Precision agriculture plays a major role in today’s farm and ranch operations – allowing producers to fine-tune their production practices, cut input costs and turn data into profitable decisions.
While tools like guidance systems, yield mapping and variable-rate applications have become mainstream in many operations, adoption rates of precision ag technology have varied among farmers and ranchers across the U.S.
“Out in ranch country, producers aren’t spending hours and hours in the tractor like they would in a row-crop operation, and they tend to hold onto equipment longer,” explains Will Yemington, a rancher and sales representative with Grossenburg Implement in Sundance, Wyoming.
“It wasn’t until around 2011 that we started to see more interest in precision technology,” he says. “At that time, many cattle operations were growing in our area and there was a push toward improving soil health through the use of cover crops and no-till practices.”
Regardless of location and operation type, the benefits of precision ag equipment impact farmers and ranchers in many of the same ways by enabling them to address labor challenges, improve efficiency and increase bottom line.
Addressing labor challenges
According to Yemington, labor challenges are one of the biggest drivers influencing the adoption of precision ag equipment in his territory.
“In the last three or four years we’ve seen more automation than before,” says Yemington. “Good help can be hard to find, and as much as ranchers may be set in their ways, we’ve all experienced the long hours that can lead to operator fatigue.”
“With automation, you can put just about anyone in the driver’s seat, and by cutting out overlap in the field, producers are saving as much as 30 to 40% on input overages,” he adds.
While price is a barrier many producers face when it comes to purchasing precision farming applications, Yemington says the ability to cut costs and improve efficiency is another factor helping producers become more open minded to tech investments.
“Efficiency is one of the most important considerations, a dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to, and producers are always pressed for time,” he says.
“Precision agriculture has helped expand the number of working hours in a day. With technology, you can do the same job at 11 p.m. that you were doing at 8 a.m. Thirty years ago, that wasn’t an option.”
Of course, precision agriculture has its own unique set of challenges and limitations. For example, instead of spotting problems that are purely mechanical, producers must also pay attention to computer system failures.
“There’s nothing more frustrating than encountering technology errors,” says Yemington. “That’s why as dealers, we work with our customers to help them understand the precision equipment their using and get it right the first time.”
When issues do arise, Yemington says tools like remote display access allow his team to troubleshoot at a distance.
“We service a wide area, so depending on the job we could spend a full day driving,” he says. “With remote display access we can guide customers and watch as they click through their screens, saving them the time and money it would cost to send a service truck out.”
Increasing bottom line
Today, Yemington says autosteer continues to be the number one precision ag technology being used in his area. In addition to reducing overlap and maximizing inputs, he says its versatility to perform different field operations, from tillage to haying, help make it a popular tool.
He says a shift between generations has also influenced the adoption of precision tools.
“As the younger generation has started to take the reins, we’ve seen producers become more accepting of the benefits precision agriculture has to offer,” says Yemington. “At the end of the day, technology can make their work easier, and by improving efficiency it also adds to their bottom line.”
“We want our customers to be successful. To do that, we help them select good options for their operation price wise and set them up with the financing they need to make their investment more affordable.”
Have questions about your next precision agriculture purchase? Start comparing your financing options by contacting your nearest AgDirect territory manager or the AgDirect financing team at 888-525-9805.