During the last few weeks, I had the pleasure of getting to know some of the international players in the precision farming industry.
After attending the International Conference on Precision Agriculture in Indianapolis in mid-July, and last week the Raven Innovation Summit in Sioux Falls, S.D., I’ve gotten diverse perspectives on the prevalence of farming technology in different regions.
But one word that came up in most of those conversations with foreign researchers and dealers was “opportunity.”
That was an especially common term heard at the three-day Raven event, where about one-quarter of the 220 conference attendees were from foreign countries — a record number for the technology conference — which has been held in some form each year for the last decade.
Equipment dealers and distributors from the Ukraine, Russia, Australia, Brazil and Costa Rica were some of the busiest attendees, essentially serving as precision farming ambassadors for their respective areas.
I was especially intrigued by a Ukrainian dealer named Aleksandr who traveled about 5,000 miles to attend. He says it’s not easy to spend 15 hours on a plane, digest an onslaught of precision technology presentations and then try and relay the most relevant information to customers back home.
But he also says the pilgrimages are essential to try and advance farming practices in areas where precision products are hot commodities.
His objective at the Raven summit was to “get bigger production, with smaller money and improve the quality of crops” for his customers in the Ukraine.
While that philosophy resonates with stateside dealers as well, the international precision product market is clearly one that manufacturers are eager to tap into.
On several occasions throughout the summit, Raven officials emphasized the opportunities with foreign partners to expand products — both now and in the future — overseas.
At least one foreign dealer says he is hopeful that implement auto-steering technology will soon be a reality in his country, to help customers more efficiently navigate thousands of fertile hectares.
A U.S. manufacturer of self-propelled sprayers attending the Raven event says countries like Russia are especially ripe for precision technology, but economics are a hurdle.
“If they could ever get hard currency, America’s future in the ag business is Russia because they have so much ground and it’s all black earth,” he says.
Based on the international attendance and participation at the Raven event, foreign dealers clearly aren’t making the trip just to accumulate frequent flier miles.
It will be interesting to see in the next year how much international interest in U.S. precision farming technology grows and where manufacturers and researchers turn those “opportunities” into realities.