3 Reasons to be More “Croptimistic” and Less Precision “Ag-gravated”
While chatting recently with a farmer in the midst of a harvest technology headache, he referenced one of the many quotable lines from the hit show ‘Ted Lasso’ to sum up the situation.
“Taking on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse, isn’t it? If you’re comfortable while doing it, you’re probably doing it wrong.”
The comment injected a little levity into an otherwise frustrating experience, but also underscored the growing pains that farmers are willing to work through with ag technology.
Precision farming is an increasingly uncomfortable challenge – and it’s supposed to be – if it’s done right. As one farmer told us earlier this year, “I don’t think I ever want precision ag to get easy for me because then I’ll feel I’m being complacent.”
Thinking about our conversations and coverage of progressive creators and adopters, complacency isn’t part of their precision plan. From using farm data to justify seeding grasses in some fields as more productive than raising 280-bushel corn to creating a robotic link in the regenerative supply chain or developing the first autonomous, multi-species rolling livestock circus on wheels.
If necessity is the mother of invention, then Mother Nature will always require farmers to be more inventive. With that, here are 3 reasons to be more “croptimistic” and less “ag-gravated” about capitalizing on current and future precision farming opportunities.
1. Diverse Data-based Decisions.
Iowa farmer Nathan Stein is leveraging aerial imagery for site-specific application of chemicals using a DJI Agras T30 model. His goal is to create prescriptions, and spot spray problematic weeds or apply in-crop nutrients in specific areas.
“If it’s 50% of the field, a sprayer makes sense, but when you get down to that 10-20% part of a field, I’m looking for a more efficient, economical option,” Stein says. “If it rains for two weeks and there’s no way to get a sprayer in the field, even if it takes several hours to get timely applications done with a 30-liter tank on a drone, it’s going to be better than doing nothing.”
Pick up more tips from Stein in an ongoing series of instructional videos on making the most of ag drone technology.
2. Help is on the Way…or Already Here.
The role of a trusted adviser is one of the most important for farmers today. The increasing complexity and capabilities of ag technology have created a niche market of specialists giving farmers more opportunities to assemble a team of trusted advisers to fulfill specific needs.
“When I started in 2003, there wasn’t another independent consultant in Saskatchewan. Now there’s probably 100 in this province, which is still a relatively small number,” says Cory Willness, CEO of Croptimistic Technology and CropPro Consulting, “As the cost of farming goes up, farmers are looking for people to help them make wise choices.”
One of the niches that could develop in the future is that of a Chief Technology Officer or someone who specializes in organizing, protecting and monetizing ag data on the farm.
Jeremy Wilson, an Illinois farmer and Executive Vice President for Ag Gateway, sees the farm CTO market gradually developing, with fee-for-service providers emerging to meet the needs of farmers ready to monetize years of solid data.
Eventually, he says the most skilled local CTOs could be absorbed into large farm operations, like how independent agronomists have been added to farm staffs.
Learn more about the evolving roles trusted advisors will play on your farm: Does Your Farm Need a CTO? Making Sense of the Dollars You Invest in Precision Ag Service
3. Sustainability through Automation and AI.
Connecting the dots between crop and consumer continues to gain momentum. As farmers look to capitalize on premium markets, precision tools are emerging to streamline the sustainable ag movement.
“I think regenerative ag, for it to scale, you need to have robotics involved,” says Clint Brauer, Kansas farmer and co-founder of Greenfield Robotics. “And for it to scale without chemicals, you absolutely have to keep the risk down.”
Rather than increase the volume and frequency of chemical applications to combat weed pressure, Brauer engineered a robotic solution to strategically maneuver fields and eliminate or dramatically reduce species before they become invasive.
For a fixed-rate annual contract, the company deploys and monitors a fleet of up to 10 ‘Weedbots’ that navigate in between rows, cutting weeds a quarter- to a half-inch in height and growing 1 to 2 inches from emerging crops.
Advance your understanding of how to integrate advanced autonomy and AI into your operation: Autonomy in Agriculture is more than Self-Driving Tractors Using Artificial Intelligence to Create Agronomic Plans
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