It’s been a busy few months since our last print edition of this publication, with a flurry of company mergers and acquisitions that will surely influence the depth and delivery of precision farming product and services by dealers.
While much ink and airspace has been dedicated to breaking down John Deere’s announced acquisition of Precision Planting, the buzz surrounding the deal likely won’t dissipate anytime soon. This was evident throughout our first-ever Precision Farming Dealer Summit in Indianapolis, Ind., which drew 197 attendees from across North America (see coverage here).
During conversations with farm equipment and independent precision dealers at the Summit in January, there were equal parts optimism and skepticism on the acquisition. But overall, there was a consensus that the deal — and likely others in the future — will escalate the debate over access to and use of on-farm data.
Looking at it from the farmer’s point of view, our sister publication No-Till Farmer recently surveyed readers on their comfort level and concern with sharing on-farm crop data. This followed up a similar survey 4 years ago, in the wake of Monsanto’s acquisition of Precision Planting.
In 2012, the survey revealed that about 60% of respondents were concerned about sharing their cropping data with suppliers. But the most recent survey shows that worries have intensified by more than one-third.
Farmers are concerned with not only how Deere will make use of on-farm data for marketing and equipment purposes, but there’s also a fear that this information could be passed along to local dealers without consent. For those dealers looking to carve out a profitable niche with data management service, trust is certainly an obstacle, but one which can be overcome by establishing two-way partnerships with customers.
As the primary connection with customers to precision hardware, dealers also have an opportunity to clear up customer confusion as to where their data is going, and at the very least, help farmers understand what their options are and who could or should have access.
Unauthorized data sharing is an increasing concern for farmers, and one which may only heighten with future company mergers or acquisitions. After Monsanto’s purchase of Precision Planting, 65% of respondents to No-Till Farmer’s survey were concerned with the unauthorized sharing of cropping data.
This concern increased to 73% in the most recent survey, issued after Deere’s acquisition of Precision Planting. Also noteworthy is that some no-tillers don’t feel Deere will be motivated to continue to develop aftermarket products that are compatible with other brands — at least not at an affordable price.
While some farmers place a $10-$12 per-acre value on the data that Deere could obtain electronically without any cost, they don’t expect the company to offer to pay this amount. As a result, some say they will work more closely on precision farming needs with independent manufacturers of these products.
Dealing with customer data on some level is unavoidable in today’s precision farming industry and it’s a safe bet that manufacturers will continue to integrate more information collection software and tools into machinery. The key for dealers looking to make data a profitable part of their business will be to instill the confidence in customers that it’s going to be a worthwhile and trustworthy investment.