Author Archives: Trimble Agriculture

  1. How Will Autonomy Change Farming?

    Since the tractor replaced the horse and buggy over a century ago, farming has continued moving towards full autonomy. The introduction of auto-steer was perhaps the most significant step in the process because it was the first to automate a task humans were doing.

    Now we’re starting to see manufacturers and companies introduce autonomous concept tractors and fully autonomous implements, removing humans almost completely from the field.

    With more and more machines replacing typical farming roles, it leads to the question: How will autonomy change farming?

     

    Next Solutions Similar to Autosteer

    While you may be picturing the future of farming as autonomous robots handling every field task while the farmer monitors them from the comfort of his home or office, that reality is still a long ways away. Instead, moving towards such a future will happen in small incremental steps over time, just as we’ve seen farming evolve to where we are today.

    The next solutions we’ll see brought to market will be similar to auto-steer and end-of-row turning like NextSwath and TrueSwath, such as speed control and pass plantings, which will optimize a pass as a farmer drives through the field.

    We’ll also start to see driverless tractors controlled by someone in another tractor to complete simple operational domain activities like tillage. In autonomy, the operational domain is defined by what the activity is and how close other objects are to the vehicle during the activity.

     

    How Autonomy in the Automotive and Arms Industries Impact Ag

    Agriculture, in general, tends to have a simpler operational domain than other industries using autonomous vehicles, because our operations are often taking place in empty fields. The automotive industry has a more complex operational domain because their autonomous vehicles are operating on busy streets and highways, where they’re encountering more vehicles and objects than you would see on a farm.

    While the agriculture and automotive industries are very different, ag should be able to benefit from the progress made in the automotive space. Because billions of dollars have been poured into research and development for autonomous vehicles, car manufacturers have seen significant cost improvements on their sensors and processing hardware. By leveraging this cost-effectiveness in a simpler operational domain, agriculture should be able to bring autonomous solutions to the market even faster.

    Trimble also has a connection to autonomous vehicles that will help bring autonomous solutions to agriculture, with several divisions working on autonomy, while our RTX division has RTX-certified solution for automotive that Cadillac has integrated into its cars. Our XYZ division has a simulation engine that allows us to test our autonomy algorithms prior to putting it on a vehicle, which allows us to run through test cycles much quicker.

    We also have our Applanix division, which was involved in the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Grand Challenge, an event designed to “accelerate the development of autonomous vehicle technologies that could be applied to military requirements.”

    The defense industry actually faces very similar challenges to those the ag industry faces with autonomy. Like agriculture, their vehicles aren’t typically operating on clearly defined roadways and sometimes there are challenges like dust that can make it difficult for vehicles to navigate their environment. The sensors and technology the military uses are far more robust and industrialized than those used in the automotive industry, which also makes them more suitable for agriculture.

    But one challenge unique to agriculture is that unlike the automotive and military industries, it’s not just about automating the vehicle. In farming, there’s a specific task being performed when a tractor or vehicle goes across the field. The vehicle is just horsepower. Which means in ag, the main focus needs to be on the implement, the actual job being performed.

     

    Trimble Acquisitions Support Future Autonomous Solutions

    That’s where we’re going to see the biggest improvements in ag in the next few years: making sure the task is being done correctly. While Trimble has been accurately navigating vehicles across the field for over 15 years, we’ve also made some recent acquisitions to help us get a better picture of the surroundings where a vehicle is operating, which will help us ensure an autonomous task is executed as accurately as possible.

    One of those is C3’s Soil Information Systems (SIS), which takes soil cores throughout a field to assess detailed soil properties and create a map of the different soil types at different levels. This can then be used to build a bigger picture of why a field behaves a particular way, which will then allow an implement to automatically adjust based on soil types conditions.

    With the acquisition of Müller-Elektronik, world-renowned for its implement control mechanisms, Trimble can not only control implements better but get more information from the implement as to how it’s behaving — all of which will ensure the job quality remains at a high standard, whether there’s a human in the cab or it’s an autonomous solution in the future.

     

    How Autonomy Will Impact Farmers and the Industry as Whole

    While autonomy means we’ll start seeing fewer people physically on machines in the field, it doesn’t mean there were will be fewer people working the operation, or that farmers will be any less involved in their farms.

    Instead, we’ll see a shift in the role of farming.

