Farming has become a more precise process since the inception of farming more than 10,000 years ago. Due to the technological advances of the 21st century, companies like John Deere and Monsanto are helping digitize agricultural business processes and is providing benefits to farms large and small around the world. Farm implementation companies are using data science, global positioning systems (GPS), wireless communications, automated driving vehicles and vehicle tracking systems to develop new cutting edge farming techniques. These types of systems allow the farmer to conserve precious resources, while maximizing their profits. Technology is transforming the traditional farm into a digital firm in order to stay technologically updated with the rest of the agribusiness industry (Bobkoff, 2015).
One company that is pushing farming into the 21st century is John Deere. They have integrated technologies to implement GPS to employ an optional feature of their equipment, AutoTrac. AutoTrac allows a tractor to self-drive using different presets of driving methods to maximize crop yield within a field. This provides the farmer with the flexibility to operate their business in varying field conditions. Using AutoTrac, a farmer can reduce the number of passes a vehicle must make through a field. Due to less driving, the fuel costs are reduced and allows for covering more ground during any given day. Farmer fatigue is also reduced through the self-driving of the equipment. This allows the farmer to focus on the product producing aspects of their fields, such as seed and fertilizer disbursement (Deere, 2019).
Continuing to innovate, John Deere developed JDLink. JDLink is a subscription service that provides data management through the use of cellular networks. Through communication between the farmer and the entire farming enterprise, the status of their machinery can be tracked in real-time. JDLink can send valuable information to the farmer such as fuel consumption and fluid levels of their machinery. AutoTrac and JDLink help the farmer by increasing their income from crops and the management of equipment. Another technology, Machine Sync, allows multiple pieces of equipment to collaborate during planting and harvesting. This collaboration reduces the duplication of work (Deere). Mobile devices can also be used to monitor the farm with JDLink.
Data science has become more prevalent in 21st century farming. Monsanto’s Fieldscript has enabled the farmer to receive valuable information about the conditions of their fields. Monsanto gathers data from the farmers and can provide information to those farmers about how much fertilizer and water to use on their fields (Doering, 2014). With this information, a farmer can reduce the amount of wasted resources and boost yield per acre. The result is an increase in profits for the farmer. By having detailed information about their fields, a farmer can make more informed decisions about what products to use in their fields to maximize their profits. This is achieved through compiled historical data about the farmer’s fields (Monsanto, 2012).
Farming has become a digital firm because farmers are now utilizing information technology (IT) in their core business processes and in the managing of their assets. Farmers that have become digital firms can respond more quickly to changes in environmental conditions. These changes in conditions can negatively impact the farmer’s profits due to changes in soil quality. The suppliers of seeds, chemicals, and fertilizers such, as DuPont, have been able to provide more individualized products for the individual farmer because of the data that farmers can provide to the suppliers of products used in their fields. (Bobkoff, 2015).
Through IT, farmers can maximize their return on investment by reducing variable overhead such as fuel consumption and the use of seeds and fertilizers in their fields while increasing production simultaneously. IT also allows better understanding of what futures for crops may look like and allow the farmer to lock in a better price before harvesting their crops. Reducing the need for storing inventory for prolonged periods of time allows the farmer to sell crops at it’s highest quality, which will yield a better price at market. This can reduce the amount of fixed costs associated with plant and equipment assets by not needing as much physical storage for the farmer’s crops.
There are three problems that data analytical modeling can assist in the decision making process using precision agricultural systems: planting seeds, fertilizing and watering fields, and harvesting decisions (Gillam 2013). Identifying the problem of what seed to use and where in the field to use the seed is the first step in making the decision of what to do on the farm. Seeds can then be planted efficiently by using digitally enhanced farming equipment. Decisions about depth to plant and row spacing are determined and then can be implemented in the planting of the seeds. Success can then be measured by the increase or decrease of the yield of crops harvested.
Fertilizing and watering decisions can also be made and measured with the interpretation of information gathered about the field. These decisions will impact the amount of resources that are needed and used on the field. Through the implementation of what resources to use a farmer can maximize their profit. By reducing the variable cost of the operation of the farm, success can be measured by net profit.
Planting, fertilizing and watering relies on the data gathered by IT systems to conduct precision agriculture. The harvesting of crops is when the farmer makes their profits. When to actually harvest crops is a vital decision that needs to be made by the farmer. If harvest occurs too soon, maximum value may be not achieved. Conversely, if harvested too late, crops may begin to spoil and reduce the crops’ value or completely make the crops worthless.
Precision agriculture is the way farmers are farming in the digital age. This process is vital to increased crop yields and reduced variable overhead costs associated with running a farm. The individual farmer benefits from these technological advances by reducing labor costs, both in terms of the amount of people needed and the amount of work that needs to be done by the individual farmer. However, most of these technologies benefit large industrial farms and not the small farmers. Some farmers acknowledge the benefits of precision agriculture, but are leery of how their field data might be used and profited on by other people or businesses. For technological advances to be fully embraced, there will need to be a complete cultural change either forced by competition to change or by the individual farmer’s own will to adapt these changes.
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