Last month, I had the opportunity to share some of the results and analysis from our most recent benchmark study at the Western Equipment Dealers Assn. meeting in Arizona. During the course of my discussion, one of the questions I posed to the room was how many are offering some type of data management service?
Only a few hands went up, but I suspect that more should have after listening to the presenter who followed me, Devin Dubois, vice president of Integrated Solutions for Western Sales in Rosetown, Sask. Dubois opened some eyes with his presentation at our first Precision Farming Dealer Summit back in January, and was no less candid at the WEDA meeting, sharing some advice on tapping the data management service vein in agriculture.
He spearheaded the addition of full-time staff agronomists to help streamline the process of collecting, responding to and analyzing farm data. The realization that machinery is intimately, and inevitably linked to agronomic decisions prompted the dealership’s decision to commit to growing this part of its business.
But as Dubois points out, this connection shouldn’t come as a surprise to dealers. Whether they realize it or not, most if not all, are already involved in the agronomic side of agriculture.
The reality is precision farming and data management aren’t that special, because it’s just farming better, Dubois says. What makes technology appealing to farmers is the logistical value it provides, via the machinery they operate in the field.
“Logistics is what producers do,” Dubois says. “And with technology, if it’s not improving logistics, they’re not interested. So whatever we’re doing, there’s got to be a positive effect and something that makes life easier for our producers.”
Auto-steer and GPS were logistical pacesetters in precision farming because there was an immediate return in investment. As many dealers are finding, data management service is a tougher sell.
But success stories can breed confidence and Dubois shared one about a 35,000 acre customer who “sneered” at the concept of putting yield data to work on his operation. Persistence paid off and the dealership was able to sell a suite of field mapping software to the farmer, who saw immediate returns in being able to reduce spraying overlap with real-time tracking of applications made in fields.
“It was a logistical improvement and now, he is coming back to us for updates and anything else he can add,” Dubois says. “But the bottom line is, this isn’t any different than what we as dealers have been doing for years — improving speed, reliability and performance of equipment.”
The only thing that has changed is the way in which it’s being done. Dealers have the option of turning a blind eye toward technology, or as Dubois recommends, embrace it as a tool that bridges the equipment being sold with the agronomic benefits.