I had the fantastic opportunity to attend this year’s InfoAg precision ag conference in Springfield, Ill., this week. Looking back on the past couple of days loaded with information (as the name of the conference suggests), I noticed several common themes:
- Big data
- Variable rate
- Tech ROI
- Bigger yields
- The Cloud
Many other subjects in precision ag were covered by the industry’s leaders, who are pushing the way we think about doing agriculture efficiently. If you are at all interested in precision ag, I highly recommend attending the conference if you ever have the chance.
The attendance alone was a testament to the livelihood of precision ag. Conference officials told me they had over 1,100 attendees, which is a record. In 2011, they had just over 700 attendees. The conference has been held biannually, but officials announced this year that they will begin holding the conference every year from now on. Next year’s will be the first week of July in St. Louis, Mo., and a lot is bound to change in precision ag between now and then, so mark your calendars if you want to go.
While I have a lot of InfoAg information to dig through to bring you important tips and trends in the coming months, here’s a quick bit of that information I heard today from a session I attended titled “Field Data Issues.” Andy Hill was one of four panelists with expertise in GPS precision products and data management. He is the general manager of MyWay RTK, which is an Internet based RTK service covering much of the Midwest on over 95,000 acres.
Hill gave some tips for managing the GPS-based products and software on your farm in order to increase efficiency and maintain a healthy precision ag-focused operation. Here were some of his tips:
- Pre-season checkouts are a must. Check the software on your equipment before you start planting, and in five to 10 minutes, you’ll be able to know if your system is running right. This can prevent major delays in planting.
- If you have an issue with your GPS devices or software, contact your dealer. Let everybody know, and describe what issues you’re having in a specific way to help resolve the issue faster.
- Try to keep a solid relationship with your dealer or supplier in order to tackle software problems together.
- Software updates: Install them! Do not simply buy a piece of new software for your equipment and leave it there. If any updates are available, you must install them to run your software efficiently.
- Hardware: Replace old systems. While no one wants to replace something once they’ve purchased it, it’s vital to set a schedule for replacing your old hardware, just as you would with your cell phone. Technology is changing so rapidly that you will encounter fewer issues and have better output from your hardware if you replace it on a regular basis.
Hill also said that if he were to pick a couple of items on his short list of things that should definitely be replaced frequently (every 2-3 years), he would choose displays and GPS receivers.
For more information on MyWay RTK, visit their website.
So, stay tuned as I cover the many innovative ideas I heard at this year’s InfoAg throughout the coming months online and in print. A lot of innovation is happening in precision ag, and that work is being led by many of the pioneering people I was lucky enough to talk with and listen to this week.