Five Trends that are transforming your farm: #1 Cloud Computing

Five Trends that are transforming your farm: #1 Cloud Computing

There’s little doubt that agriculture is rapidly changing; of course, more for the better than for worse. With that said however I don’t think there will be anyone that disagrees with the statement that now more than ever the ‘squeeze’ is being felt big time by producers and their dealer based support networks: falling commodity prices, rising input costs, herbicide resistant weeds, increasing regulatory oversight and changing consumer demands are among an ever growing list of nasties.

This is where the but comes in; however, I have to prefix the farm-saving ‘but’ with the following statement:

In February I wrote an article called Digital Farming Disruption — To survive in Ag you’ve gotta start embracing bits and bytes. In it I waxed poetic about how growers, large ag equipment dealers and crop consultants need to start taking advantage of new digital technologies, otherwise farm-saving ideas won’t ever find purchase within the industry and see the light of day. This still rings true months later. For any change to occur on both a local and industrial level it comes down to the responsibility of growers and dealer networks themselves to start rolling up their sleeves and jumping in the driver’s seat of new and important technologies.

The message was and still is very simple: adapt or perish. The difference between the world of ag and other primary industries is that agriculture at least has time on its side. The inevitable tipping point between overwhelming demand for food and a farmer’s ever dwindling yield hasn’t yet been reached.

So over the course of the next few years you’re probably going to be reading a LOT of articles about precision ag and hearing a lot of talking about new methodologies that claim to increase yield, boost farm profits and reverse the fortunes of farmers across the country.

In the end however it’s up to you to decide whether investing in precision ag is the way to go for your agribusiness. Personally, I’m on board with precision ag 100% — I wrote an article about it in January 2019. To summarize briefly, by turning local dealerships into hubs of information and portals for testing new precision ag technology, local farmers and agronomists can start working together. Through information sharing VRT technology becomes more flexible in its scope and can start being useful for every type of farm, every soil composition and every variety.

Because of all this new information you’re likely to absorbing, I thought it might be prudent to take a look at all the various trends and digital concepts being thrown around in 2019 and break down some of the most important ones to figure out what they are and whether you should invest time and resources into their implementation.

The first and most obvious item on that list is probably Cloud Computing.

I’m certain you’ve heard that phrase a million times before.

I’m also equally certain that one of your closest tech-savvy buddies has mockingly told you, “You mean, servers?” They’re not wrong, but it’s not a totally accurate description of Cloud Computing either. Yes, servers are involved, they have to be, I mean we’re talking about data. However it’s the public accessibility of that server space that is the key factor here.

The cost of the most basic server hardware can cost a business $100,000 plus. Unless you’re one of the big OEM’s like Deere or Case IH, owning a server to store and process farm data that’s being pulled off your in-field equipment is essentially unattainable.

You see all of your data that’s being pulled from your tractors and so forth needs a place to live, especially for third parties like software developers who are building new programs to help you maximize your farm. As an example, let’s just say that a new third party developer is putting together new software that will automatically detect sprayer shut-off points in your field and automatically tell the sprayer to stop spraying when you drive over one of these holes. Technology like that could save you thousands of dollars a year in input costs.

To make this a reality, they’ll need access to a bunch of data: the GPS coordinates of your fields, a list of shut-off zones, your sprayer’s current position, input types, implement offsets and weather conditions just to name some.

That’s where cloud computing comes in — instead of all this data being saved directly to their own private server, they gain access to the data via the internet from multiple sources. Farm Management Software (FMS) pulls the required data from a multitude of locations, instantly, freeing up computing power that would otherwise be devoted to storing data and using it instead to process powerful analytics, generate graphs or show data visually on maps.

When your data is “in the cloud” it means that it’s accessible from anywhere, from any device and it can be added to or accessed remotely at any time via the internet by you or someone you authorize to see it.

In essence it forms the backbone of most precision ag technologies and it has enabled smaller, innovative companies to start developing powerful solutions without the need for costly hardware.

All of this is great for farmers and dealers. Cloud Computing has given rise to subscription services and cheaper software that has driven down the cost of precision ag. Farmers and consultants at one stage could spend thousands of dollars on a single piece of precision software, these days the same results can be achieved from subscription models that cost a fraction of the price.

It makes investment in FMS technologies less of a financial burden and increases the value of a farmer’s investment.

But there are other benefits of Cloud Computing for farmers and dealers beyond reduced cost points. Let’s take a look at some of those.

As addressed above, because of Cloud Computing precision ag technologies as a whole have become far cheaper to both develop and implement; in turn, a reduced production cost means better savings for end users like farmers.

But that in itself has a huge knock-on effect for the ag industry, just think about it:

After seeing all this, as the owner of an agribusiness you have to ask yourself:

And that’s a really good question. To be honest there is no one way to invest in Cloud Computing from a stand-alone point of view. Instead, you just need to open yourself up to the idea that because of Cloud Computing, precision ag in general has become a cheaper, more accessible and more modular when it comes to adapting itself to a farmer’s needs.

For growers, investing in this concept simply means going to your local large ag equipment dealer and speaking to someone about how they can work with you in helping to maximize the return on every acre of your farm.

For dealers, it means speaking with FMS providers about the kinds of value-added services they can provide for your customers. Not every FMS solution is going to be perfect for local topographies, soil types and varieties, so it’s best to find something that is modular or adaptable to different scenarios.

Find out more about FMS solutions at https://twitter.com/MyAgDNA

Five Trends that are transforming your farm: #1 Cloud Computing

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