Farmers Talk Tech Trials, Tribulations and Triumphs

July 20, 2016 12:00 PM

“The more information you get, the more you want.”

That’s Illinois farmer Steve Pitstick, as quoted in a 1996 Farm Journal article. Fast forward 20 years, and he hasn’t changed his tune one bit.

“One of my goals in life is to know about stuff before everyone else knows about it,” Pitstick jokes.

Pitstick joined Iowa farmer Jayson Willimack and Illinois farmer Dustin Spears on a farmer panel during the 2016 Farm Journal Technology and Data field day, held July 19 in Heyworth, Ill.

All three farmers say it is a challenge to figure out which technologies are going to fit best on their own operations, as well as troubleshooting the technologies they decide to adopt. Willimack says the role of “IT boss” shouldn’t be relegated to a single person, even on a smaller operation. He says between himself, his brother and his father, they can usually figure out how to make new tech work properly.

“It’s always good not having the burden on one person,” he says. “It’s especially important when that one person calls in sick or wants to take a vacation.”

Go seek shared knowledge on the Internet, adds Spears.

“I like to figure out who else on Twitter uses the same equipment,” he says. “This can come in real handy during the season.”

Not all technology pans out, but that hasn’t stopped Spears from pursuing it. He recalls investing in a costly fixed-wing drone that didn't perform as expected. But he remains undeterred and urges fellow farmers to improve their chances of farm technology success by taking a few extra steps ahead of adoption.  “Try to do your research," Spears says.  "Talk to people you trust before you take the plunge."

For Pitstick, the challenge remains collecting and sifting through his farm data for even more actionable items.

“I have 20 years of report cards (i.e., yield maps), but I don’t have all of the lesson plans of the actions we took to get there,” he says. “We’re trying to document everything that we do. We’re still learning.”

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