Here is the next in our series as we introduce you to a few of dedicated precision ag equipment dealers in a series called “Getting to Know Ag Leader”.
We caught up with Ken Diller of Hoober Inc. in Intercourse, Penn.:
1. From an agronomy standpoint, what do you consider to be the biggest issues facing growers today?
Farmers are having a harder time being able to digest all of the information that they need to make an educated decision on things like variety and rates. Seed corn manufacturers are continually coming up with new varieties that are better suited to a certain type of soil type, weather condition, and season length. The same things can be said for the fertilizer manufacturers or suppliers. They are continually coming up with new formulas that affect rates applied and the performance of the seed based on the type of soil and weather condition. All of these choices and constant changes are making it harder for the individual farmer to make the proper decisions on his own. It is becoming more important all the time for them to have a trusted adviser who is knowledgeable about all of these changes and how they affect his operation. This helps them to have confidence in the decisions they are making for their operation. The same thing holds true for their precision farming hardware purchases. Technology changes at such a rapid rate, that having that trusted adviser to help them make the correct decisions as far as hardware is concerned is becoming more and more important to them.
2. Tell us about how growers in your area are using precision agriculture.
Growers in our area are using precision agriculture for more and more applications all the time. When precision agriculture was introduced, we concentrated on collecting data about yields. From there we moved on to adding steering to make sure we were getting the best row spacing possible. Next, we applied the same type of technology to machine control to make sure we were controlling our input costs as efficiently as possible. Growers have been able to see the added advantages of adopting this type of technology by realizing lower input costs and at the same time higher yields. A lot of these advantages can be attributed directly to the use of this technology because the technology allows us to keep more consistent and more accurate records to substantiate these advantages. A lot of our smaller farmers are beginning to adopt this technology because of the input from their fellow farmers in the area. Even the smallest of farmers can find a piece of this technology that he can adopt to make him more efficient and productive. Growers in our area are using this technology in just about every aspect of farming that you can imagine. From nothing more than manual guidance to full machine control and implement steering. Once they use this technology, they realize what it can do for them.
3. What benefits are growers seeing by using precision ag on their farms? Give us some examples.
One of the best examples that we have that shows the benefits is in potatoes. This is a crop that needs to be cultivated on a consistent basis for weed control. Every pass with the cultivator without steering, results in bruised potatoes because the operator cannot keep the wheels between the rows. Every one of those bruised potatoes is not marketable. By using steering on RTK, the operator is able to keep the tires off of the mound when cultivating, thus resulting in reducing the amount of bruised potatoes. This in turn results in more yield to be able to market.
4. What do you believe is on the horizon when it comes to technology and agriculture?
I think we have only touched the tip of the iceberg in ways to use technology in precision agriculture. We are seeing the benefits of Real Time Fertilizer sensors for side dressing corn and top dressing wheat. We are seeing the push toward more and more uses for the wireless data transfer part of precision agriculture. We are going to see more and more uses for this wireless technology as cell systems continue to progress and get faster and faster. This technology opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for the farmer and for that trusted adviser that he is relying on more and more. Information and support at his fingertips is going to be more and more important all the time.
5. What’s your best piece of advice to a grower who might be looking at using precision ag products?
The best thing a farmer can do is talk to his neighbors who are using this technology. I would venture to say that 95% of them are going to tell him that the investment they made in this technology was well worth the money they spent. A lot of this will depend upon the level of support they got from their dealer. Here again is where that trusted advisor comes into play. The learning curve can be as steep or as small as you make it, depending upon the level at which you dive into this technology. My advice to someone who is just beginning, is to start small. Get your feet wet with one component of this technology and then move on from there as you become more comfortable using it for its intended purpose. Don’t be afraid of this technology. Farmers of all ages have adopted this technology and are using it to make them more efficient.
Check back next month to “Get to Know” another Ag Leader dealer!
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