Precision Ag Offers Efficiencies

By Tim Linden T rimble Inc., best known in the farming community for its auto steer product used on tractors and other equipment, is, in fact, a world-wide company that provides technological solutions across a broad range of industries dealing with many different challenges. Its agricultural division has a host of products that the company believes can easily improve everyday planning, decision making and overall strategy on the farm. “Leverage our proven technologies to operate efficiently, save on input costs, and improve crop performance and productivity,” says Trimble’s ag-centric website. “We provide solutions that solve complex technology challenges across the entire agricultural supply chain. Our solutions enable farmers to allocate scarce resources to produce a safe, reliable food supply in a profitable and environmentally sustainable manner.” The company is a sponsor of the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology (WGCIT) as it is committed to be among the leaders in the agricultural technological revolution. As such, it is currently sponsoring a series of WGCIT-held webinars discussing the implementation of new precision ag technologies. Recently, three members of its North America ag team—Regional Development Manager Connor Anderson, Director of Sales Jesse Chisholm and Product Market Manager David Barton—met with Western Grower & Shipper to discuss precision ag and the role Trimble is playing in the space. While many topics were covered, the major takeaway that the three executives repeated time and again is that the use of precision ag technology is only in its infant stages, and the possibilities for future utilization are almost endless. Anderson noted that the auto steering system is the gateway technology to precision ag. Virtually all farmers have heard about it, with many utilizing an auto-steer system or at least know a neighbor that has one. In fact, most tractors sold today are already equipped with the means to hook into an automatic pilot program through the tractor’s hydraulic system. Once attached, the system provides automatic steering for the vehicle with one- inch repeatability, it utilizes terrain compensation technology for high accuracy on difficult terrain, reduces operator fatigue and increases safety, and can operate day or night in dusty or low visibility conditions. Trimble’s proprietary “Autopilot” does all that…and can connect a farmer to so much more potential. An auto-steer system, by necessity, includes GPS capability and an in-cab screen. Those two items are used for the basic auto-steer but they also allow for the capture of so much more data that can help a farmer address many challenges. “What sets us apart is our Trimble Connected Farm vision, our unified suite of precision solutions covering all aspects of modern

agricultural management,” touts the company website. “From the office to the field, all year round, Trimble Connected Farm helps growers get critical farm work done smarter, faster and more efficiently. Through universal vehicle and implement integration, seamless data transfer and analysis, and the best positioning/ corrections available, farmers can connect as much or as little of their operation as they choose, with easy options for expanding and upgrading as desired.” Trimble goes to market through its network of exclusive, independently owned dealerships, according to Chisholm. He added that it is through these dealers that Trimble connects with the farm community. In fact, he said the dealer network is the linchpin for Trimble’s precision ag tools. “The grower’s first call should be to a dealer,” he said. “Our dealers work with growers to establish a customized plan to solve the issues they want to address.” Anderson said that Trimble “customizes our approach to facilitate the market.” One grower might want to add spot spraying capability to his tractor while another could be focused on a different challenge, such as data collection. The auto-steer tractor is moving through the field on a continuous basis, it can be programmed to collect data, which can result is such efficiencies as lower fuel use as it maps a more efficient way to accomplish that particular cultural task. “We want to understand the grower’s operational challenges and apply our precision ag solutions to remedy the challenge or make the process more efficient,” said Barton, who is the North American product manager. While Trimble has a suite of products that interface well with its proprietary “Autopilot” system, Chisholm said the company and its dealers excel in taking an agnostic approach to the farm machinery that the grower already has or plans to purchase in the future. This advantage enables the grower to incorporate Trimble Precision AG as a centric solution across all the various field application performed by a variety of different machines. Anderson reiterated that it all begins with a grower conversation. “What challenges do you want to solve—spot spraying, data management, post-harvest analysis? Growers understand their own operation. What information do you need to capture?” Barton agreed, noting that there is not a cookie-cutter solution. Every situation is unique, but he did add that it starts with collecting data. “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” The trio of Trimble executives agreed that growers are understandably skeptical of new technology and new solutions to age-old problems. But they also are very bullish on the possibilities available to greatly improve a farmer’s efficiencies and, ultimately, their profitability.


MAY | JUNE 2020

Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com

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