4 Steps to Get Started with Precision Ag

May 24, 2020

There are seemingly endless benefits to adopting precision ag equipment and technology on a farm. It can help save valuable time and inputs while increasing your Return On Investment (ROI) in overall efficiency and profit.

A study by Nesta, the innovation foundation, in 2015 found an almost 20% increase in income is possible from smart and precision agriculture technology.

But figuring out how to get started with precision ag and determining which technologies to adopt takes some evaluation.

Here are four steps to get started:

1. Identify Your Goals

Any investment you make, whether it’s a drill, some fertiliser, or a precision ag solution, needs to be purchased with the intention to achieve a specific goal.

Before buying, ask yourself: What problem will this help solve?

Some common issues farmers face, for which precision ag options can offer solutions are:

Problem: I’m tired from driving;  I’m running over crops during in-field operations
Solution: Guidance, steering and corrections services

Implementing guidance and steering solutions like Trimble’s Autopilot frees up farmers to focus on the operation taking place instead of driving, which not only reduces operator fatigue but allows farmers to catch and correct any errors immediately.

But even with auto steer, vehicles may not follow a guidance line perfectly. Snaking across the line as they move down the field, can lead to damaged crops during future passes. Correction services like RTX solve this problem by keeping the vehicle within 1.3cm of deviation on either side of the guidance line.

Problem: I don’t know where there could be improvements; I have data, but I don’t know how to interpret it
Solution: Yield monitors, software management

If you’re unsure what problems need solving or where you could make improvements, then data can help. Yield monitors are one of the best solutions for collecting data and helping evaluate what’s going on in your fields. The more data you have, the better informed your decisions will be.

But if you don’t know how to interpret it or what your next steps should be, software management can help make sense of the information and identify what problems need correcting.

Problem: My crops are inconsistent; I’m overapplying inputs
Solution: Variable-Rate Technology

If the goal is to have a uniform crop and to only apply inputs where they’re needed at the right amount, variable-rate technology can help. By utilising yield and soil maps to create prescriptions, variable-rate will allow you to apply different rates of seed, fertiliser, and other inputs to different areas of a field. Areas naturally high in nutrients, for example, may receive less fertiliser, while poorer areas may receive more.

2. Do Your Research

One way to ensure you’re making a smart purchase is to find reviews and testimonials of precision ag products from farmers with similar problems and goals.

While some solutions like guidance and steering will likely be a smart investment on most farms, the benefit of others may depend on your operation. For example, a mixed or arable farm may not see the same benefits of high accuracy corrections services as one growing high-value row crops like vegetables.

Consider the climate, crops, acreage and other key aspects of a reviewer’s farm to gather a fair assessment of whether the technology will have a similar impact on your farm.

3. Ensure Interoperability

Once you’ve decided on a precision ag technology, check its compatibility with your existing equipment. Otherwise, you may not reap the full benefits and may wind up with more problems than you started with.

Farm software should be able to automatically sync guidance lines, field names, boundaries, materials, implements, vehicles and operator information across all devices so that data is available everywhere at all times. Check to see if your equipment uses ISOBUS, as this is the industry standard that allows machines, implements and displays to ‘talk’ to each other, regardless of brand.

4. Get Support

You don’t have to venture into precision ag alone. Trimble’s representatives, including our premier Vantage network, can give guidance on what precision ag products will bring the most benefits, help you get set up and provide support when needed.

To get started with precision ag, find your nearest Trimble representative here.

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