When walking into equipment dealerships, it’s usually easy to spot the precision farming products, often in the form of an auto-steer system display or an interactive monitor set up to walk customers through a tutorial on the showroom floor.
Less obvious is the more abstract precision technology — the software, data management or agronomic tools — dealers may offer, and an increasingly vital part of a farmer’s success.
For some dealers, this technology remains invisible. But for others, they are beginning to realize the value of becoming more than a precision hardware outlet.
As one precision specialist told me recently, “There’s no shortage of tools out there. We’ve got tools everywhere. What we have to achieve is execution.”
Right now, there’s no simple way to accomplish this. But precision farming dealers are increasingly being called on to be technology bridges between manufacturers and customers to make sense of data collection, storage and even analysis.
Talking with the president of one precision manufacturer at the recent InfoAg Conference, he compared the future role of precision dealerships to those of doctors’ offices, where customers can seek out advice, rather than try to self-diagnose their precision needs, or wait for someone to prescribe a technology solution.
“Doctors don’t go out and try to sell direct to patients,” the manufacturer says. “And in precision farming, we as manufacturers don’t sell direct to farmers.”
He says dealers have a unique opportunity to be the “doctor’s office” for precision customers and it will be a missed opportunity if they don’t take charge or decide to sit back and wait for someone to fill that role.
Slowly, but surely the dearth of data management and agronomic service providers will diminish and it’s going to be up to dealers to decide how aggressively they want to lead in these areas.
Granted, there is uncertainty about where a retailer’s services — i.e., seed and fertilizer dealers — should end and a precision dealer’s should begin, particularly when it comes to agronomy.
I’ve heard a few horror stories from industry professionals about equipment dealerships that stepped on some local retailer’s toes by providing seed recommendations and planting prescriptions to farmers.
But there seems to be enough space for the two to coexist, at least for now. Companies like Monsanto and Pioneer are promoting the per-acre investment to farmers who want to analyze and share data.
“Professional agronomic services are going to start to fill in,” the manufacturer says. “Agronomic services for a are fee are coming and up until now, it’s been pretty haphazardly delivered.”
It will be interesting to see how visible dealers are as the future picture of precision services takes shape.