Crunch Numbers To Find Precision Ag Efficiencies

05:14PM May 19, 2017
Ken Ferrie speaks to attendees at Corn College.
( Chris Walljasper )

What’s the first move in determining if a new technology is worth investing in for your farming operation? Farm Journal field agronomist Ken Ferrie suggests dusting off your calculator.

Why? Because at its core, precision agriculture is a numbers game, a math equation, a bit of algebra: Will X technology across Y acres provide a positive return on investment (ROI)? If so, how many years will it take?

If you take the time to punch those numbers, you might be pleasantly surprised at what precision ag might do for you, according to Ferrie, 

“Efficiencies are different for each farmer,” said Ferrie, speaking to attendees at the 2016 Farm Journal Data and Technology College field day, held July 19 at the Crop Tech Consultants facility in Heyworth, Ill.

 And seemingly little inefficiencies can add up over time and repetition. For example, are you planting along a terrace or other curved surface? Without turn compensation, you could be overplanting on the inside of the rows and under-planting on the outside of the rows. Ferrie said that turn compensation could save as much as 12,000 seeds per acre’s worth of turns, which translates into an impact of 60 bu. or more per acre.

Swath control to prevent sprayer overlap provides another good example of technology ROI, according to Ferrie, who estimated a 4.3% efficiency when sprayers incorporate this technology. That doesn’t sound like much, but it calculates out to $525 in savings if a farmer was spraying a $25 per acre herbicide across his or her 500-acre farm.

“In today’s corn market, you can’t afford not to invest in new technology,” he said.” You need to march towards technology instead of away from it, no matter what your farm size is.”

And that’s where planning comes in, according to Ferrie. Think about what you want to do and how technology can potentially help. Will it pay? Do the math and solve for X.

“The more streamlined your plan is, the easier it is to implement,” he said. “Put an ROI together before you even start so you can put together a plan of attack that will pay for itself pretty quickly.”

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