With dealers looking to carve out a profitable precision niche with measurable ROI products and services, many are tapping the planting and application technology markets for high-demand hardware.

But even options like row clutches or automatic boom shutoffs are features that farm customers are starting to get factory installed on new equipment. One option that remains both an opportunity — and an enigma for dealers — is implement guidance.

Although not yet a mainstream precision technology, some say there is a broad market for the products. One precision specialist with a farm equipment dealership in Wisconsin, typically targets operations of about 1,000 acres or more, primarily corn and soybean growers, especially those with curvy fields wrapped around waterways.

The precision specialist notes that customers are able to harvest in the fall knowing that their planting rows are straight and if they are banding fertilizer, they have the confidence that plant roots reached those nutrient pockets during the growing season.

So who are best candidates for implement guidance? Strip-tillers tend to be able to derive the most value from the technology, with many relying on deep placement of fertilizer in fall or spring and a need to accurately plant into the “sweet spot” of the row.

And looking over the preliminary data for the 3rd annual Strip-Till Benchmark study, which will appear in our sister publication No-Till Farmer’s summer edition of Conservation Tillage Guide, about 18% of the 400-plus respondents are using implement guidance on their operation.

While the percentage may seem small, it is largely consistent with prior years and farmers utilizing a system say it’s a worthwhile investment.

But one of the likely reasons why adoption of implement guidance has remained relatively flat in 3 years of Strip-Till Benchmark study results, is cost.

One Illinois strip-tiller did a comparative pricing of both active and passive implement guidance systems to assess which one would be most beneficial on his operation. A fully active system with RTK unlocks, controller, platform kit and steering hardware was somewhere in the $12,000-$31,000 range, while a passive system was $4,000-$5,000.

The farmer purchased the active system because he wanted the highest level of accuracy to eliminate symptoms of implement drift, rather than just mitigate them at a lower cost.

At least in the short-term, price could remain a deterrent for farm customers when it comes to implement guidance. But at the same time, dealers who have had success selling in this hardware niche say it can be a lucrative one, and depending on future government regulations tied to fertilizer application practices, implement guidance may be a long-term technology to watch.  

As one precision specialist selling the hardware says, “It’s the natural progression of what farmers need from precision technology.”