Underutilization of precision technology by customers gives dealers an opportunity to bridge the gap between purchase and profitability.

As many precision farming dealers can attest, the moving target that is technology often precludes a proactive approach to sales and service. But there are those dealers who stay ahead of the precision curve and shared their progressive insights at the IDEAg Interconnectivity Conference on June 26-27 in Altoona, Iowa.

One of the hot topics remains data management and for dealers, how to successfully and profitably tap into this market. Precision farming dealers tend to understand the need to educate customers on the technology they buy and what it can do for their bottom line, says Jeff Graff, integrated solutions group manager at Sigourney Tractor & Implement, a John Deere dealership in Sigourney, Iowa.

But one of the missing puzzle pieces is that few dealers are able to show customers how to take the next step of making sure they get the most out of their precision investments.

“How many dollars have been spent on technology for machines that are sitting in the shed and have never been fully utilized?” Graff asks. “Managing the quantity of data that is being generated is the biggest challenge. No one really addressed the issue of how do we take the knowledge customers have on their farms and fields and turn it into profit.”

Several years ago Sigourney Tractor & Implement (STI) surveyed customers on what their greatest needs were to improve return on investment in precision technology.

The results prompted the dealership to start Yield Force, a subsidiary of STI in 2009, to exclusively collect and analyze precision data. The goal, says Graff, was to provide an independent, third-party consulting business for the equipment dealership’s customers to turn to for agronomic needs.

“We found that the majority of customers who are purchasing technology on their machines, really weren’t utilizing what they had. This is where we saw an opportunity to fill a gap,” Graff says. “If we can educate our customers and actually get them to utilize the equipment they already owned, we could help them make more money and that benefits everybody.”

SGI makes a conscious effort not to sell equipment that isn’t technology enabled, so the dealership lays the foundation for customers to work with Yield Force for data analysis, crop scouting, prescription mapping and variable-rate application of seed and fertilizer.

“After being in the implement business for nearly 20 years, one of the most important things I learned was when farmers have a lot of money, they spend a lot of money,” Graff says.

Yield Force doesn’t sell seed or chemicals and employs 4 precision farming specialists who are also certified agronomists. Graff says the company targets younger, multi-talented personnel because what he’s found are these positions require a lot of energy and time commitment that older, seasoned employees don’t seem to have.

“One thing we found that is key, is they have to be precision farming specialists as well as agronomists to be successful,” Graff says. “We’re finding that customers are beginning to expect that the person who puts the prescription together, also be the one who tells them how to get it into the display and how to make it work if something goes wrong.”