    For example, many farmers today spend a lot of time interacting with just the equipment they’re driving through a field. We’ll start seeing one farmer “shepherding” two to three vehicles, while someone else will be in charge of refilling the vehicles with fuel and any inputs.

    It’ll allow farmers to focus on the aspects of their operation outside of just getting the job done.

    The dairy industry is a direct parallel of what we’ll see in row-crop farms. When autonomous milking was adopted by small family farms, dairy farmers went from having to go out at 4 a.m. to milk the cows to being able to spend more time on the welfare of their animals and the business side of their operations, as well as giving them a greater work-life balance.

    The benefits of autonomous solutions will also start out similarly to what we currently see with those already on the market, such as auto-steer, which not only helped reduce operator stress and fatigue but has allowed farmers to perform the job better for longer periods of time, which has resulted in higher productivity. New solutions will mostly impact labor costs, which includes not only the cost of an employee but the secondary cost of having to find the right people to do the job. While it may not be measured on a balance sheet, it takes time and resources to look for and hire the right people. With autonomous vehicles, farmers will save the money they would’ve paid for labor while also avoiding the headaches involved in hiring, as well as regulations related to labor.

    The cost and availability of labor is a major driving force for autonomous solutions in Europe, especially in organic operations, where tasks like removing weeds require more intensive, manual labor. European farmers are not only challenged with finding people willing to do the jobs, but also the high wages they have to pay them, which ultimately results in higher food prices. With autonomous solutions, this will not only help the farmers’ bottom lines but the consumers’ pocketbooks as well.

    It can also help reduce waste on produce farms. Today, when a field of lettuce or brassicas is harvested, the combine will harvest the entire crop, regardless of whether the plant is ripe and healthy. Then the crop is sorted and those not fit for market are tossed. With autonomous solutions, there’s the potential to have a harvester run multiple times, only selecting the plants that are ripe and ready, because of the lower cost associated with that process. This not only reduces food waste but could help reduce inputs as well.

    Labor is also a challenge in Australia, where the sheer size of the farms makes it impractical for hosting seasonal workers. Whereas in Japan, the average farm size is just a few acres, but with an aging farmer population, autonomous solutions will likely be necessary to accommodate a shortage of labor.

     

    Autonomy and Small Farms

    While immediate autonomous solutions will be best fitted for larger, enterprise operations, eventually we may see it evolving to better fit smaller farms.

    For decades machinery has only gotten bigger and bigger so that a farmer could cover more acres in less time. But with autonomy, instead of having said, one 40-foot sprayer, you could have two 20-foot sprayers or four 10-foot sprayers, and by being able to control them all you’re still getting the same amount of work done in less time.

    The benefit of moving toward smaller autonomous equipment is three-fold. One is that if you only have one piece of equipment like a sprayer go down, you can’t get any work done until it’s up and running again. With multiple smaller sprayers, you’ll be able to continue working and get at least half of the job done in the same time.

    The other benefit is that smaller machines are lighter, which is better for the soil in terms of compaction and should hopefully increase yields.

    Finally, smaller machines are more affordable than bigger ones. So small farms that can’t afford and have no need for a 40-foot sprayer, may be able to benefit from an autonomous 10-foot sprayer.

    But the move toward smaller autonomous equipment is not something that’s going to happen in the immediate future. Part of this is because by making current sized equipment autonomous, weight reduction is already reduced. A lot of the weight on tractors today is for the comfort of the operator. By removing the need for suspension and other features that benefit the driver, you already reduce weight and therefore the amount of soil compaction created.

    Going to smaller vehicles will also require a complete change in the way farming happens today. You can’t go from a 200 horsepower tractor down to 100 horsepower and expect to half your productivity, because it doesn’t scale that way. So while autonomy makes it possible for having multiple, smaller pieces of equipment, there’s going to be a lag between when those machines are actually going to be manufactured, because the market for them is much smaller. As discussed in a previous blog post, there’s a global trend that farms are getting bigger in size.

     

    How Farmers Can Prepare for Future Autonomy

    With these autonomous solutions on the horizon, what can farmers do to prepare for the future?

    The good news is that in terms of infrastructure, there’s nothing specific that needs to be created. In the short-term, autonomous machines will be integrated into existing workflows so the hardware and processes farmers have will remain the same. And since Trimble has always been brand agnostic and will continue to be going forward, any farmer will be able to use our autonomous solutions, regardless of their choice in equipment manufacturer.

