I recently attended the Farm Progress Tech Forum 2018, in Iowa City, Iowa. This event was designed to bring producers, academics and the industry to one location to share each other’s experiences. I think of this as a journey, because Digital Agriculture itself is a journey, not a defined destination. This journey will be different for everyone and everyone is at a different point in their journey. One of the speakers referenced building a Digital Ag Business plan and following the plan. I felt this was a good way to bring focus and direction. Once a Digital Ag Business plan has been designed producers can focus their efforts on researching the right products, the right companies and asking the right questions.
Talking with some of the producers, it seems like there is wide range in adoption of the different technologies and producers’ motivation in utilizing them. Most of them felt that Digital Ag helps them make better decisions, even if it’s hard to put a concrete value to the software and hardware investments.
Tracing ingredient’s origination and the degree of crop management is an area that has become increasingly popular for food companies. A few growers felt that soon they are going to be encouraged to provide traceability records to the end user of their crops. Digital Ag is providing a tool for many growers to track all the applications across their fields such as tillage, nutrient application, herbicide records (products, rates, dates) and seed information down to the acre (hybrid and rate).
As with any journey we take in life, there will be some challenges and obstacles that must be overcome along the way, but if we have a good Digital Ag Business Plan in place and keep an open mind, the end result will be worth the effort.
The Digital Journey
Grower Example 1: I do not currently utilize any form of digital/precision ag on my farm, but I’m interested in using auto guidance for my tillage and planting.
Questions to ask:
  • Does my current tractor have the ability to use GPS guidance (Yes or No)?
  • What products are available to upgrade to GPS guidance?
  • What degree of accuracy is needed (RTK)?
  • What are my long-term goals in this digital journey?
Grower Example 2: I currently use GPS guidance, but I’m interested in variable rate seeding.
Questions to ask:
  • Does my current planter have the ability to do variable rate seeding (VR-seeding)?
  • What products are available to upgrade my planter to VR-seeding?
  • What software programs are available to write a VR-seeding script?
  • How should I determine what management decisions are needed to change the VR-seeding scripts?
  • What are my long-term goals in this digital journey?
Grower Example 3: I have used GPS guidance, VR-seeding and VR-fertilizer. How can I determine if they’re working?
Questions to ask:
  • How can I validate the decisions I have made over the years with this information?
  • Am I currently uploading this information into a software program to analyze data?
  • Am I currently working with a Digital Ag Specialist to validate my information?

Share This Story

About the Author: Todd Steinacher

Steinacher is an ISA CCA Soy Envoy alum and currently supports ISA on agronomic content as well as serving as an Illinois CCA board member. He was recently awarded the 2020 IL CCA of the Year & the 2021 International CCA of the Year. He has over 15 years agronomic experience, currently working with AgriGold and GROWMARK previously. Steinacher has an associate degree from Lincoln Land Community College, a B.S. in agronomy and business from Western Illinois University and a master’s degree in crop science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.