Truck on scale at grain elevator

Farmers Weigh in on Technology and the Future of Farming

Three farmers gathered during the 2023 Bushel Buddy Seat Conference to give their feedback and perceptions of how technology is impacting their farm operations. They included Quentin Connealy, who farms soybeans and corn on the east side of Nebraska; Vince Eberhart, who farms corn, soybeans, wheat, and specialty crops in north central South Dakota; and Rodd Beyer, who farms sugar beets, corn, soybeans, and alfalfa in western Minnesota. 

What technology is currently in the farmers’ tech stack?

While autosteer was emerging in the early 2000s, today it is ubiquitous for this farmer panel, with all three mentioning the ability to be precise in fields. Two of the farmers, Beyer and Connealy, use John Deere Operations Center through their John Deere equipment. One key technology they talked about was technology offered to them by their local grain elevators and ag retailers.

“Years ago, I was the organized one with the clipboard that had the back storage with the maps, lines and made sure to write everything. I had to track down scale tickets from all my drivers, which might still be in the truck or their pants pockets. Now I don’t care – I can just pull it up on my phone and it’s there,” Eberhart said. 

How do farmers evaluate what technology to adopt?

While the term “ROI” came up, the farmers agreed that what defines ROI differs among farmers – and it’s not always monetary. Many times it’s about time savings and convenience. Beyer shared a story of how precision technology saved him time when adding tile and surface drainage. Without technology, he would have had to go out to the ditch, set a laser on a plane to line it up, and then do that again on the other side. Today with GPS, he can pull into a field with autosteer and dig a perfectly straight ditch, reducing headaches, time, and hassle. 

Connealy discussed how evaluating tech is less about finding bigger equipment and more about finding more ways to be efficient to get time back. “ROI can be a fuzzy term and it’s really about how you value your time. There’s a lot of time and effort to make sure movement is precise. It’s how you value your time and how you use it, whether it’s more time at home or with family or getting more done with your operations.”

What is the technology of the future that is most interesting? 

The panel agreed that autonomous equipment will continue to be a part of future farming operations. Whether for simple tasks like tilling, or used to precisely identify and apply the right amount of herbicides to specific weeds, autonomous equipment is a key part of how farms will address labor issues and create more efficiency for their input purchasing. Additionally, understanding soil and field data is going to continue to narrow, going down to the square foot rather than just the field level. 

Beyer compared the farmers of the past exploring and looking for ways to adopt technology to the farmers of the future who will simply expect it to be available and accessible on a mobile device. “We went from pushing technology away to wanting technology, and now kids today just assume it will be there and in your hand,” he said. 

Connealy talked about the shift from not having technology to having “eyes everywhere.” The key to the future is how that technology integrates throughout the farming operation. “With all of the technology out there today, it becomes more important for that technology to integrate and talk to each other. It will just make our life a lot easier on the farm side. What would be great is a hub for me: my crop insurance rep, marketing advisor, agronomist, and others to be able to share information,” he said. 

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