    Instead, the primary focus will be on “smart” implements. For example, it’ll be important for a seeder to have blockage and seed population sensors. Tractors, on the other hand, are relatively easy to change.

    Also, growers should survey their fields and physical surroundings, so that any obstacles an autonomous vehicle might encounter are either removed prior to it entering a field, or at least mapped out so the machine is aware it’s there.

    It’ll be important to keep in mind that, in the beginning, these solutions won’t be perfect. They’ll improve and get better as time goes on.

    It may be best to think of these technologies like teaching a son or daughter how to farm, by starting with the simplest tasks available. Just as you would have a young upcoming farmer handle tilling inside the field on straight guidance lines while you tackle the headlands and the circuits, that would also be a natural task to set an autonomous tractor onto.

    There will be a level of technical skills required that farmers haven’t needed previously, but it’s not something they should be worried about. Farmers won’t have to become fully technical savvy engineers. Instead, the innate technical knowledge growers will need in the future will already be present in younger generations as they grow up.

    That’s because of how children today interact with technology. There are 10-year-olds that are being taught programming in schools, something that would’ve been a university-level subject 15 years ago. Those children will have the same technological experience and knowledge that a high-level engineer 15 years ago would have had. There is already inherent technical knowledge within the next generation.

     

     

  2. Automated End-of-Row Turns a Must for Large Potato Contractor

    Ben Clappison farms over 4000 acres of potatoes on a contract basis in the United Kingdom. With the cost of planting, growing and harvesting speed potatoes averaging about £2000/acre, it is crucial for his beds to be planted as accurately as possible.  If they’re too wide, he’s wasting soil and if they’re too narrow he won’t maximize his yield potential.

    Achieve Precision-Level Accuracy by Upgrading an Older Machine

    potato farmer - gfx740

    In 2018, Ben decided to invest in a tractor for his cultivating and potato bed forming operations. After evaluating both new and older tractor options and finding the cost of a new, guidance-equipped tractor to be prohibitively expensive, he decided to purchase a 2010 Case 485 STX Quadtrac that he could then outfit with new guidance technology.

    nextswath - potato land forming

    Much of the bed forming work that Ben does requires the ability to cultivate down to 2ft/60cm deep. At this depth, the implement width is relatively narrow and as a result, many turns are made in the field. With these challenges in mind, he tried NextSwath to give him the control and ability to make very tight turns that could never be made effectively if done manually. After a successful trial, he was happy with the results and ultimately chose the GFX-750 display system to achieve the level of accuracy he needed in his operation.

    How Trimble® NextSwath™ Works

    Newtswath headland
    Disclaimer: Screenshot from Beta version of product taken during an in-field test and not currently available in market.

     

    When approaching the end of a crop row, the NextSwath technology will automatically calculate and execute the best possible path to turn around the vehicle and approach the next crop row or swath. Users working with a towed implement can also enable the option to optimize the turn for the implement position. By automating the turning process, the NextSwath solution can:

    • Dramatically improve the operator’s performance
    • Eliminate towed implement undershooting or overshooting
    • Minimize skips and overlaps when lining up for the next row.

    This improved turning efficiency and repeatability can increase yield while also saving time and fuel costs, and preventing crop damage.

    Reliable Accuracy at All-Hours

    In early Spring, Ben can expect to work 110-120 hours per week with the end of his days regularly going until midnight and the early hours. NextSwath offers the ability for him to just keep going when he needs to with confidence to know that he can work tight to the hedge and field boundaries.

    “It’s so consistent at the ends with the turns. It’s beyond belief, the best GPS system I’ve used and it’s just so consistent on your headland…it’s just so easy to use as well, and far easier to set up than the Deere system” – Ben

    Prior to using the GFX-750 display system with CenterPoint RTX, Ben relied on RTK working on a mix of fixed and mobile bases.

    “I’m so impressed with RTX, it’s just as good as RTK I find. Not having to set up mobile-bases and changing between fixed base stations saves time. The GFX converges on the way to the field in less than two minutes. If I leave the field overnight the line is exactly where I left it the day after.” – Clappison

    Learn More About the GFX-750 display system

    Whether you’re thinking about upgrading an older tractor or taking your operation to the next level, learn more about GFX-750 display system.

  3. Enhance the Performance of Older Vehicles With Precision Ag

    There comes a time in every machine’s life when, as reliable as it may be, it is not meeting all of the needs of a farm. Perhaps responsibilities need to change hands or profit margins need to be improved due to market pressure—whatever the reason, a farmer is faced with a decision. Should they retire their old tractor for a new one or enhance their existing machine’s performance by upgrading it with precision ag technology?

