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Preparing your farm for agriculture technology

  • 2.5 min read

There are considerable benefits to using ag tech, but advantages come from asking questions, coming up with a plan for the farm and understanding how agricultural technology can empower a farm’s unique needs.

Technology is having a transformative effect on agriculture, helping farmers increase yields, reduce costs and increase overall capacity. And as society adapts to physical distancing and gathering in small groups as a means of fighting COVID-19, using technology to connect is even more common.

If there’s uncertainty about how to start, or what technology to try, there are ways to experiment and embrace technology for agriculture.

Chad Colby is an ag tech consultant and public speaker based in Illinois. Here are his tips on embracing technology to improve agricultural operations, large and small.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Understanding how technology can help an operation requires experimenting. And experiments mean failure.

Everyone must start somewhere. For example, Colby encourages farmers to upgrade their smartphones and tablets for optimal functionality, battery life, speed and application updates. Symbolically, keeping up with these small tools as they advance helps reinforce the need to keep up with the larger tools.

Similarly, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Understanding how technology can help an operation requires experimenting. And experiments mean failure.

“When you screw up, you learn,” Colby says.

Develop a technology plan

Every farm is different, and every farm has its own set of problems that technology might be able to help fix or improve. Colby encourages farmers to wonder where technology can make the biggest impact on the farm, citing it’s often the simple steps that can make the biggest difference.

For example, consider practical upgrades like extending Wifi access across the property so web cameras can be installed in barns and around the farm. Alternatively, if a farm struggles with time management, Colby notes there are lots of tools available to help better manage staff and tasks.

When it comes to more advanced agri-tech, Colby recommends farmers do their research, and find people who they can trust to ask for help and critical perspective. Try this technology blog at FutureofAg.com, or try an ag tech-specific forum at Reddit.

There are a growing range of tools and systems available, and manufacturers are increasingly responsive to the needs of farmers, which is why researching purchases is so important.

Drones are an easy tool to start with

As a licensed pilot, Colby already knows the value of a view from above and has been an avid drone enthusiast for over a decade. He runs a drone boot camp for farmers and argues that unmanned aerial vehicles are quickly becoming an essential tool for agriculture.

“A $2,500 drone can get you airborne in 30 seconds,” Colby says. “With features like auto take-off, auto-land, sonar and object avoidance, you can easily sit on your pickup truck, survey a 160-acre field in three or four minutes and produce high resolution imagery that can be analyzed and integrated with other systems.”

The more acres that a farmer works, the more value that can come from this modest investment.

Automation is essential when buying a tractor or combine

When Colby speaks to farmers, he’s generally disappointed at how few recognize the value of automation. They see automation as a $20,000 checkbox they can ignore, when instead, it offers them a tremendous opportunity to expand both their capacity and their yield.

Large equipment manufacturers like John Deer are taking automation to the next level by recording and storing field management data. FCC AgExpert and John Deere recently announced a partnership making it easier for AgExpert users to digitize farm data. The integration with My John Deere application allows premium users to import existing fields from My John Deere application to AgExpert Field. Planting, spraying, fertilizer and harvest activities along with associated application rates, will be mapped to field in AgExpert.

“You can’t afford to ignore automation,” Colby says. “Do farmers go to their seed dealer and ask to purchase seeds from five years ago? No. They expect to get the best and latest seeds. Why do farmers not do the same thing with their technology?”

Bottom line

There are considerable benefits to using ag tech, but advantages come from asking questions, coming up with a plan for the farm and understanding how agricultural technology can empower a farm’s unique needs.

Article by: Jesse Hirsh