Farming has become more complicated today than ever before. Farms are larger. Growers need to conserve soil and water. Different generations have different priorities. And to top it all off, there are more options for everything, from seed to tractors to irrigation machines. How do you deal with it all?
Valley® Irrigation is addressing these challenges by developing new technologies that will make farming easier for everyone involved. “Everything we do in research and development is geared toward trying to make life easier for growers by letting them manage their farms through simpler and more effective means,” says Jake LaRue, Valley director of research and development. “Today’s growers have to be efficient and fast. If something isn’t easy to use, they’re probably not going to use it. They have plenty to think about.” While it’s second nature for Millennials and Gen Xer’s to use the latest technology as part of their everyday lives and their farming operations, a large number of Baby Boomers have been early adopters as well.
Technology is not just for Millennials.
LaRue, who has been working in the irrigation industry since the 1970s, says he is sometimes surprised at the number of people who are comfortable with technology and the regularity with which they use it. “I was recently presenting at a conference, and I noticed that a large number of older gentlemen were using tablets,” he says. “I’d be explaining something, and they would be looking it up on their iPads, checking out demos. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising. You have to adapt to succeed, or at least have someone working for you who can use the latest technology effectively.”
That’s especially true in regard to precision farming and sustainability. The word sustainability wasn’t even part of farming vernacular back in the 1970s. Today it’s an everyday consideration, and people are highly motivated to farm responsibly.
“Fortunately, collecting data and determining what to do with it is easier than ever,” says LaRue. “Precision agriculture is the wave of the future, and just about every farm is putting at least some of it to use.” For example, while variable rate irrigation (VRI) isn’t on every farm, it has become more mainstream. “When I started in irrigation, our machines had two settings,” says LaRue. “They were either on or off. Now it’s pretty common to write VRI prescriptions based on grid sampling, aerial imagery and yield monitoring. By using management zones, we can save water and preserve nutrients in the soil by looking at soil types, topography and yield variation, even within a single field.”
Looking out for future generations.
Despite recent improvements, LaRue believes that many challenges remain to be addressed by precision irrigation technology. “There’s still a lot of wasted water out there. Valley Irrigation recognizes the need to stay on top of the changes and develop solutions that focus on sustainability while making farm management easier and better,” he says. “Valley center pivot machines are built to last 10- or 20-plus years, so it’s a long-term investment for our customers. We want to make sure they’re getting equipment that can be used for a long time while keeping up with new technology and the way future generations will use it. It’s a big job, and we’re excited to do it.”
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