     

    While deciding on the right precision agriculture solution can feel overwhelming at first, most farmers find that they achieve a better return by investing in new technology than they would have by investing in a new machine.

     

    Potato beds with precision ag


    5 Reasons Upgrading an Old Machine Pays Off

    Every farmer has unique priorities for their farm but there are five common reasons that cause many to consider upgrading their machines with a precision ag.

    1 – Minimize waste

    By utilizing GPS technology in automated steering, farmers are able to reduce overlap in their fields by improving accuracy in their rows.

    2 – Improve efficiency

    With the manual intervention of a human driver taken out of the equation, operations are sped up allowing more work in less time.

    3 – Increase productivity

    When they can rely on automated steering, operators are freed up to multitask in the cab and less likely to experience fatigue.

    4 – Achieve desired visual impact

    There are few things that make a farmer prouder than straight rows in their fields, guidance technology ensures that the visual impact will be achieved

    5 – Empower less-skilled operators

    Whether it’s a younger member of the family or a less experienced employee, operators can easily be empowered by guidance technology to successfully perform the most precise of tasks.

    Precision Potato Bed Forming Spans Generations
    Grandfather passes on potato bed-forming operations to grandson

    Digbys, Grandson and Grandfather Precision Ag
    Grandson, Sam 21 with Grandfather, Digby 75

    For 39 years, Digby Russell has been bed forming his 250 acres worth of seed potato on the family’s 1000 acre farm in the Midlands of the United Kingdom. Forming potato beds is a tough job, requiring a high level of accuracy which Digby has been able to achieve with years of driving experience and acquired skill. While the family had been able to rely on his bed-forming expertise in the past, other challenges began to put financial pressure on the Russell farm. Increased seed prices, increased land rent prices and an increase in spray passes meant there was no longer any margin for human error.

    Potato bedforming precision ag

    The Russells not only grow main-crop potatoes but also grow potatoes for seed. Seed potatoes are worth almost three times the value of main-crop potatoes but due to changes in the economy both are at about half their value in the market this year.

    Between the higher cost of growing potatoes and the drop in market value, any error in accuracy would be detrimental to profits. Beds that are too narrow result in potatoes growing out of the beds and they will turn green and be unsaleable. Meanwhile, beds that are too wide wastes land that is expensive to rent and so, the family could no longer afford to take a chance on any inaccuracies with manual driving.

    That is when a 39-year-old practice of manually steering to create potato ridges was handed over from grandfather, Digby to grandson, Sam. After installing EZ-Pilot Pro with the GFX-750 display system, Sam was able to step into his grandfather’s shoes with the help of automated steering. Their 2012-built tractor was upgraded with the newest aftermarket guidance technology which even allows for Sam to drive in reverse when needed.

    Autopilot installed for potato bedforming

    “EZ-Pilot Pro is ideal for us as I’m able to reverse into corners, which is critical for getting straight potato beds for our high-value seed crop,” – Sam Russell

    Using a combination of the GFX-750 display system with NAV-900 guidance controller and CenterPoint RTX Fast corrections, Sam can trust that his rows will always be accurate and Digby can trust that his family farm is in the competent hands of his grandson.

    “RTX Fast works really well. We roll out to 50 miles from the farm so a single base station was not an option. I’ve used a CFX-750 in the past but the GFX-750 is in a different league. At times, I can see up to 27 satellites at once.” – Sam Russell

    There are many reasons to consider upgrading your old machine with precision agriculture instead of replacing it with a new machine. While a shiny new tractor is an attractive sight to imagine in your field, ultimately the accuracy of the job is the most important aspect for your farm. Guidance technology not only extends the life of a trusted machine by improving its output but it can also enable you to empower a younger family member or newer operator to perform high-accuracy tasks, which does more than solve a problem—it prepares your farm for the future.

  4. State of the Industry: Adoption of Precision Ag Grows as Farm Sizes Grow

    Since the first auto-steer tractor was introduced in the 1990s, precision agriculture has only gained traction amongst farmers for its cost and time savings benefits — and it’s a trend that’s not likely to slow down anytime soon.

