Adapting to the Times

Adapting to the Times from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

by Keith Byerly

by Keith Byerly

As I was driving back and forth between our office and warehouse a couple of weeks ago, there was a survey crew working along the highway. They had their RTK antenna in one hand, and their data logger in the other. And for the next few days, they continued to work on this stretch of highway doing a survey of elevation. And it got me to thinking about how all of us adopt technology, and specifically how quickly we do it.

I think in a lot of ways that we can draw a very straight line from what that survey crew was doing, to what we do in agriculture. They had moved partially into using the technology to its potential. That RTK receiver that the survey guy had in his hand is capable of giving several readings per second to the field computer, and the computer is capable of recording them. But here we were, stuck in a very labor intensive way of doing things. Walking a few feet, stopping, then moving again. The point was driven home even further to me as I was driving across Manitoba last Friday and saw the survey crew out with the same antenna and same field computer, but instead of walking along, somebody was driving the pickup at about 15 mph, and he was hanging out the door taking readings.

When I talk about adopting the technology, they have already done it. I don’t see them out with a tripod and stick anymore. They have moved onto RTK. But they haven’t automated the process yet. And we know they can do it, we see bulldozers in construction sites all the time with a pair of antennas automatically controlling grade.

But here is the same trap that we fall into; instead of investing in another antenna and a small trailer to pull to collect this information, they continue to send several crews of people out to do it. Would the investment in technology be cheaper than the wages we spend to do it now? I have no doubt in less than two years it would be cheaper to operate.

So why don’t we do it? We know it’s more efficient and makes fiscal sense. The very simple answer is fear. We are afraid to invest in technology when our revenue is as high as it has been. We are afraid it won’t work as well as what we are doing today. We are afraid that we might stumble and have to go through a learning curve. And all of those are reasonable. But we have to also fear the time and money we lose being less efficient than we could be, or less efficient than those around us.

And that is my take home for the day. Whether it’s a survey crew, or your planter, pivot monitor, moisture probes, or even accounting, changes keep coming at us. We need to not fear the change, but be ready for it. That doesn’t mean we hop on every new technology bubble. But it does mean that once or twice a year we need to seriously evaluate how current and new technology could improve our bottom line or our lives. The ACS Equipment team is fantastic at analyzing needs and working on ROI information. Now is the time of year to be in deep evaluation of planter technology for next season. In the end, we all adopt technology at some point, let’s make sure that it is early enough to do us the most good.