Use precision technology to maximize aging equipment
Just because your machinery is showing its age doesn’t mean it can’t be retrofitted for new tricks. Precision agriculture technology can be outfitted on almost any model of machinery to improve your efficiency and productivity.
By investing in precision ag technology, Michigan farmer Leon Knirk has been able to upgrade machinery that’s already paid for.
"I think we do a better job running our equipment then we used to," Knirk explains. "We’re running the same equipment we’ve always had, but when you run it perfectly all day long, you really benefit."
By using such technologies as autosteer, guidance bars, variable-rate technology and mapping tools, Knirk and his employees are able to make their machinery run accurately and increase efficiency. Additionally, he estimates that he saves around 6% to 11% on tillage passes. While that may not equal a huge amount of savings per acre, he says, it greatly reduces fatigue and stress for the operators.
Older equipment can have some limitations when it comes to technol-ogy. Because precision technology is not a cheap investment and can tax your machinery, Knirk says, you need to carefully analyze your machine.
"Make sure that you will use the equipment for a considerable amount of time. Look at the hydraulic power and electrical requirements to make sure the equipment can run the technology," he adds.
Set your precision goals. Jon Bickel, owner of Used Precision Ag in Fort Wayne, Ind., has been working with precision agriculture for the last 10 years and says it can help farmers optimize and manage their input costs.
He advises that farmers start by developing a plan for implementing precision agriculture technology on their farm. "Look five years down the road. What do you want to do in five years?" he asks, Bickel suggests investing in the technology gradually, so you have time to become comfortable with the equipment before adding new elements.
The more acres a piece of equipment can cover, he says, the faster you can make it pay. Since most precision ag equipment is "color-blind," you can use it on multiple brands of machinery. Then, when you want to upgrade tractors or implements in a year or so, you can just transfer the equipment.
Knirk says his best advice for those considering adopting precision technology is to have patience and start slow. "Become familiar with the equipment to make it really benefit you," he says. He also suggests looking for equipment that is multifaceted and can be used by multiple operators.
Don’t be intimidated. Completely learning how to use precision technology can take a while, Knirk says. "You need to know how to operate the corresponding software to maximize the value of the technology."
Bickel notes that some farmers can be afraid of new technology. "They think they won’t know how to use it when they get it. Don’t get frustrated when you run into a snag. With electronics, you will run into a snag."
Don’t hesitate to call someone to help you troubleshoot problems. "If you jump right in [by yourself], it can be overwhelming," Bickel says. Knirk adds that you should strive to find an expert at a dealership near you whom you can call for help.