Precision Ag Survey and Manufacturer Views
“In the age of the internet, where product availability becomes less of an obstacle; the importance of a local service provider becomes more vital to a grower. As adoption of precision ag strengthens, the importance and need for quality local service and support becomes a key component to make any farm organization successful in a local geography. Farmers are used to purchasing products and services bundled together, that isn’t always possible with precision ag technologies,” said Gomes.
Some of this concern about how to charge for services could account for fewer retailers than anticipated offering the top of the line application service using variable rate mapping software, etc. Without GPS controller systems, variable rate fertilizer application isn’t happening.
Some ag retailers and farmers are concerned their system will rapidly go out of date. Ehn said that should not be an issue because the payback is proven to be one to three years for many farmers and can be the same for ag retailers who are compensated appropriately for their services. Choices for keeping pace are numerous as new equipment or updates are coming on the market almost monthly, which easily allows upgrading old equipment or updating with new equipment.
INSTALLING TOP OF THE LINE
The survey results indicate that when ag retailers do equip their applicators with precision systems, they are going for top-of-the-line systems. The retailer responses were almost half and half on whether at least some of their application equipment is set up with wireless data transfer directly from applicators to an office for recordkeeping and/or billing—48 percent yes and 52 percent no.
“Our customers are asking us more and more in that arena to help them better manage their data. They may go out and apply fertilizer to a customer’s field, and they want a better way to manage the data from that operation,” said Ryan Molitor, marketing supervisor for Raven Industries.
Connectivity for fleet management is a big reason that ag retailers should see value in precision ag technology, said Trimble’s Ehn. Providing wireless “remote assistance for managing their entire fleet of equipment” and even having long-distance resolution of equipment’s problems is efficiency improvement that pays for itself, he said.
Olson with Ag Leader said, “I see a tremendous opportunity for services to increase by the ag retailers. We are getting into some things that most farmers are not wanting to spend the time doing by themselves, and there is an opportunity for retailers to pick up the torch and provide services to help farmers maximize their opportunity to achieve greater yield and profit. I see an opportunity for that (ag retailer) side of the business to grow quite a bit.”