Precision Ag Survey and Manufacturer Views
NOT ALL SEE THE OPPORTUNITY
Whether the ag retailers who replied to the AgProfessional survey see all of the opportunity is questionable considering that 23 percent said they won’t be custom applying fertilizer and another 18 percent won’t be using variable rate mapping software to apply fertilizer at the end of five years (2018) (See Chart B).
Currently, only a third of ag retailers who responded offer precision analysis services for their growers, and nearly another third rely on recommendations provided by farmers who got the recommendations from their own sources, such as seed company programs or an independent precision service provider. About 20 percent of the retailers reported they work with a third-party vendor/service provider themselves and serve as the middle man for providing precision recommendations to the farmers. The remaining 15 percent are lost on what to do or don’t see a need to be involved in any type of precision agriculture technology.
So, looking at the overall attitude of ag retailers responding to the survey, 77 percent aren’t worried about lost potential future income by letting someone else do precision data analysis (seed company, third-party service provider, etc.).
BIGGER COMPANIES SEE VALUE
In looking at those who responded, 35 percent of the survey respondents have total crop input sales of more than $7 million, and 20 percent classify themselves as a national retailer facility. It is logical to think that these larger operations are the ones reporting at least some concern about earning income from data analysis for their customers.
“Looking at the top five or six ag retailers in the U.S., each one of them has some aspect or some offering of a precision agriculture program that is branded,” said Topcon’s Gomes. These companies are seeing the value to assist the farmer from top to bottom in precision agriculture because they don’t want to be “contractors for single hit services”—being the hired applicator, Gomes noted.
FARMERS ARE WILLING
Top to bottom services also can mean helping the farmer with operations that the farmer does on his own such as variable rate planting. More ag retailers claim to be stepping up to the plate to help their customers with variable rate planting recommendations. In this situation, the retailer doesn’t have to invest in all the hardware and implement technology; the farmer has to equip the planter and tractor. Forty-nine percent of retailers reported they are helping customers with “providing variable rate planting recommendations,” and 51 percent said they aren’t.