Ag TechnologyA lot has changed in the 183 years since John Deere himself developed the cast iron plow.

Since then the market for agricultural equipment has done nothing but grow. With that have come new companies and new technologies. Equipment today is smarter, faster, and more efficient than ever before. Agricultural technology is no different than the technology in our everyday lives. It seems that every day someone is coming out with something newer and better. And just like with everyday technology, we see varying rates of adoption within the agricultural world as well.

AEM, along with Farm Journal, conducted a survey on the current adoption rates of agricultural technology. On top of that we also dove deeper into why farmers do or don’t adopt certain technologies, as well as their plans to adopt in the future. All this information was then presented during a webinar held last month, entitled Ag Technology Adoption Insights. When conducting the survey, we came up with five main categories and then listed certain technologies that fell under each one.

The five categories were:

  •  Precision farming
  •  Autonomy
  •  Electrification
  •  Telematics
  •  Remote-control sensing

Research Insights

The category had the highest adoption rate was precision farming. The lowest adopted technology from precision farming was GPS-referenced soil testing at a 69% adoption rate, while yield mapping came in at a category-best 88% adoption rate. Electrification technology by far had the lowest adoption rates, with battery-operated tractors having the lowest adoption rate of about 1%. For electrification, diesel-electric hybrids had the highest adoption rates at about 11%. Autosteer systems were the most widely adopted technology, with 93% of respondents indicating that they have already adopted this technology. The adoption of telematics technology was pretty even across the board, with a range of between 32-43% of respondents indicating that they have already adopted these technologies. Remote sensing had varying results in terms of adoption, with 44% of respondents having already implemented remote weather sensing technology, but only 1% using remote operated tractors.

So many farmers have already made the jump to adopting these new technologies, and while it may seem clear and obvious as to why some made this choice, for others that may not be the case. Thus, we took a look into the reasons why farmers make the choice to adopt some of these options. Unsurprisingly, the number one reason for adopting the majority of these technologies was an increased ROI. Most farmers operate on tight margins to begin with, so a lot of them are looking for anyway possible to gain a leg up and increase profits. Other reasons included the addressing of workforce needs, increased safety, and a simplified job process. All of these play hand-in-hand to one another as well, so it is unsurprising that they all made the list. Due to these technologies reducing complexity, and the amount of manual labor needed, work tends to be faster, easier, and there is a reduced risk of human error that can lead to injury. All three of those things are something that every business owner, farmer or not, would love to see.

While all of these technologies have clear cut benefits for farmers, there is still something that is holding them back from making the leap and adopting these new technologies. The top five reasons farmers have not made the commitment yet were as follows:

  • Cost of the product is too high
  • Data security concerns
  • They do not see ROI
  • Lack of local support
  • Limited labor to implement

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All but the last of these issues are things that can be addressed by OEMs. The issue of cost and ROI are interrelated and can possibly be attributed to the farmer not being aware of all the benefits to the machinery and in turn not utilizing these benefits. If the farmer can see a higher ROI and understands that, then the cost can suddenly become more bearable. Data security concerns have become a big discussion point within the farming community, and the number one thing OEM’s can do to begin to address these issues is be transparent about where the data is stored, who has access to it, and how it is being used. By maintaining this level of transparency, we can begin to build a certain level of trust with end users. Finally, a lack of local support is a message that is not at all new to OEMs. Over the course of the last few years, workforce development has entered the spotlight and is something that is being actively addressed by companies all throughout the industry. Here at AEM, our Workforce Development Committee has taken a deep look at this issue and will soon be releasing a Workforce Development Toolkit to help.

Not all farmers have made the choice to adopt new technologies. For one reason or another, it just may not make all that much sense for them to adopt at this very moment. This is why we took a look into farmers’ future plans to adopt technology as well. A lot of the issues came down to things that ultimately are related to a breakdown in communication with the farmer related to machinery benefits. Many farmers are not seeing the full benefits of this cutting-edge technology because they either don’t know it is on the machine at all, they know it is there but don’t know how to use it, or they just don’t fully understand the value that it is offering them so they don’t take the time to use it even though they possess the knowledge to do so. However, these technologies can address a lot of major issues farmers face, whether it be increasing margins financially, making better agronomic decisions, saving time and money on labor, or being more precise with their work. The benefits are there, it is just a matter of properly communicating and training the farmer on how to take advantage of them.

Looking to the Future

However, just because farmers have yet to adopt these technologies does not mean they don’t have plans to begin adopting them in the future. This is why we also asked farmers about their plans to adopt these technologies in the coming years. The top two technologies that farmers planned on adopting within the next five years were remote grain bin sensors and automatic equipment diagnostic technologies, with 38% of respondents indicating their intent to adopt. Among those that farmers expressed no desire to adopt anytime soon were remote-operated and fully autonomous tractors, along with battery-powered tractors. However, this makes sense. These are some of the newer technologies, so many of the respondents may have not been aware of the full benefits offered by them. Or, there could have been a level of uneasiness about their reliability.

All in all, the technology to improve farming from all perspectives is there. And with time, farmers are buying in more and more. We have seen a great wave of technology adoption in recent years, and as this trend continues, it very well may be possible that farmers become even more open and receptive to new technologies that may be a bit foreign to them.

The key obstacle that has to be overcome is addressing the education gap that exists in terms of these technologies. However, step one to addressing any issue is recognizing that it exists, and it’s safe to say that many OEMs are already beginning to tackle this through more workforce and dealer development programs. As those aspects of the business become stronger, so to will farmers understanding of technologies, along with their willingness to adopt them.

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