This time of year is always fascinating to me from a technology standpoint, because harvest for me is literally a stroll down memory lane. I have been in Precision Ag for 20 years. In that time, we went from the YM 2000 Yield monitor and a GPS receiver the size of a lunch box to the modern equivalents that have color touch screens and 100 other features.
And while most of the tech from 20 years ago is gone, I still see some old tech at use on farms, and it makes me wonder what the viability of that is.
So often in my life, I find myself stuck between two different generations. My parents were born in the 40’s and grew up in homes that worked their way through the Depression. Both of my Parents have the ability to turn nothing into something. My Mom has always been an expert at sewing, gardening, canning, and running a household on a budget.
On the other side, my Dad was always making what we had work or making what was lying around into something else. One of the best examples I can think of was a machine to lay down the weed barrier fabric for planting trees. The one the NRD had didn’t work well, so he built one out of an old belly mount cultivator laying in the trees. Not only did it work, but it worked so well the NRD bought it to replace the one they had.
Then I turn around, and I look at the “throw away” generation that I was part of growing up. I had a bag phone when I went off to college that we paid for 30 minutes a month. When I got there, I met people who had new phones every year. They sold their computer at the end of each school year because they would get a new one next year. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.
I always knew I didn’t fit in with that group in a way, because my values were totally different. So what did I do, I choose to pursue Precision Ag as my career field. A field where technology is always changing, and you need to be on the cutting edge to succeed. Or at least that is what I thought. What I found was that you all, the American farmer are just as much a cross-section of American Consumers as anywhere else. We have techies that are always getting the new stuff, the DIY’ers that are making it out of nothing, and everything in between.
And to be honest, that is fine on MOST things. But there are a couple of areas where in my opinion, you need to always be current with new hardware. The two areas that really come to mind are your planter and your guidance system. I talk about planters a dozen times a year, but today is about guidance and steering.
For most of you, I would almost dare to say that a steering system gets used more per acre than anything else. While a combine or a planter covers every acre once a season; a steering system may cover the acre four times a year or more. They have single-handedly increased operating time per day, happiness, and mindless cell phone usage.
But, I will challenge you that they are also one of the pieces of tech on your farm that have evolved the most in the last dozen years. With accelerometers and gyroscopes and faster circuits and more GPS constellations and new correction sources and evolving cellular capabilities and… I think you get the point.
So then when it comes to a guidance system, is still using the factory OEM system integrated in your 8320 getting you everything that you need? Sure, it’s still easy to use, you leave the GS2 hooked up to it and don’t touch it. But, along the way, you had to replace the globe didn’t you? You bought unlocks for the display to get GS2 and Autoswath? I could tell the same story for a CNH system or an Ag Leader as well.
So what is the point of this discussion? The point is that for the average person, the phone in your pockets is no more than two years old. At home, we on average replace a computer when it is four years old. Now, how old is the GPS receiver and controller in your combine today? I get it, and I am as much for being thrifty as anybody.
But, this fall and winter I think it is critical to look at and evaluate your Guidance System. With the sunset of 3G technology upon us, it may even mean you have to look at upgrades or replacement for next season to ready for 2019. Don’t let this come as a surprise to you the day you want to start in the field next year.
Evolving your guidance system is key to keeping your operation in motion and moving forward. When you fall behind here, every other operation on the farm that relies on GPS falls behind as well.