Farming every acre more efficiently and crunching the numbers on precision ROI is a continuously critical task nowadays.
So, let’s step away from the spreadsheets for a minute and let our minds recalibrate – no unlock or update is required. While precision technology has proven it can add bushels to your bin and help trim input costs, it also plotted the course for a charitable cause and cleverly converted a marriage proposal.
The versatility of ag tech can create unique intersections in personal and professional payback.
Take Kenton, Ohio, farmer and precision ag specialist Austin Heil, who is as adept at conquering the compatibility challenge of installing modern ag technology on vintage equipment as he is at completing the Ironman 70.3 Ohio.
Last spring, Heil successfully retrofitted their 1982 12-row custom-built 5100 White planter and 1979 Ford TW25 tractor with a John Deere iTC receiver and Precision Planting Gen1 20/20 monitor.
“I built and refined a yield model last summer based off the planting data from the 20/20, and it projected a field average of 161 bushels per acre,” Heil says. “At harvest, I borrowed a yield monitor from our neighbor and the data ended up being 1 bushel off the model I created that summer, so that really gave us some satisfaction to build on.”
A sense of accomplishment is nothing new for the Precision Ag Reviews Ambassador. Heil was a competitive cyclist and triathlete, routinely putting 3,000-4,000 miles under his bike tires each year. After forming Homestead Precision Farming in 2014, he gradually shifted his investment of time and energy from one passion to another.
But in 2016, they overlapped when Heil got the wheels turning – literally and figuratively – on the Cursive Ohio charity bike ride. To realize his vision of mapping the original route to mimic the handwritten script of the word Ohio, Heil utilized the Garmin app on his smartphone to meticulously weave the course alongside corn and soybean fields.
A 2009 graduate of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Studies (CFAES), Heil took advantage of the GPS mapping technology to showcase his Buckeye pride. Riders can “dot the i” in Ohio, a nod to the crowd-pleasing Script Ohio tradition performed by the Ohio State marching band since 1936.
The initial event attracted a handful of riders, but has gained traction in recent years with 77 participants in 2021 and more than 100 riding in this year’s event on Sept. 3, according to Heil.
The mapped course features three variations, with a 17-mile version outlining the ‘O’ and ‘h’ then dotting the ‘i’. The 35-mile route follows all of ‘Ohio’ as does the 64-mile path, and then some, for ambitious riders like Heil.
But regardless of a rider’s chosen path, everyone is cycling for the same cause. For the last two years, Cursive Ohio has raised money for AgrAbility, an organization that provides resources and support for disabled farmers.
It’s not the only creative application of technology for a worthwhile cause. Lakner Farms in South Dakota invested in variable-rate seeding, variable-rate fertilizing and dual-hybrid planting technology - a $10,000-$12,000 expense for each system.
When CEO Jeff Lakner calculated the return on investment across the 160-acre quarter-section of his farm, he estimated variable-rate seeding saved $7-$8 per acre, variable-rate fertilizing saved $8-$12 per acre and the dual hybrid system saved $15 per acre.
But the technology also helped expand the family. Lakner’s son, Drew, collaborated with several precision ag software developers to write a seeding prescription for soybeans that doubled as a marriage proposal to his fiancé, Marisa.
The successful multi-hybrid mix spelled out ‘Marry Me’ in 80-foot-wide letters in the field, commemorated by a drone-captured image of the accepted proposal.
So, during your time in the combine cab this fall, take a few moments to think beyond the bottom line benefits of precision ag technology and reflect on opportunities to extend the value, on and off your farm.
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