While attending my first National No-Tillage Conference last week, I found there was no shortage of programs and conversation centered on precision farming technology.
In talking with some of the more than 1,100 attendees about their accomplishments and frustrations with farm technology, it was interesting that RTK drew some of the most divisive viewpoints.
Several farmers lauded the GPS technology for its accuracy and noted that the financial upgrade over the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) was well worth it.
“It’s been the best investment to improve efficiency on my farm,” notes on Indiana farmer.
But a number of others who spent money on an RTK base station or opted for a cellular connection told me that the technology isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
Dealer support was one issue a few farmers cited as an area of deficiency when it comes to RTK.
“I’m not sure my precision guy knew any more about it than I did when he set it up,” says one farmer from New York. “It’s certainly created more questions than answers for me.”
If customers are going to spend several thousand dollars on a base station or pay for an annual RTK subscription from their dealer, they are looking for the precision payback that comes with the technology.
A few precision farming dealers I spoke with at the conference acknowledge that farm customers — even those with precision farming experience — can struggle with knowing exactly what they want from their GPS system, in terms of performance, cost and accuracy expectations.
With multiple options, dealers say its crucial that they work with their customers to find our exactly which system is going to best suit their operation, and not oversell something just to make a quick buck.
“It can be confusing stuff, but it should work,” one dealer from Indiana told me. “It’s a matter of making sure customers know what they are getting.”
Since RTK package costs can add up fast — the farmer in New York told me he spent more than $25,000 on his system — it’s easy to understand why customers want to make sure it’s a worthwhile investment.
One veteran precision farmer from California says that when he started with RTK, he made sure that he and his dealer were on the same page.
“With GPS, the most important thing is support from your dealer,” he says.
The last thing either a farmer or precision farming dealer wants to do is send mixed signals to each other when it comes to RTK.
A clear and open path of communication should start at the dealership.