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Overcoming Intimidation when it comes to Precision Ag

Case Studies from the Precision Agriculture Conference

By Denise Faguy, Farms.com

Huron Tractor partnered with Veritas because they could see that farmers had invested in topline equipment, but they were not getting the full potential of out the equipment they had.  Huron Tractor felt they could help to bridge that gap.  Together, Huron Tractor and Veritas aspire to help growers identify opportunities and help them take advantage of these opportunities.

Why are some farmers so resistant to Implementing Precision Agriculture Techniques?  Rob Boyes from Huron Tractor and Aaron Breimer from Veritas say most farmers likely feel intimidated by the data and simply don’t know where to begin.  It is the fear of the unknown, they underscore that in the past there may have been poor support for farmers trying to utilize all of their technology to properly evaluate their farm data. 

People at the bleeding edge may not be intimidated, but early adopters are more cautious.  They may acknowledge there could be benefits to precision agriculture, but want to ensure that they understand it, can take advantage of it, and can truly make implementation worthwhile.

Veritas advises there are three key pillars to successful precision agriculture implementation:

  • Innovate – to be able to innovate farmers need to understand and identify opportunities
  • Implement with ease – if it’s too complicated it won’t work, changes need to be relatively easy to implement.  One of our clients stated implementation was easy “He was basically the ‘operator present ‘seat switch.”  If it is not easy to use, or they do not understand, Veritas says farmers turn off the equipment/data/monitor.
  • Measure – farmers have to be able to measure that the changes have had a positive economic impact on their farm.

The technology itself can be intimidating says Boyes.  “Some farmers believe that #9 wire and black electrical tape, or for more modern farmers, two zip ties, can fix anything.  But with today’s technology, none of that helps and that can be intimidating.”  Veritas suggests farmers begin by collecting good data from all of the various sources they may have into one package, analyzing the data, and uploading it to their system. 

He says farmers should not hesitate to reach out to the support desk from their equipment manufacturer or to their dealership to help utilize the equipment properly.  Huron Tractor says that nowadays they can remote access into a farmer’s tractor to see the farmer’s monitor while they are in the field, and help them to understand what is on the screen.  “Get cheat sheets from your equipment provider or create one that is specific to your needs,” he advises.

When measuring and evaluating data year of year – comparing previous yield results to post precision agriculture implementation results, he says to be sure to measure properly.  According to Breimer, it’s difficult to compare from year to year because of changes in weather and growing conditions.  Some farmers implement changes to one strip of a field and not to the other and then compare, but unless you are sure both strips are in similar zones the comparison may not be accurate, so farmers really need to know all of their data to make a careful and honest evaluation of whether or not the changes they have made have had an impact on their bottom line.

Breimer makes the following conservative estimates on the improvements farmers should see if they implement precision agriculture:

  • $18/acre net return after input for corn
  • $28/acres net return after input for soybean
  • $50/acre net return after input on edible beans

“Their final words of advice.  You can’t know everything.  Work with a team of experts that you are comfortable with and can trust.”

Rob Boyes, Huron Tractor, and Aaron Breimer, Veritas, were speakers at the 2015 Farms.com Precision Agriculture Conference: http://www.farms.com/precision-agriculture/conference-2015/.


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