Precision Ag: Five Tips for Getting Started

Implementing any new technology can be tough. Here’s how to get started with precision ag.

By Jeff Caldwell | Photos By Christy Couch Lee

Dave Lynn admits his own process of implementing precision ag hasn’t been without hiccups, like making the myriad tools he uses work together as one cohesive system and convincing landowner partners of the value of that system. But, there are steps he’s taken throughout the process that he says can be valuable for other farmers planning adopting similar technology.

  • Lynn in the cab of his MF9695 combine.

    Lynn in the cab of his MF9695 combine.

    Focus. Know what you want to accomplish and seek out the technology that’s going to help you reach your goal.

  • Scaling up is a good approach. “I wasn’t one of the first farmers around to jump into [precision ag], and we didn’t go full-tilt when we did,” Lynn says. He notes buying a whole new lineup of technology can be a daunting task with a big price tag. However, in those instances when one piece of technology can stand alone, adding components incrementally can help spread the cost and lower the learning curve.
  • Have a good technology team. Working together with specialists who can provide expertise at key times is important to the success of any farm’s technology integration plan. Nathan Zimmerman, Lynn’s precision farming manager, uncovers ways to apply new technology on the farm, helps solve technical problems and, in the process, has become a critical part of the team. “I couldn’t do all of this without Nathan. He’s been invaluable to our precision ag plan,” Lynn says.
  • Calibration is critical. So the data collected is a valid basis for production decisions down the road, it’s of utmost importance to make sure all of your precision technology, especially mapping software and yield monitors, is accurately calibrated—a job that can be done by the farmer or dealer, depending on the tool. “All of your data is only as good as your calibration,” Lynn says.
  • Have realistic expectations. Adopting farm technology, such as yield monitors and mapping, is often a balance between cost and your ideal level of precision. “Sometimes, you can have 2% planter meter skips. You could go to the expense to rebuild them” and get them closer to zero, Lynn says. “But, does that 2% justify the cost? I think with a lot of new technology, you can get into the situation where you pay to reach 100% but you may not always make that back,” he adds.

<< See Dave Lynn’s full story, “Heavy Metal, High Tech”