Precision farming is a bit of a dichotomy between theory and practice for Alexander Young, who farms 4,000 acres of corn, wheat and double cropped soybeans with his father, John, near Herndon, Ky. While they appreciate the plug-and-play capabilities of John Deere’s GreenStar technology, Alexander says they feel a bit hemmed in by its difficulty to work with other brands and technology.
“We primarily have Deere farm equipment and the precision systems work, but they don’t play nicely with other brands or programs,” he says.
Alexander has a Masters degree from Univ. of Tennessee in Agricultural Economics and has learned how to use Ersi’s ArcGIS spatial analysis software to develop field maps.
“The software is way more than what most farmers have or need,” he says. “It’s the same program that land planners and the military use for mapping.” The program allows the Youngs to develop fertilizer and seeding rate prescriptions.
The basis of the Young’s field analysis begins with yield maps produced by the yield monitor in their Deere S-series combine. They have been gathering yield data since 2007.
Alexander says the yield monitor in the combine is more accurate than past yield monitors as it relies on multi-point data so calibration is more accurate.
“It’s precise, but it’s still not always accurate,” he says. “It shows us the relative difference in yield in a field. The important part is we can get accurate yield data from the weigh tickets.”
Alexander feeds yield data back into the ArcGIS software for analysis and builds fertility and seeding maps with it. To get the data back into the GS 2600 or 2630 monitors, he takes the information from Deere’s Apex system.
Point of Pain: Cross-Brand Service and Technical Savvy
At times, Alexander has been frustrated with the inability to get higher-level service when adopting new technology.
What Farmers Want From You is a series of farmer profiles that examine the scope of precision farming tools individual farmers are using on their operation, along with the frustrations that can occur with adopting new technology and how dealers can alleviate those "points of pain" for farm customers. For the latest additions to the series, visit our What Farmers Want From You feed.
“When we went with the new yield monitor in the combine, our dealer wasn’t familiar with it yet,” he says. “We are a few steps ahead of most farmers in using certain technologies and we couldn’t get answers from the dealer. It was a bit frustrating, but I can’t fault them because I understand how difficult it is to get everyone up to speed on new technology.”
Cross-compatibility between brands also puzzles Alexander. The Youngs have resisted becoming solely reliant on one precision farming equipment source.
“I understand companies want to protect their technology, but dealers could be real heroes if they could provide a connector that makes it possible to connect a Trimble FMX monitor with a Deere planter,” Alexander says. “If a dealer can provide cross brand usefulness in precision technology by helping farmers mix and match equipment, that dealership would see even greater loyalty from customers.
“That’s the kind of service that will separate short-term precision farming equipment dealers from the long-term dealers.”
The Youngs look forward to the day that precision farming technology will become open sourced. One example Alexander offers is that the cost of an iPad is far less than a precision farming monitor, and can upload and download information in a tenth of the time.
“Sure, 20 seconds doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re renting equipment that costs $200 per hour and the clock is ticking, those seconds add up. ” he says.