    Farms are generally growing in size across the globe. In the U.S., the percent of cropland on farms with at least 2,000 acres was more than double the percent in 1987, from 15% to 36%, according to a 2018 USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) report. And both the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and the European Environment Agency are reporting a trend of increasing farm sizes while the number of farms decreases, on both continents.


    The trend for larger farms is thanks in part to precision technology. The ERS report says that technologies like GPS guidance systems, yield, and soil mapping, and variable-rate technology (VRT) “appear to have spurred further increases in farm size,” as they allow farmers to manage more land.

    And as farms continue to grow, so will their use of precision ag. A 2016 ERS report found that larger farms are more likely to adopt these technologies, with some of the highest adoption rates being on farms with more than 3,800 acres. In the paper, “Adoption of Precision Agriculture Technologies in Developed and Developing Countries,” the authors say that “farm size is one of the most crucial factors affecting the precision ag technologies,” and specifically points out that the large farm sizes in the U.S., Australia, and Canada, make the farmers in these countries “more willing and able to adopt new technologies.”

    This growth in both farm size and the use of technology will require farms to be more connected and integrated than ever before. Both people and machines will need to be able to communicate with one another effectively so that operations and information on the farm can both run and be shared as seamlessly as possible.

    But in order to get where we’re going, we have to understand where we are now, and what challenges are preventing farmers from getting the highest return on investment with their precision technologies.

     

    Adoption Pace of Precision Ag Picks Up

    More farms than ever are using precision ag technologies.

    In the U.S. in the early 2000s, the adoption rate for precision ag was only up to 22% across major field crops, according to the 2016 ERS report. But by 2010, use of most precision ag had increased.

    Data collection was one of the top technologies for growers to adopt. The report found that in 2010:

    • Yield monitors that produce data for GPS-based mapping are used on about 50% of all corn and soybean farms.
    • Yield mapping on corn and soybean crops grew from less than 10% in 2001-02 to 30% or higher in 2010-12.
    • About 25% of corn and soybean farms utilize GPS-based yield mapping.
    • More than 20% of corn, soybeans and rice farms are using VRT.

    Guidance systems and auto-steer are also on the rise — as of 2013, guidance was used on 45-50% of corn, rice, soybeans, peanuts and spring wheat acres.

    The report’s findings also showed the larger the farm, the higher the adoption rate. In 2010,

    the highest adoption rates were on farms with more than 3,800 acres, with:

    • 80% using GPS-based soil or yield mapping
    • 84% using guidance systems
    • 40% using VRT

    The report also notes that VRT adoption is more prevalent on farms with more than 1,700 acres than those with less acreage.

    Western Canada has also seen a strong adoption rate of precision ag technologies. A producer survey conducted by Dale Steele for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in early 2017 found that of the 261 respondents:

    • 98% used GPS guidance, with 79% using GPS auto-steer guidance
    • 84% had combine yield monitoring capabilities
    • 81% managed their own farm data
    • 48% were using prescription maps and/or VRT
    • 75% intended to use more precision ag in the future

    It’s worth noting that the average farm sizes in Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan all grew between 2011 and 2016. According to Canada’s 2016 Census of Agriculture, Manitoba had an average farm size of 1,193 acres, Alberta’s average was 1,237 acres, and Saskatchewan had the highest average of 1,784 acres.

    Australia has also seen a high adoption rate of auto-steer and guidance, with 90% of grain farms utilizing the technology in 2016, according to the paper “Prospects for yield improvement in the Australian wheat industry: a perspective.”

    Adoption of precision ag hasn’t been as fast in all regions, however. According to a 2016 study by the European Parliament, it was estimated that only 25% of EU farms use technologies that include precision ag.

    But even though the adoption rate is lower, it is growing. A Farm Practices Survey completed in autumn 2012 in England found that since 2009, adoption of:

    • GPS grew from 14% to 22%
    • Soil mapping increased from 14% to 20%
    • VRT rose 3 percentage points to 16%
    • Yield mapping grew 4 points to 11%

    Certain precision ag technologies, such as drones, have also seen a slower adoption rate. Anne Effland, senior economist for the USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist, says this likely due to the cost and learning curve involved in utilizing the technology most effectively.

    A survey conducted by Munich Reinsurance America Inc. in 2018 found that while 74% of the 269 farmers who participated in the survey are currently using or considering adopting drones, 76% have concerns with using them. The top concern was privacy issues, along with data security and potential damage or injury caused by the drone.

