Mike Houghtaling founded P&C Ag Solutions in 2000 to satisfy demand for an independent agronomist/technology consultant to help growers select and integrate new and emerging precision ag technologies. Today, the independent retailer represents 40 lines (including Ag Leader, Precision Planting, 360 Yield Center, OPI Integris, Dawn, Martin and Yetter) — all of which are first proven on the widely diversified 3,000-acre farm he operates with family members.

“The biggest hurdle to clear with autonomy is the speed at which it’s moving,” says Houghtaling, now president of P&C Ag in Reese, Mich. “It’s still going too slow, and development is being done in seasons. But we’re almost there.”

Houghtaling, who is making a return to the Precision Farming Dealer Summit after presenting 4 years ago, shares how his company views the autonomy stages ahead.

Stage 1. “Prove the reliability, consistency and necessity on our own farm. We’ve proved it, but reliability is still the missing key.”

Stage 2. “We’ll have had 5-7 demos out in countryside in which we’ve given growers the technology to use, to show that it works and get them comfortable with the fact that it’s coming and exists right now. We have 2 demo systems in our yard right now.”

Stage 3. “A key person whose job it is to sell autonomy solutions. We’re targeting the medium to small-size growers. My instinct is that it will be the 1,000-acre farmers who’ll start with autonomy. Why? They want to do the work themselves; they don’t like hiring and managing people, yet know they need to grow the size/scope of their farm operation to be profitable. They’ll be the ones who recognize they can accomplish it through self-driving technologies.”

Stage 4. “This is the stage at which the mainstream, ubiquitous adoption will take place, like where we are today with autosteer technology.”

Stage 5. “Sometime soon, the aftermarket and startups will be uprooted when CNH, John Deere and AGCO pull back the curtain on their plans and present inexpensive options that work on standard and existing units.”

Stage 6. “At this stage, we’ll see autonomous solutions that a farmer doesn’t have to own but can rent,” he says, likening it to a Uber-type of model for farming. “For maximum efficiencies, you’ll be able to subscribe to a service that does the planting, tillage and harvesting.”

He envisions the day will come when farmers no longer worry about the machinery.

“Before the tractor, the farmer had horses and implements and was focused on growing food. Since then, farmers have become most concerned with the machinery and hiring for it. Robotics will change that and return the emphasis back on the science of growing again.”

Mike Houghtaling, president of P&C Solutions, will be presenting on a special panel at the 2022 Precision Farming Dealer Summit on “What It’ll Take to Promote, Demo & Sell Autonomy to Farmers.” For more information on the panel discussion or the full event, visit www.precisionsummit.com.