Precision agriculture has come to the forefront of production ag with technology being integrated into machinery and farm implements along with service offered to support field-level and site-specific management. As technology has evolved, connectivity and cloud technology have enhanced the access and portability of data. This access allows farmers to utilize data to create information and support decisions within their farm operations. Many farmers have turned to technology as a means to become more efficient, reduce workload, and to analyze production on a field-by-field basis.
Today, farmers must consider how they plan to handle and ultimately make use of data they are collecting. There are many types of data that have the potential to provide value to the farm operation. Primary field-level data include agronomic, machine, prescription, remote sensed imagery, and production data.
“With all the data being generated by machinery and technology today, in conjunction with precision agriculture services and digital tools offered by industry, it is important for farm operations to develop a digital strategy to ensure control of data and earn value from it,” said John Fulton, Associate Professor, Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering at The Ohio State University.
“We’ve talked during the last few years about having a digital strategy, and in that strategy is a plan to make sure you’re keeping aware of firmware upgrades, connection opportunities, what you are using and what you can use, but also having a budget for your technology,” said Fulton.
Budgeting for technology is very important, much like a fuel or seed budget. A technology budget ensures that farmers allocate the needed resources to maintain the digital enhancements they have already purchased and update those enhancements at a comfortable speed.
The other portions of the strategy, like connection opportunities or what will be available, might be outside of reach and is a perfect opportunity to engage other experts.
Fulton recommends meeting with technology service providers during the winter – and several meetings may be necessary – to be sure your farm and your technology is ready for spring planting.
“Farmers should have a document on their farm that outlines all the technologies being used. In a lot of cases, it is not just one company - or if it is one company, not everything is the same. But having a list of those technologies, understanding the age, what’s connected, and how it’s connected needs to be documented,” Fulton said.
This technology summary document, along with your digital strategy and budget, are the building blocks for meeting with your technology service providers.
For the late adopters of technologies, these meetings can be daunting, but are necessary. As an example, as 5G becomes available in many areas, some 3G technologies will no longer be supported - imagine finding out in April that planting technologies are not operational and require upgrades.
“You think about getting your planter and sprayer ready during the winter for when spring comes, but you have to be sure your precision planting technology is prepped and ready as well. Preparing for the next season includes technology,” said Fulton.