Precision Ag: Does Farm Size Matter?

February 19, 2013 04:14 PM

Precision ag has made huge strides over the past decade. Farmers can do more with their field data than ever before, and new terms like "telematics" and "fleet management" are have crept into the lexicon.

All of this progress has left some small and medium-sized farmers worrying that new functionality is only tailor-made for larger operations. That’s not necessarily the case, say industry experts.

"It is low-hanging fruit for the big guy," admits Dave Swain, manager of ATS marketing with AGCO. But, he quickly adds, smaller operations can gain just as much value through precision ag.

For example, even a farmer with just one tractor can still use AGCO’s Ag Command telemetry software to his or her advantage by creating maintenance alerts, reviewing detailed vehicle performance (speed, rpm, mpg, etc.) and even track vehicle location.

"It all depends on what your expectations are," Swain says. "Farmers have to ask themselves, what’s the tipping point where it’s a value to them?"

Matt Hesse, Americas sales manager with Trimble’s ag division, says farmers shouldn’t feel overwhelmed jumping into precision ag because there are often simple entry points to help ease them into the new technology.

"You can start simple, get comfortable with using it, and then upgrade or add on the next solution later," he says.

Farms of all sizes can benefit from some sort of connectivity, Hesse contends – whether it’s through diagnostics, guidance, planter monitoring, vehicle synch or simple data transfer.

"It really just depends on what you want to do first," he says.

Cost is an important factor to consider as well. Tim Heins, product manager with Raven Industries, says most farmers can get a basic guidance package for under $2,000. Be sure to balance the monetary cost against the savings in time and stress, he adds.

"Fatigue is hard to quantify, but think of how cruise control makes life easier when you’re driving a car," he says. "How many hours can you drive without becoming fatigued if you aren’t using cruise control? Autosteer is kind of like cruise control for tractors."

In the video below, Heins demonstrates the latest Raven autosteer option, SmarTrax MD.


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