Farmers indicate that one of the barriers to entry into the precision agriculture world is simply learning to use the equipment and feeling confident troubleshooting when something goes wrong. Coincidentally, precision ag dealers also struggle with this, having a difficult time keeping employees trained and ready to help the farmers that call them when their system isn’t working as planned.
In a 2021 Precision Agriculture Dealership Survey, respondents listed “it is difficult to find employees who can deliver precision agricultural services” as one of the top three factors determining their success.
We could assume that, like the rest of the country, precision ag equipment dealers are struggling to find a workforce at all, much less a trained and qualified one. But this factor has been among the top three barriers for the last decade. What gives?
One struggle is that the technology changes so quickly that by the time employees are fully trained for even one specialty, some feature or aspect is updated, requiring additional training. We could guess that this same struggle applies to the farmer who purchased the equipment: he or she finally learns what works and then there is an update available.
Also at play is that the workload at the dealership limits opportunity for training and education. Especially during peak times – spring and fall – it’s difficult to dedicate time for technical training and, back to number one, the technology changes so rapidly that it’s easy to fall behind. Again, we can assume this applies to farmers who often have only themselves to get the spring and fall field work done and no time to dedicate to learning new equipment details.
Finally, sometimes leadership and the overall view of precision technology inhibits the employee’s investment in learning new features or specialties. Worth noting, 21st Century Equipment, a 16-store John Deere dealership with locations in Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming, undertook a successful employee training program in 2020, completing 1,276 John Deere University remote training modules just related to precision ag. The key is CEO Owen Palm’s and COO Keith Kreps’s strategy that “Today’s ‘Precision Agriculture’ is really just ‘Agriculture Today.’” They made the trainings mandatory because they understand that precision ag knowledge is just part of doing business.
Do farmers struggle with the mentality that precision ag is necessary in today’s agricultural industry? Maybe. Those early adopters are likely willing to take the time needed for technical training, but the middle majority probably struggles, and the late adopters are likely indifferent.
The fact of the matter according to CEO Palm is this: “Simply stated, the agricultural production of fuel, food and fiber by our customers must double in the next 30 years. The pace of change has never been so fast, nor will change ever be so slow again.”
If you aren’t already, it’s past time to allocate some of the resources to learn the technology or assign a family member who enjoys it more to learn as much as they can. Rely on your equipment experts, and when you find the person that can answer all your questions, don’t lose him (or her)!
Talk to the leadership at your dealership and explain why having their employees as a technology resource is important. Encourage the mentality that dealerships must provide the understanding that farmers might lack. And then be willing to pay for the expertise that you might not be interested in developing yourself.
Let’s eliminate this barrier to precision ag adoption.