After running the gauntlet of dozens of precision farming or ag electronics exhibits at my first Farm Progress Show last month in Boone, Iowa, I can honestly say it took a few days to physically recover and mentally digest the wealth of information shared during the event.
While there were no shortage of precision equipment manufacturers showcasing new innovations or improvements to their existing product lines — from larger display monitor screens to longer battery life for RTK base stations — I found some of the most interesting innovations to come from the self-described “niche” precision farming equipment producers.
Many of the hands I shook and conversations I had were with relatively small manufacturers making their mark in targeted precision ag markets or dealers of those products.
Equipment ranged from custom cabling used to connect GPS monitors to machinery, to remote controlled liquid and dry fertilizer meters — not what one might consider the wheelhouse of precision technology.
As one manufacturer representative told Precision Farming Dealer, the technology behind some of the less mainstream products isn’t all that new, but adoption by target audiences is rapidly increasing.
One dealer representative manning the booth for a company that produces water management software utilized in precision drainage tile installation, says he’s seen the market “explode” in the last few years and he expects that to continue, especially in the short term.
The dealer primarily sells tile plows, but a growing complimentary product to that equipment is RTK-based software used to calculate slope and grade as tile is laid.
While tiling isn’t cheap, there could be a fair amount of farmers — whether they take advantage of lofty corn and soybean prices this year or are the beneficiaries of crop insurance this year — that may be willing to make such an investment sooner rather than later.
Dealers of niche precision products spoke optimistically about the future and their ability to expand their markets, especially if those farmers broaden their technology needs.
As the precision farming dealer selling the water management software notes, “Now might be that right time for a lot of farmers to make that five-figure investment.”
Time will tell to what extent growers are willing to branch out into the precision equipment market, beyond upgrading to a larger monitor or longer-lasting RTK base station.
For many precision farming dealers, those type of updates will suffice, but for the emerging niche market, disposable grower income could provide a boost.
Based on the foot traffic at some of these booths in Boone, Iowa, it appears that both manufacturers and dealers have reason for optimism.