    The survey of Western Canadian producers also found that only 19% looked at in-season crop imagery captured by drones, but notes that the use of them in ag had grown quickly over the previous 3 years.

    But of the farmers that are utilizing drones, whether on their own or through an outside company, 83% use them either daily or at least once a week. Crop monitoring is the top reason farmers are already using or are considering using drones, followed by soil and field analysis and health assessment of crops and livestock.

    While farmers continue adopting existing technologies, there are new technologies trending on the manufacturing side of agriculture, primarily autonomous vehicles. Several equipment manufacturers have introduced their own autonomous tractor prototypes and implements. It may not be long before these vehicles and robots make their way into the marketplace.

    Data, Machine Compatibility Create Challenges

    When looking at the financial benefits, it’s not surprising to see why adoption of precision technologies has increased. The 2016 ERS report found that corn farmers experience an estimated cost savings of:

    • 4.5% with yield maps
    • 2.7% with guidance systems
    • 3.7-3.9% with variable-rate technology

    The 2012 Farm Practices Survey found that 63% of English farmers use precision ag to reduce input costs, while in the Adana province of Turkey, 80% of farmers using auto guidance have experienced time and fuel savings, nearly 51% saw labor savings, about 18% saved on ag inputs and 14.5% saw yields increase, according to the paper “Farmers’ Experiences with GNSS-Based Tractor Auto Guidance in Adana Province of Turkey.”

    But the benefits go beyond the farmer’s bottom line. One of the most common comments by farmers who use auto-steer systems is less fatigue compared to when they used to drive their tractors and combines manually. This not only improves their quality of work life but allows them to better concentrate on the tasks being performed by the machinery they’re running, and ensure everything is working properly.

    Despite the numerous advantages of implementing precision technology, it doesn’t come without its challenges.

    One of which is taking the farmer’s data and boiling it down into useful information. This means the farmer will either need to find the time themselves to go through the data or hire someone to do it for them. And whoever does go through the information needs to understand what the data is telling them. This means being able to follow the trendlines and identifying outliers, then determining what caused those outliers.

    Understanding data is not the only challenge. Problems can also pop up in sharing data, especially if there are different systems involved.

    For example, Lee Swinson, a peanut farmer in North Carolina, says that to share his sprayer records from one system to another, he has to convert the data on one display before loading it on the other. With peanuts being his most spray-intensive crop — requiring multiple sprayer passes throughout the season — not only does this process eat up valuable time, it also increases the likelihood for human error.

    This is typically more of an issue on farms with mixed fleets, where every piece of equipment may be running its own proprietary technology that isn’t compatible with other brands. This can not only be an issue in sharing data but in having the equipment communicate with one another, especially with variable-rate application tasks such as sidedressing or planting.

    If data storage and sharing relies on the use of thumbdrives, there is always the risk of the operator losing or misplacing the thumbdrive, and subsequently, the data.

    The challenges associated with sharing data also increase the odds for inconsistencies. If the data can’t be shared easily or there was a mistake made, operators may end up using the wrong guidance lines or prescriptions, or may not even be in the right field if that field is named inconsistently throughout a farm’s records.

    This can not only lead to lost time and resources, in some situations it can result in serious damage or liabilities, such as applying a pesticide product to the wrong field.

    Sometimes these mistakes are not the fault of the data but due to human error, whether it’s because of miscommunication, an oversight or even a language barrier if an employee is not fluent in the same language as their manager.

    Data syncing problems can also occur. What shows up on the office computer may be outdated than the information displayed on the tractor display and vise versa. This may be a bigger issue for farmers who lack access to reliable cellular service or broadband internet.

    According to the FCC’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report, 39% of rural Americans lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps internet speeds, the minimum download and uploading processing times the FCC considers to be broadband. In fact, 20% in rural America lack access to even 4 Mbps/1Mbps internet service.

    Selection for Future Success

    While some of these challenges may be out of a farmer’s hands, one thing they can do to help them stay up-to-date with technology is be strategic about the brands they purchase, and ultimately, commit to one.

    Although ISOBUS is making it possible for mixed fleets to communicate with each other, deciding on one brand or company ensures they have something they can add capacity to over time, and integrate into without antiquating what they already have. No company will have a completely built-out system at once — it will build out over time.

    Which is why farmers should feel confident that the company they choose is an integrator of technology who will find ways of adding new capabilities to the products that already exist on their farm. The key is to set themselves and their equipment up to continue evolving with new technology.