My career as a technical instructor allows me to talk with farmers and service technicians from all over the country. It is always interesting to discuss farming and machinery issues with like-minded people, and I learn from everyone I meet.
One of the most common topics of discussion is the technology side of the business. A few weeks ago, I was in Washington state and had an opportunity to spend a day with a group of northeastern farmers. It was no surprise that the subject on their minds was the same as the subject on the minds of farmers back home in Mississippi.
Other than asking about how we do things in Mississippi, these guys wanted to talk about technology. They were seeking ways to optimize their equipment to get the very most from their investment. They wanted to lower inputs, improve efficiency, eliminate errors, and keep the machines off turn rows.
Everyone involved in agriculture faces these same challenges. To survive in the world market and to profit, we must continually become more and more efficient in our operations.
The technologies available today can be a great enhancement to productivity, but only if we learn to utilize them to our advantage.
I heard an expression recently that really applies: “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you always got!” Thinking along those lines, to take advantage of available technologies, we need to adjust how we think about the whole concept of technology.
Historically, the operation of a machine has always been a fairly “low tech” affair. Training an operator consisted of understanding a few basic controls, learning to count rows, and a little saddle time. Most could become fairly efficient.
Step into the current world. In addition to driving the machine, operators manage single passes performing multiple tasks while watching screens that display the activity of many features and functions, including high-tech items such as rate monitors, mapping and guidance systems. “High-tech” does not necessarily translate into “complicated,” but it does indicate a need for understanding.
In my conversations with individuals struggling with technology issues, the common denominator was a lack of understanding or a lack of desire to understand. This may be a bitter pill to swallow for people in my age bracket (50+), but younger people seem to adapt to change better. In times of rapid change, experience can be a hindrance.
All that said, it’s time to take another look at how we embrace technology. As the owner, you hold the purse strings in the purchase department. You are without a doubt a maker of intelligent decisions or you wouldn’t be in the business today. If, however, you are not the best choice to be the technology guy, don’t let that limit the efficiency of your operation.
It might not be the most profitable thing for you to assume the role of the technology guy. If you don’t have the time, or the desire, consider choosing someone in your organization or acquiring someone for your organization and assign as one of their responsibilities learning and keeping up with the features and capabilities on new equipment and implements. Ask them to explore and report to you on new developments that might be profitable.
Don’t forget to budget time for them to learn the technology and allow time for training. Operators’ manuals provide adequate information, and many manufacturers offer online training and well as instructor-led customer training for their products.
Budget time for your technology person to receive training and have him re-deliver the applicable parts to your operators. He will be setting up and configuring your equipment, but he needs to discuss day-to-day operational issues with the personnel that will be operating the machines.
There are technologies available to map your fields. Technology can record seeding data and prevent your planter from seeding where it has already seeded. Technology can turn off spray boom sections to prevent spraying where you’ve already sprayed and keep your boom the correct height above the crop. It will capture application data and yield data, guide your machine in pass to pass operations, and even turn it around.
Many equipment dealers have a dedicated person on staff to guide and counsel customers with purchase decisions, installation, and set up of the systems. The individuals are trained to assist you in making intelligent decisions about which technologies will enhance your operation. Couple this resource with your own “in-house” technology guy and good things are sure to happen.
Jimmy Presley is a technical instructor on agricultural equipment. He has developed and conducted classes for technicians across the United States. He resides in Senatobia, Miss.