Precision Ag Survey and Manufacturer Views
In the question asking ag retailers “what percentage of your trade-area farmers will use variable rate planting in 2013,” it was 23 percent saying no one and 20 percent saying less than 10 percent of their farmers. The next highest guess of 13 percent was for between 21 to 30 percent of their trade area farmers planting with variable rate in 2013.
In projecting what percentage of farmers will be variable rate planting in five years, the responding retailers had guesses widely spread from zero to more than 70 percent (See chart C).
This planter technology increase seems to indicate that more farmers are willing to step up and figure out how to use precision ag technology and invest faster than some retailers because they have been educated on the return. That education is most likely coming from the seed companies that have shown in many cases how higher seeding rates are appropriate for a lot of fields.
The crop protection/pesticide manufacturers and fertilizer companies might not have aggressively promoted precision application. The claim can be made that precision, as promoted by the precision technology manufacturers, usually means less product application and lower input costs for farmers.
The precision ag manufacturers are trying their best to make it easy for farmers, or anyone’s hired labor to operate the technology. It is a similar goal for all the manufacturers, according to their spokesmen.
“Some growers say they understand the principles of precision ag, but also say, ‘It is so complicated to enact that I’m not going to ever be able to utilize it to its fullest potential to get return on investment.’ So, when we are in the design phase of our products, we really try to stress simplicity. We know that our customers need to be able to use the technology to its fullest,” said Raven’s Molitor.
CHANGE IS OCCURRING
No matter what phase of adoption agriculture is at, in a region of the country or use on various crops, change will proceed. It just takes some people longer to accept change. They learned their farming from the previous generation and experience, not from a book, so adopting precision ag is a disruptive action, noted Gomes.
Olson said, “Change takes time. A lot of guys aren’t ready to make a huge financial investment all at once; they’ll do it in pieces. And also, there is a learning curve. They adopt a couple pieces of equipment each year and get familiar with it and figure out using it, but also they have to figure out how it is going to affect their total operation and management plans.”