With the rush of planting behind us, we reached out to dealers to get their thoughts on what they learned about the attractiveness and value of their 2021 precision service packages, what the take-rate was on the 2021 program compared to previous years and what they plan to do differently next year. While some dealers are still working at creating such packages, others have begun to shift away from offering service plans. 

“Seems like during the pandemic our customers had more time to come in and sit down for one-on-one meetings and go over their data and maps. We had quite a few new customers really grasp the importance of their data and the overview of their farm. It really hits home when they see their own data and machines and not some demo data. This was based on 2020 packages, and we haven’t changed them since then.

“The take rate remained the same in 2020 from previous years. I would like to see about a 20% increase for this year. We will be pushing harvest data hard this year to help increase the take rate.

“In 2022 I hope that the inventory challenges will be resolved and that will help sell our data packages. We always do an end of year review of our packages and that helps to see if we need to add or remove options and helps tweak existing packages.” 

— Arthur Etheridge, Integrated Solutions Manager, Shoppas Farm Supply

“We don’t have ‘Precision Service Packages.’ Our Precision Specialists bill their time like a technician does when we work on stuff. I don’t think a service package would increase our service revenue at this point. I actually think in our situation, it would do the opposite. I might consider a phone tech support package in the future, but we have to start effectively tracking those calls first.”

— Nick Rust, Precision Coordinator, H&R Agri-Power

“Availability of parts was the lesson of the year. By locking in and performing our inspections early in 2020/21, we were able to have the needed parts. All of ag and every other industry is struggling with delivering parts. We had and will continue a tried approach to service and maintenance plans. We encourage early commitment to our inspections to capture the best per row cost, i.e., June -September lock in a $30 per row inspection; September–November $35 per row; November–January $40 per row and then no inspection after February and any in-season inspection or maintenance is at regular shop rates.

“Our take-rate was up considerably, I’d say 25-30%. I think education and the tiered approach lock it in early and get the best price. Education — just talking to the growers in June while the last planting session is fresh in their mind — is the biggest driver. They remember the pains they may have experienced and don’t want to again.

“We may change the tiers up a little, but for the most part we will leave it the same with possibly a parts discount or ‘buy now pay later’ program. We have recently added  AGCO+ and JDF as finance options. So, rather than big discounts I believe most growers would rather have deferred payment options. It cost me 5% to offer 90-120 days. I have money in hand and a commitment on parts.

— Dennis Hapes, CropStar Consulting

“We don’t offer any Precision Service Plans anymore. Our service departments take care of all the precision ag equipment now. Our department focuses on new technology training.”

 — John Marshall, IntelliFarm Director, Wade Inc.

International Perspective

Eastern European Dealership Group Works to Mainstream Precision Ag for Customers 

DOJUS Group has been operating in the agricultural sector for 29 years. The main activity of the company is the distribution of agricultural and lawn care machinery, spare parts and maintenance. Areas with strong development are the sales of used machinery, forestry and specialized sectors (such as peat, railways, utilities) machinery, rent of heavy machinery and the soil research service as well as precision ag services. The group is united by 10 companies in 4 countries: Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus and the Kaliningrad region of the Russian Federation. Donatas Dailide, CEO of DOJUS Group, shared the following insights into how precision service packages are handled by their operation. 

“John Deere machines combine well-engineered iron and performance efficiency tools in one. It is usual to see 195 horsepower and bigger machines with automatic steering on board at 100% rate. This year it is unusual to see 83% of self-propelled machines leaving the dealership already connected to the internet and the John Deere Operation Center. These are the true precision ag tools that give unlimited possibilities for the growers to save costs, be sustainable and produce healthy food.

“The year 2021 at the DOJUS group has started with the opening of a new precision ag department. Engineers and agronomists that are open to technology and new ideas share their best practices from the field and support farmers who are always on the run. Farmers understand that precision is not an item you buy and have. Precision farming is something you create, adopt, develop and use every day. Having a committed support team member handy is what helps to motivate the farmer and helps him go further. 

“Passion to do the job right builds a new type of partnership between the company and farms. The farmers value a short phone call from the specialist with a machine performance and benchmark report, which helps to increase efficiency of the machine or an alert to stop the machine for a quick uptime check before the big bang occurs. 

“The number of farms in the digital environment is expected to triple in 2021 ... Opening a dedicated precision ag support department is a well-made decision…”

“In addition, we help farms with engineering bits. The trustful cooperation has led to the expansion of precision ag services. We provide independent agronomical advisory services. Fixing the root cause of the fields by doing soil sampling and the usage of NIR technology to monitor and apply crop care solutions in variable rate is where the farm experiences the full power of precision ag. Wise distribution of inputs reflects on the quality and quantity of harvest. That’s where a true meaning of sustainable farming hits in. 

“With development of digital tools, precision ag becomes a low-hanging fruit. We are witnessing the rise of engagement toward sustainable farming. Plows are being swapped to no-till technology letting the soil have its autonomous healthy way of living. The wheel is being reinvented toward durable and soil compaction preserving tracked systems. Herbicides are competing with plant recognition systems and mechanical application tools. 

“All of that changes operations at the farm. With less driving in the fields every drive has to be of a maximum efficiency and precision. John Deere Operation Center is our starting point where farmers can delegate the task to a machine and operator so that everyone uses the same driving direction on the field sustaining discipline and job quality monitoring. Automatic gathering of raw data from the fields is in near real time and is accessible from any internet device makes usual decision making the ‘right decision making.’ 

“The dealership is now at the point where automated machine management functions are the mainstreamers with steady growth of sales annually. We may joke that due to farmers’ commitment to precision ag the world is now struggling from the lack of microchips. Nevertheless, today we are proud to see the progress toward engagement into a complete farm operation management in the digital way. The number of farms in the digital environment is expected to triple in 2021 compared to 2020. That is proof that opening a dedicated precision ag support department and focus toward the future of farming is a well-made decision.

“Precision helps to get along with strict regulations and keep farming as a profitable business. The value of precision ag has to be delivered for everyone on the farm. The operator needs to have peace of mind and comfort to perform quality jobs so the machine must be ready, all set to desired properties. The agronomist should have tools to monitor plans remotely with up-to-date data from the fields, plan and delegate jobs when the crop requires. Accountants need to know where and how much of inputs have been used. Farm owners require reports to make data-based decisions. 

“In 2022, we will integrate more 3rd-party software solution providers to better adopt and fullfil precision ag needs for every employee on the farm to make precision farming an ongoing daily process in every farm.”