Monsanto describes itself as “a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality.” Best known for its development and marketing of advanced seed traits for pest and drought resistance, the fact is Monsanto is one of agriculture’s 800-pound gorillas.

So it may have surprised some industry people when the company announced yesterday it has taken a small, but significant step into the equipment side of the business. Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Basic Materials Conference 2012, Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley, told investors the company is building out its Integrated Farming Systems portfolio and announced plans to acquire precision agricultural engineering and planting technology leader Precision Planting Inc.

In the press release announcing the acquisition, the company said this was another step in Monsanto's “planned Integrated Farming Systems offering to provide science-based agronomic seed prescriptions with next-generation precision equipment.”

With that announcement, you can almost hear farmers from sea to shining sea groaning, “Now Monsanto is getting into the equipment business? What’s next? Will it start farming, too?”

In the bigger picture, this is another strong signal that precision farming, in all of its forms, is what will define the current era of agriculture.

During its dealer meetings last summer, John Lagemann, John Deere’s vice president of sales and marketing, dubbed the current period as the “Age of Telematics.”

Monsanto’s acquisition of Precision Planting further underlines the importance precision farming is and will continue playing in all of agriculture.

More importantly for dealers is the message that it’s your job to carry the new technology to the farmer and show him how to apply it for the most benefit. This is not news to equipment dealers, but it reinforces the urgency that’s required on the part of retailers to deliver the advanced technology and make it work in the field.

Precision farming isn’t the wave of the future. It’s the wave of now.