding of each acre in each field. Understanding how best to use technology paired with agronomy can ensure success in adopting these technologies on farm.
Imagery is a data layer that has been available for years now, but just recently has grown to higher resolutions and frequencies. Daily imagery at high resolutions can now be accessed quickly and affordably, through a variety of platform providers. Imagery is a tool that when first used to spot areas of fields each season could detect problems after they had occurred and to make corrective action following the season. Today, the frequency and affordability of imagery allows producers and agronomists to detect these problems or patterns in fields immediately and provide corrective action right away. Problems such as machinery patterns, weather event damage, pest pressures of insects, diseases, or weeds, and even plugged nozzles on irrigation systems can be provided in images to be scouted in the right spot and right away without the fear of not going to the correct spot right away. A variety of options for imagery — UAVs, manned aircraft, and satellites — are available today for producers.
A new buzzword in technology has been the use of sensors and technology connected through the Internet of Things (IoT). As new networks become available as well as private and public entities continue to develop new technology hardware and software options, sensors now and in the future provide constant feedback of agronomics in the field to be analyzed quickly and affordably. Sensors may include monitoring temperature of grain bins, field weather conditions, soil moisture, or even fertilizer tank levels. As these sensors continue to develop and grow, it is imperative to utilize agronomics and analysis to connect the information and readings these technologies give a producer to decisions that can be made on the farm, field, acre, and even plant level. Ensuring the readings are correct as well as that the sensors are set up correctly is critical to success in adoption.
Accessibility of Data
With the connectivity of information through the Internet and network capabilities, as well as the development of big data continually being fed through the farm, the earliest challenges to a technology connected farm were collecting and utilizing large forms of data and information. Getting prescriptions or information from the field at an as-applied level was difficult and often misplaced or lost through old computers or lost flash drives. Today, with information streaming direct from machinery and with the power of cloud computing, accessibility and security continue to increase on a data level. Being able to witness machinery from anywhere as well as run and work with equipment from a phone or computer has brought accessibility to a new level. Agronomics can now be analyzed during and at the end of season quicker and easier, to make decisions for the next season without the worry of losing information along the way. Technologies such as blockchain continue to gain attraction to ensuring accurate and secure data is brought back to the producer.
In regards to accessibility of data, the ability for producers and agronomists to aggregate and make decisions on data continues to grow with technology. Soil samples can be aggregated against soil types, yield data, weather, and crop information to make more informed decisions quicker and with more confidence. New software continues to develop with technology to bring in more information and insight to aggregate and create confident steps towards growing the operations efficiencies and goals for each cropping season.
Pricing and Transparency
A struggle at the beginning of technology advancements and introduction into agriculture has always been pricing. Early adopters can feel the burden of higher priced and ‘buggy’ technologies, while over time competition and understanding of developments drive prices lower. With a connected world with the Internet and information between producers all over the world, transparency of information and pricing has continued to rise. Agronomics of specific products or decisions can be shared and discussed, while pricing programs and companies continue to help producers understand their levels and the opportunity on the farm.
One of the largest factors for adoption of new technology and for advancing technology on the farm has been the ability to communicate rapidly, with anyone at anytime, anywhere in the world. Cell phones started the trend, while texting and email have grown to quick ways to get the next fertilizer delivery or deliver important data to an agronomist who needs to write up a recommendation or prescription. Being connected has allowed producers to find out more about marketing or fertilizer programs, while also being able to leave the farm and know it is in good hands when a vacation or event comes up. The other day I was with a producer who used a video chat application on his phone to diagnose a part number for a piece of equipment with his local equipment dealer, being able to show the part and location that was not working and then having it ready for the hired hand to pick up after lunch.
Technology can provide many benefits other than listed here, but it is critical that the technology be evaluated against the agronomic benefits on the farm to ensure decisions made are correct and made with confidence. As precision agriculture continues to grow in availability and adoption, producers today have many options to choose from. Choosing where the agronomics fit within your operation while weighing out the factors above will continue to help grow the information on the farm and give you opportunities to advance for seasons to come.