From drones to smartphones, today’s consumers have access to technology that would make George Jetson’s head spin. And perhaps nowhere has the advancement of technology had a more profound impact than the agriculture industry.
Precision agriculture, also known as site-specific management, is changing the way that our farms operate. Using new technologies and scrupulous information management, precision agriculture allows farmers to divide their fields into smaller sections based on a variety of conditions and manage each section of the field individually. This increases crop productivity and ensures that each section receives the specific amount of water, seed, fertilizers, and pesticides it needs—no more, no less.
While the concept of precision agriculture emerged in the 1990s with the creation of Global Positioning Systems (GPS), the rapid introduction and adoption of new tools like autonomous vehicles, sensors, and variable rate technology has caused the scope and influence of precision agriculture to grow dramatically over the past two decades. In fact, the global precision agriculture market is expected to reach USD 10.23 billion by 2025.
But what does this mean for the Dakotas?
One way that precision agriculture is being utilized locally is through soil mapping. Francis Schaffer is co-founder of Precision Soil Management in Redfield, South Dakota, a company that specializes in helping farmers use their soil to its fullest potential.
“There are 24 types of soil, and each field around here probably contains four to six of those types,” Francis said. “All those soils are not uniformly productive, nor can they be made to be that way. What we’re doing is figuring out where each type of soil is and what we can do, if anything, to improve the productivity of plant populations.”
Precision Soil Management uses a unique three-step process to help farmers maximize their profit on a field. First, they map a field’s soil management zones using a combination of high-resolution aerial imagery, satellite imagery, yield maps, and elevation maps as a guide. They pull as many soil samples as necessary from a field to determine what types of soil are present, while a GPS receiver connected to the field computer keeps track of precise locations at all times so that samples can be pulled from the exact same locations for many years to come.
Once the soil management zones have been outlined, the samples are taken and sent to a laboratory for complete soil analysis. From that analysis, a map of the field is drawn. Precision Soil can use this information to determine what conditions are controlling or limiting crop productivity, including soil salinity, topsoil thickness, wetness, and soil texture. This data is then loaded into Precision Soil’s proprietary system, where the initial yield goals for each zone, based on the crop, soil type, and county are set. The data can be viewed and edited by the customer on a secure website.
Finally, the team from Precision Soil sits down with the customer to write seeding and fertilizing prescriptions for the field. This prescription data can be loaded onto the customer’s ag equipment’s data card, which will precisely control the seeding and fertilizer application rates in real-time.
When farmers know exactly how much seed, fertilizer, or pesticide each specific area of their field requires, they can avoid overseeding or over spraying. This benefits both our environment, because the less excess chemical is entering our soil and waterways, as well as our local economies.
“Because they are using less product, they get to take more money home at the end of the day. And most farmers do their business locally, within their own communities,” Francis said. “Anytime we can put more money in their pocket, they’ll invest it back into the local economy.”
Just as our local farmers trust Precision Soil Management to use precision agriculture to improve the productivity of their fields, Francis and his team trust ReadiTech to keep the technology that they need working.
When Precision Soil Management was in the process of building a new storefront, Francis contacted several local providers looking for someone to construct a server room complete with all of their communication needs: a phone line, wireless internet, video, and more.
“We have made a lot of decisions, but the best one by far was going to DRN and ReadiTech,” Francis said. “If we lose power and our generator is a little slow kicking on, ReadiTech immediately knows there’s a problem. They’re fully aware of what’s going on with the equipment they’ve installed. I don’t ever have to think about the technology until there’s a problem, which doesn’t happen very often, and when it does they are there to fix it.”
Technology is changing the face of farming—make sure yours is running smoothly. Contact ReadiTech today at 701-344-5000.