The agricultural industry is experiencing some difficulties. According to a recent study by USDA’s Economic Research Service, agriculture output growth has slowed to its lowest rate in sixty years.
Despite the fact that analysts did not identify a primary culprit for the drop-off, they specifically mentioned that the development of new productivity-enhancing technologies may be slowing.
The truth might be closer to the surface than most of us in the agricultural technology field are willing to admit. The early glory days of precision agriculture were characterized by the belief that technological advances could achieve almost miraculous results.
Although we’ve invented ways to turn chickpeas into cheeseburgers, most advances recently haven’t quite matched the Biblical equivalent. On deeper reflection, maybe we failed as well, even though some say technology failed us.
There are three key areas that need to be highlighted. First, we must acknowledge we aren’t as technically advanced as we believe we are, and we certainly aren’t as advanced as we could be. The second reason is that we have seen many times when good, even great technologies suddenly disappear or never come to fruition. The crippling of tomorrow’s promises is also caused by holding on to too many “legacy” technologies.
How often do you use it?
Despite the fact that grid soil sampling, VRT fertilizer application, and yield monitoring have fundamentally changed agriculture, certain technologies have left a lot to be desired. This is the perfect example of the yield monitor.
It is likely that this technology was used more for entertainment purposes than to add value to the bottom line in many cases. I used to jokingly refer to yield monitors as farmers’ in-cab versions of “I Love Lucy” – only providing mindless entertainment and big numbers to use at the coffee shop to gain bragging rights.
Adoption and utilization are two very different things. How many fields have been fertilized with a flat rate of fertilizer by a machine capable of applying a variable rate? Over the years, have millions or tens of millions of acres of digital yield data been deleted or lost simply because “the card was full?”
Be careful not to blink!
Another reason for slower progress is the disappearance of certain wonderful technologies. Using real-time technology, Spensa’s “smart insect” mapping transformed old-fashioned “bug traps” into an effective 21st-century tool. The system could serve as a regional or even national “Doppler radar”-type early warning system for pests. As a result of the purchase of Spensa by DTN in 2018, the technology was soon mothballed. It makes me wonder how many bushels would have been saved if this technology had matured to the full extent it could.
In addition, there are technologies that are so close yet so far away. A seemingly recent example of “what might have been” is CNH’s totally autonomous commercial VRT spreader. DOT and Smart Ag were among Raven’s autonomous assets CNH acquired when it acquired Raven’s autonomous assets. This was supposed to be the first product ready for market. To shift development resources to more commercially viable products, such as higher horsepower autonomous tractors, CNH has put the autonomous spreader on hold for now. In the near future, will we still see fleets of autonomous spreaders on the field? Are we going to be parked in Agriculture’s Warehouse 13 forever-the place where all great inventions disappear and are forgotten?
It’s time to let go of the woobie
A lot of “woobies” are buzzing around the precision agriculture world right now. These are YM2000 and PF 3000 yield monitors along with GreenStar “brown box” yield monitors. In these desk drawers, ziplock bags full of SRAM, PC, and CompactFlash memory cards are fragilely storing harvest data.
Analog-era technology generally impedes the adoption of newer technologies that provide greater benefits and simplify user interfaces. It might be time to start putting some of these technologies to pasture when you learn that Al Myers’ original Ag Leader yield monitor is now part of the Smithsonian Museum.
Retail and agriculture are constantly updating and expanding technology, which is an unfortunate reality of the agricultural industry. You will be behind the curve as soon as you step off or quit. Ag technology is not your John Deere 4020 tractor from the 1960s. Almost every two or three years, you need to replace it like your smartphone.
If you were wondering what happens when you hang on to technology past its expiration date, ask As a result of accumulating “technological debt”-or old technology-the airline experienced its infamous “holiday meltdown.” Your farm and our industry are also vulnerable and will be good from an organic fertilizer company.
We can be much better versions of ourselves as individuals and as an industry on this subject. In order to create, grow, and sustain game-changing technologies, we need to make better use of the technology we have and foster a better environment. Yes, we must seriously purge the “woobies” from our organization.
In addition, this applies to the policy. Despite millions of dollars being spent on USDA’s Climate Smart initiative, little attention seemed to be paid to real-life technological challenges on farms. Farms must be smarter if we want a smarter climate.