Farmer Iron

Tech Talk Turns Up Plenty to Ponder

As you put the final touches on season 2010, what will you invest in for 2011?

Fieldwork across the United States is almost never done, depending on the weather so "wrapping up" a farm season may be a misnomer. As farmers in the Midwest work to bring in the last few acres of corn and soybeans (despite hurricane force winds this week), winter wheat growers are already putting in the crop for 2011. And the farther south you go the more work there is.

Time spent in Georgia last week, with growers who were working hard to finish the cotton and peanut harvest brings to mind the fact that there may be no other job as full-time as farming. One issue that's a constant across all types of farming these days is how you may be looking to deploy technology.

This week I was privileged to be part of a panel speaking to the American Society of Agricultural Consultants - an eclectic group of ag experts who came together in Bloomington, Minn. Our panel covered a lot of territory in two hours from new farm tech to key policy issues that will impact farmers in the future.

The tech review is always interesting to me. Tech trends are a passion for me, and watching the year we've had with tech adoption for 2010 leads me to believe you'll be considering plenty of investment this winter.

A couple of areas you'll want to take a closer look at this year will involve ways you handle data. First, telemetry will be a key word for many forward-thinking growers. The idea that equipment you run will be able to send and receive data from field to office seamlessly is now a reality. Several players are involved with this technology, from Trimble to Agco; from Deere to Raven.

I've talked about telemetry, or "networked farm," approaches in the past. As you wrap up the year and look at equipment/tech buying for 2011 (perhaps to take advantage of the expanded depreciation allowance for this year), consider the potential for investing in telemetry technology. From monitoring equipment performance to moving data quickly and easily to the office, the technology has key benefits.

The tools go by a lot of different names and each has different levels of capability, but during the next two to three years you'll see some significant enhancements too. For example, AgCommand from Agco allows you track exactly what a piece of equipment is doing at all times, including where it might be and how efficiently it might be working. You might estimate how much you're deploying that machine, but these tools can tell you exactly how much idle and active time a machine has.

During my visit to the Sunbelt Ag Expo last week, we got a look at the Greenseeker and how it can help cotton producers manage plant growth regulators - a key to producing a consistent cotton crop. With real-time measurement of plant vigor in the field, a farmer can variably apply a PGR for top results. It's a level of "live scouting" that was not available a decade ago.

Trimble owns the GreenSeeker, and the company also offers its Connected Farm technology that allows equipment to communicate data from office to field, or from field to office. Additional technologies like GreenSeeker that allow machinery to do in-field, real-time plant assessments during chemical application can enhance your input investment more fully.

So, as October winds down, and the 2010 harvest winds up, take stock of the tech you're using today. What can you do to enhance the existing tools you have? What can you add to make you or your hired labor more efficient? And how can you put that tech to use to make you more money? Starting that conversation with your tech and equipment partners soon, so you have time to invest for next season.

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