Getting Started: How do I narrow my precision ag choices?
When starting in precision ag, the decisions for what to use on your operation can seem daunting. What features do I need? What is best for my operation? Where will I save the most money? What brands of equipment talk to each other? There are simple but important steps to take when you are a new user adopting precision technology. Here are some points to consider as you get started narrowing down the precision ag choices.
The first step to getting started is to plan for what you want to accomplish, thinking in terms of both short-term and long-term goals. Make a list – what do you want to accomplish now? What do you want to accomplish in the future? Next, research which precision ag products are out there to choose from, without getting too distracted with brand names or specific products. Some good online resources include: PrecisionAg.com, PrecisionPays.com, Agriculture.com and AgWeb.com, as well as precision equipment manufacturers' websites. An obvious resource is other farmers who are experienced using precision technologies. Talk to them and see what products they have benefited from; do not focus on brands, but more on what features those growers are using, and how they are impacting their operations. Will those benefits work for your operation? Of course another resource during this process can be a precision farming dealer; we discussed what makes a good dealer here. It is important to find a dealer you can trust and feel comfortable asking tough questions. A dealer should make sure you know all of your options and tailor the technology choices to best suit your needs. Keep in mind different operations call for different precision technologies. For example, a strip-till farmer may find it best to invest in a RTK signal and autosteer system to ensure that seed is put exactly where fertilizer was placed. An operation with lots of odd shaped fields would benefit from planter section control to save on seed costs in traditionally double-planted areas as well as alleviate yield loss due to overplanting. Taking time to develop a plan and researching a wide range of technologies can help ease the decision-making process when first adapting to precision farming. Talking to others can provide scenarios you may not otherwise considered. But most importantly, remember that the most cost-effective precision technology is one that fits your operation. With that said, stay open to choices that would fit your operation while still having the option to take it to the next level. If you plan to upgrade or add additional features later, make sure your investments are made with that in mind.