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Can Precision Ag Impact Potential Profits?


IF YOU’RE WORKING in ag, you’d be hard-pressed not to have heard of precision agriculture. Whether it’s the latest piece of technology or a review of the benefits of precision ag, the topic is front and center in agriculture news. One benefit that is often discussed is the potential for profits and what do they look like. The exact answer is not easily determined and will depend upon your operation, your crop, and the precision ag tech you’re using, but I’ve scoured some interesting numbers worth sharing.

THE GROWTH OF PRECISION AGRICULTURE
Precision agriculture traces its roots to the yield-monitoring systems of the 1980s. In the past few years, precision ag has experienced tremendous growth. According to a 2016 study by the industry research firm Caledonia Solutions, the adoption rate of precision technologies by farmers will more than double from 2013 to 2019.Precision technologies like yield monitors, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones), sensors, GPS-based guidance or auto-steer systems, mapping, and more will be used by growers and producers to alert, track, predict, detect, and manage the fields and livestock.

POTENTIAL PROFITS & COST REDUCTION
That same study by Caledonia Solutions maintains that corn growers who have adopted precision ag technology have seen an increase in crop yields of 11 percent and a decrease in input expense of 9 percent. Furthermore, numbers from the USDA concerning precision ag on smaller corn farms (140-400 cropland acres) show that hired labor costs are 60-70 percent lower when one of the following technologies are utilized: GPS-based mapping systems (including yield monitors and soil/yield mapping); guidance or auto-steer systems; or variable rate technology (VRT) for applying inputs. There is still much to be learned about the potential for profit and cost reduction when utilizing precision ag, but one thing is certain: as these technologies advance and become more cost efficient to implement, we will continue to see them used in the field to help maximize production.

by DON HARDEN This column is sponsored by AgAmerica Lending. BIO: Donald Harden, a Relationship Manager for AgAmerica Lending, grew up in the cattle and citrus business, managing a family ranch of several thousand cattle and horses. He has more than 30 years of experience in the real estate business, and more than 20 years specializing in agricultural sales. Over the years, Don has been honored to serve the ag community in many facets, including as a director and on the board of the cattlemen’s association, as a manufacturer’s representative for ag equipment companies, and as a beef cattle specialist for a national feed company. For more information about Don and the AgAmerica team, call 844.238.5312 or visit AgAmerica.com.