As we set aside our differences and promote goodwill during the holiday season, I can’t help but think about the Grinch that is precision farming compatibility.
Talking with strip-tillers throughout the year, one of their biggest concerns or complaints, was the lack of a simple solution to connect multiple brands of farm equipment. While manufacturers insist they’re moving closer to universal standards, farmers remain skeptical.
“We want plug-and-play to work, but I’m not optimistic it’s going to happen anytime soon,” notes Coleharbor, N.D. strip-tiller Paul Anderson. For years, Anderson has struggled with precision component compatibility within a mixed fleet of equipment that has included a John Deere tractor, Kinze corn planter with Case IH Early Riser row units, and a 16-row Blu-Jet strip-till rig.
His tractor cab often has enough monitors and blinking lights to be mistaken for a holiday display. Anderson’s “cab-clutter” includes different systems for section control on the corn planter, auto-steer and RTK mapping of fertilizer application, planting population monitoring, data recording and in-cab adjustment of planter air bags and row cleaners.
It’s cost Anderson several thousand dollars, beyond the initial expense of the equipment, to get the systems working properly. While he’s no Scrooge when it comes to investing in precision technology, Anderson also says he doesn’t want to waste money on repetitive systems.
With the decline in commodity prices, farmers are likely going to be more selective with farm equipment and precision purchases for the next couple of years. More will likely be holding onto older equipment and perhaps adding precision enhancements to improve efficiency.
“My biggest fear is that companies will solve compatibility for new equipment, but I won’t be able to use a 10-year old implement with a brand new tractor,” says Dresden, Ontario, strip-tiller Mark Richards. “I just hope companies have some good troubleshooters working on adapting technology with older equipment, because not everyone can afford to buy new all the time.”
What have been your biggest headaches with equipment compatibility in your strip-till operation? Share you story with me at (262) 782-4480, ext. 441, or send me an e-mail at email@example.com.