Precision agriculture is evolving from the hardware side to data management.
Bryan Arndorfer, owner of Precision Management Services, has watched precision agriculture change. He grew up on a Kossuth County farm near here and liked working with technology.
Arndorfer began working with precision agriculture on his family’s Northern Iowa farm and for a few neighbors.
That was in 2001.
“Yield monitors were just starting to catch on,” he says.
However, Arndorfer saw the need to turn the precision agriculture data into useful information. He focused on how to use the information.
“In the past 10 years, the hardware has progressed faster than our information management,” he says. Now, the attention has moved to managing the data to make decisions.
“We are getting closer to data-driven decisions,” he says.
Arndorfer and his brother, Burke, have worked on ways to provide a return on investment on precision-ag equipment.
One of the ways of turning the data into useful information is by using field records to make fertilizer seed-prescription maps to reduce costs and maximize yields.
Arndorfer is starting to take data management to a next step by layering financial data on top of yield maps.
In the system, he can show farmers areas within a field where they lost money and areas where they made the most money and the zones in between.
Arndorfer says they work with farmers to determine the limiting factor and to see if that can be corrected and expenses reduced.
Some companies are working to overlay weather information with field data.
Arndorfer says precision agriculture is moving to provide data for farmers to make decisions during the growing season.
He will start flying an airplane and taking photos of corn fields. The photos will be processed to determine if more nitrogen is needed in the field and where.
In the past three to four years, Arndorfer says there has been more development of chlorophyll sensors to determine if more fertilizer is needed and where it is needed in the field.
Looking forward, he sees more real-time sensors being used in agriculture during the growing season.
There has been an increase in wireless data transfer. Arndorfer says that technology decreases the amount of time spent transporting memory sticks containing the data.
For example, he can get the data from a farmer in the field without driving back and forth to the office to make recommendations.
Arndorfer expects more development to take place in wireless-data transfer. Eventually, he might be able to see the same information on his office computer as a farmer sees in the cab of his farm equipment at the same time.
However, there is a challenge of providing enough infrastructure to have enough bandwith to handle the wireless-data transfer.
With major agribusinesses getting more involved in precision agriculture in the past few years, he says there are opportunities with data generated by the equipment.
“Everyone is seeing an opportunity in data,” he says.
Some companies likely will learn more about their products from the data generated by farmers.
At the moment, there are privacy and security questions about data that need to be resolved.
However, Arndorfer says long-term technology will be a tool to be used along with human expertise.
“We are far from eliminating the consulting side.”