Everyone’s talking about it. While some people are living it, others are just dabbling. The Cornhusker chapter of the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) held their monthly meeting at Valley® Irrigation last week to discuss a hot topic via irrigation panel: precision ag. The panel focused on how some growers are taking precision ag to the next level, as well as how ag companies are helping all growers use precision ag to make their operations more efficient.
The panel included of some well-known voices in the irrigation community: Kerry and Angela Knuth, who farm near Mead, Neb.; Nick Emanuel, CEO of CropMetrics; our own John Campbell from Valley; and Jason Strand of Frontier Cooperative.
The Knuths started their precision ag journey with autosteer on their tractors in 1999. In 2008, they began mapping their field, then moved to use variable rate planting (VRP) and variable rate irrigation (VRI).
“Nick’s software is where it really took off,” Angela said. Because their fields hit growth stages at different times, CropMetrics really helped the Knuths manage each field separately. This precision technology allows them see the difference between three-quarters of an inch and 85-hundredths of an inch.
CropMetrics is focused on gathering a wide range of data and helping the grower analyze that data. Starting with VRP for planting and VRI for fertilizing, growers can apply the exact amount of seed and fertilizer for that field’s conditions. By applying the variable rate technology to irrigation, the exact amount of water can be applied for maximum output.
Jason Strand, precision ag specialist with Frontier Cooperative, chimed in about grower adoption of precision ag technologies and how there is still a wide gap. The Knuths are at the frontline, adopting early and often, and other growers are just joining the game.
John Campbell said that growers shouldn’t worry about where to start with precision ag, if they haven’t yet gotten into it. “It’s not all or nothing; it’s about steps. It’s manageable, and each step will improve their efficiency and their bottom line.”
Change is hard. But finding the right resources doesn’t have to be. Develop a local support network: technology experts at your irrigation dealership, university extension offices, websites and conferences are just a few options. It’s all about gathering information.
“You’re going to make mistakes and cross hurdles, but it’s all about what makes your operation better,” said Nick. “No matter the generation, one small change opens the doors to more.”
If you’re looking for the next big thing in precision ag, getting the data from the equipment to your office is going to continue to get easier and easier. Angela agrees with the necessity of this newer technology.
“The movement of data collection and the ability to analyze it [has to get better],” Angela said. “It needs to be alive. It cannot be static.”
Whether you’re at the forefront of the newest technology, or leery of making changes to your operation, your local Valley dealer can help – give them a call today.
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