Hood started farming on his own as a junior at MSU. Neighbor and fellow farmer Maury Knowlton offered to rent 620 aces to Hood for $15 an acre or 20 percent of the crop, whichever was larger. But Hood’s father wasn’t about to let his son quit college.

So Hood hired one of Knowlton’s farm managers, Pete Sanders, to run the farm while he was away. Hood changed his major from engineering to agricultural business and for the next two years, came home on weekends to farm.

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Early on, Hood’s experience with bookkeeping hooked the young producer on the crucial importance of cost analysis in farming, a concept that has never left him. “I looked at all that data and wondered why this money went there and why.”

Later in his farming career, Hood was at the forefront of a huge leap in technology that connected the dots between the Global Positioning System, Geographical Information Systems and Hood’s curiosity about the allocation of cost in agricultural production.

In the 1990s, Hood was attending an American Farm Bureau, cotton committee meeting in Denver, Colo. On a side trip to the North American Aerospace Defense Command, NORAD, in Colorado Springs, Hood had the opportunity to meet the leader of the unit who was conducting the tour of NORAD that day. He pulled Hood aside to ask him if any of the technology he had seen might have an application in agriculture.

Hood was intrigued with the resolution and light reflectance values of NASA’s satellite imagery and how it might be used to assess crop condition and variability. But agriculture needed timely imagery. Anything older than a week would not be helpful.

“If it was cloudy, and you miss two or three weeds of satellite imagery, it’s too late, you’ll miss a fruiting cycle,” Hood said. “He asked me what I needed. I told them I wanted the satellite camera on an airplane. That’s how I ended up with the imagery. That’s when we got started with NASA, and that’s how InTime got started.”

InTime, Inc., based in Cleveland, Miss., provides producers with imagery and variable-rate prescription writing capability.

The tour also led to a serendipitous meeting with NASA administrator Daniel Goldin who later visited Hood’s farm to actually see the technology being used in production agriculture.

Hood has little doubt that precision farming is destined to be the way that farmers farm. But for now, there are too many impediments. “Precision agriculture has moved way too slow for me. And the reason is that there is not a standard of the industry. Everyone has their own yield map. Even in grain, there is no standardization there. Everything is proprietary and they lock in all their formulas. When you have that kind of situation, it kind of slows things down.”