A Precision Farming Dealer Staff Report

Precision Farming Dealer asked farmers — your customers — about the most frustrating problems (beyond the quintessential lost signal complaint) they face in using precision farming technologies.

“From reading articles in other farm publications, one would conclude that precision farming is a ‘no-brainer’ with zero problems,” says grower Markus Reinke, of the misconceptions about how easy it is to get started in precision ag.

But you, and your farm customers, know that’s not the case. So if you can limit their pain points on some of the following concerns, you’ll demonstrate your competitive value to customers ...

“The most talked-about frustration I hear over and over is improper set up of machines. The dealer should send the tech out to the field with all customers to set up the displays and equipment to help with questions. They need to realize that the technology sometimes does not click with all of us. We’ve adopted it because of what it has to offer, but the layer of knowledge that we need to operate it is not picked up immediately.”

— Dean James, Danville, Pa.

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“I've had a bad experience for the past 3 years with a new combine. My intent 3 years ago was to not only have a yield monitor that did its job, but to get into yield mapping. To make this story short, the monitor seemed to work only about 20% of the time, the small dealer tried but didn't seem to know what to do, and the manufacturer left us hanging knowing full well there were problems with their technology. Their solution seemed to me was to sell me the ‘new, improved model’ coming out this year. I decided to get rid of this ‘lemon’ and switch brands.

“My frustration is that manufacturers and dealers are not knowledgeable enough of the equipment to be selling it, let alone servicing it. I spent many hours trying to learn how to get it to work, only to find out later it wasn't me.”

— Markus Reinke

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“Paying a full year subscription to get accuracy when I only need it for about 3 months total for the year. Unanswerable problems with autosteer or mapping. Having to pay for service in the field if I have problems when I already spent $19,000 for the current set-up.

— Craig Lamoureux, Storm Lake, Iowa

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“Deere is not user-friendly. I have used Ag Leader and they are better at navigating touch screens and easier to start fields. But I do have all green technology because of integration problems with Ag Leader. Second, whatever you purchase becomes obsolete very quickly. It becomes very expensive with multiple machines and compatibility problems. Most technology to this point has been excellent, but they are now developing products such as headland management, J.D. Link and smart tractors that are insignificant to the vast majority of users. They need to try to streamline current products and clean up user processes instead of complicating them more.”

— Lynn Andrews, Carthage, Mo.

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“When buying precision farming tools there are some things that the dealer does not tell the customer. I don't think they do this intentionally, or to lie. It is hard for a salesman to know the little things with precision ag. When I use something it always does what it says, but there are a million little things that go along with it that they didn't say.

“Another frustration is the investment. I have lots of money wrapped up in my systems. I traded in a John Deere 2600 for a 2630. They charge me $250 to transfer my activations. I am willing to pay premium price for premium product, but when does the nickel-and-diming stop?”

— Daniel Geisler, Vincennes, Ind.

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“If your controller can only do one thing at a time and you want to do more, you need to upgrade — and then don’t forget the cost of the RTK unlock. We need someone to walk us through what company has the best system and whether it’s compatible to mix and match. What if the implement you’re buying has its own controller; will everything work together?”

— Rod Sommerfield, Mazeppa, Minn.

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“Calibrating new equipment for simple things like auto steering.”

— John Moreton, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

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“Herbicide rates, entering in rates for application reports. Setting boundaries, WAAS signals change from one end of field to the other. We need a quick-reference sheet.”

— Travis Willford

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“Compatibility of different systems on sprayers, planters, and combines that are all different ages — some are 6-8 years old and some 1-2 years old. Learning to use the new precision systems — at age 55 learning new technology can be challenging, but we realize it is needed.”

— Paul Billow

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“The software locks up, the hardware cables lose connection bouncing through the field and the satellite signal drops out for unknown reasons without warning.”

— Charo Schmitt

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“Equipment that does not and will not perform up to expectations that were promised. Planter controllers that turned on and off while planting unbeknownst to the operator until the crop came up and there were 30-in. skips 3 rows wide in my corn fields. Yield monitoring equipment that lost data on parts or whole fields for some inherent reason that no one can explain. The ‘we can’t quite figure out what happened’ excuse doesn’t cut it, we lose a whole season of info and there are no ‘do-overs’ in farming.”

— Brent Woodman, Kenesaw, Neb.

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“First would be the knowledge of technicians to troubleshoot the equipment when it goes wrong. I usually know more about the product than they do. Second is building a system or going with a product that you can grow on and will interact with all the equipment you purchase. I started with Deere and the local dealer was horrible, so I switched to Ag Leader and was very happy with them. But we bought a new planter and the Ag Leader wouldn’t control everything we needed it to on the planter. So we had to go with a Deere system on the planter. The dealer has started training people to support the Deere product better so we will see what happens this year.”

— Peter Zeliff Jr, Middleport, N.Y.

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“After establishing a field boundary with one implement, not being able to go right to that boundary with another implement without trial-and-error ‘nudging.’ Understanding how to delete old, unused, or incorrect swaths.”

— Steve Millage

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“There are too many monitors in the cab when trying to plant — one for guidance and one to monitor/control the planter. We should only need one. We should be able to use the monitor in the cab for grid soil sampling too, but can’t because it won’t display soil sample test points. There’s too much incompatibility between the cab displays.”

— Keith Wendte

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“My frustrations are setting up the systems, moving them from vehicle to vehicle and the time spent waiting or correcting gliches with systems.”

— Donn E. Branton

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“The complexity of technology — if you don't use it regularly, you forget how to use it. The inability to use the data gathered and turn it into meaningful actions in the field.”

— Daniel Davidson, Waterloo, Neb.

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“We are retrofitting a new Kinze planter with a Precision Planting system this week. It will include the meters, down pressure sensors, computer, seed tubes, monitor, wiring harness and seed sensors. We are also putting a pop-up fertilizer system on it. The retrofitting and cobbling of the unknown has been a great challenge. Neither dealer will come to the farm to assist, but have been available over the phone. Come planting time, if there is a problem, I hope they would actually make a service call.”

— Tom Burlingham, Palmyra, Wis.

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“I advanced to RTK last October, but have only been able to use it 50% of my field time since then because the dealers’ staff can't keep their base station operable. Since I'm one of only a few RTK subscribers, they don't even know the base is down until I call in to them. Then, it always takes several days for them to get someone freed up to go check it out. So far, each time the problem required ordering the repair, so the RTK signal has to wait for that. It’s very frustrating since the annual cost to have this precision is much more expensive than the less accurate SF1 I was using.”

— Kirby Kisslinger, Glen Elder, Kan.