Having grown up in a generation fed an abundance of eye opening and eye rolling science fiction fodder, I’ve gotten a pretty diverse taste of what the future of the world was supposed to look like by now.
Granted, Star Wars took place a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, but I haven’t had to avoid any flying cars or seen any RoboCops patrolling the streets.
However, in the agricultural world, some of the dreams of 30 years ago are rapidly becoming a reality. One of the hottest precision farming topics today is the use and production of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more commonly referred to as drones.
While federal restrictions in the U.S. currently limit the use of unmanned drones, there is distinct optimism that regulations may soften in the coming years, allowing for broader use of the technology to scout crops, record nutrient and moisture levels and detect insects. This is a topic my colleague John Dobberstein recently covered in our sister publication No-Till Farmer with an in-depth feature on the current state and future promise of drone technology.
But where will precision farming dealers fit in the UAV galaxy?
One experienced precision ag service provider, and part-time farmer, told me at last month’s IDEAg Interconnectivity Conference in Altoona, Iowa, that now is the time dealers should be preparing for the drone invasion and there is opportunity to deliver the technology to customers.
“I know I want one on my farm,” he says. “And as a dealer, it’s not too early to be thinking about things like price, products and whether it fits into your business model, especially if this happens in the next couple years.”
Co-ops and ag retailers may be the starting point for most farmers when it comes to incorporating drones, given the agronomic tie-ins with the technology. But manufacturers also say that equipment dealers could be good partners to provide the products or service to customers, as part of their precision farming offering.
“We’re located right next to a John Deere dealership, so crossing the street to sell our drones in an equipment dealership is something we’d look forward to doing,” a UAV manufacturer from Wisconsin told me.
With as rapidly as farmers are adopting precision technology, it seems like UAVs could be another entry point for precision dealers to forge new relationships or strengthen existing ones with customers.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see how they approach drones — as another precision frontier waiting to be explored — or simply an alien technology.