There’s no shortage of competition among precision farming manufacturers, with both OEM and aftermarket suppliers jockeying for market share. Acquisitions and strategic partnerships continue to shape the future of the industry.

In many cases, alliances and application program interfaces (APIs) are forming between established companies in the precision space, with suppliers coming to the realization that if we can’t beat them, let’s join them (or buy them).

But even companies not previously known for having a vested interest in precision are looking to develop into this business. Last month, Kubota Corp. made news by announcing the acquisition of Great Plains Mfg., which recently launched  new fertilizer injection technology for its planters.

The need to sell and service precision farming products hasn’t been a staple of Kubota dealers in the past given that the supplier specialized in lower horsepower tractors, lawn and garden and utility task vehicles (UTVs). As the manufacturer moves into more row-crop focused equipment, it appears they are planning for a more aggressive push into precision farming as well.

Looking at the precision hiring plans of farm equipment dealers, Ag Equipment Intelligence’s 2016 Business Outlook & Trends report revealed that Kubota dealers were the only ones planning to add technology specialists this year. According to the report, 23.5% of Kubota dealers looked to increase their number of precision hires in 2016 — nearly five times the percentage in 2015.

This is quite a shift considering that in 2012, zero Kubota dealers planned on making any precision hires, according to the report. In 2013, the percentage increased to 6%, but again fell to zero in 2014.

Adding to the significance of the increase is that the 23.5% of Kubota dealers planning to add precision specialists this year is the highest among the other major’s dealers — all of which projected slowdowns in their 2016 precision hiring plans.

Year-over-year precision hiring trends for the other major manufacturers’ dealers are as follows, according to the report:

  2015 2016 % Change
AGCO 38% 16% -10
New Holland 15% 6% -9
Case IH 21% 12% -9
John Deere 26% 17% -9                       

Something to watch will be if Kubota dealers continue to increase hiring plans in the coming years to reflect retroactive demand or proactive expectations. Either way, it seems that there is another player being dealt into the precision farming game.