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When should farmers embrace new technology?

Farmers have different approaches toward tech, but it has to pay

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Glacier FarmMedia – When should farmers embrace the bold technologies that promise to transform their farms?

“Figure out when they pay,” said Kansas State University agricultural economist Terry Griffin.

Why it matters: Farmers are being bombarded by new technology, forcing them into decisions about what technology to use and what to reject.

The simple economic approach isn’t easy to apply, with multiple ways of assessing a technology’s return on investment, but it helps simplify the anxiety some farmers experience when they are made to feel that they should be integrating some new technology just because it’s available.

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That common feeling can be described as Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).

“FOMO should not enter into your decision-making process when you’re evaluating whether you should do a business activity or not,” said Griffin during a presentation at the Farm Forum Event.

Farmers have different approaches toward technology depending upon their approach to farming, including whether they are risk-maximizers or risk-minimizers, as well as how long they intend to keep farming.

However, Griffin said all farms will at some point embrace “precision agriculture,” just as all farms eventually embraced mechanization in the middle of the 20th century, so establishing the window between premature and late is something all farmers should be thinking about.

Most big production equipment sold since 2010 has come with various forms of automation and data collection pre-installed, so the ability to collect data is already there on most farms. However, making that data practically useful is the challenge for many.

Some farmers struggle just to get their crops in on time and other field operations done within proper agronomic windows, so mere data collection achieves little.

However, Griffin said future on-farm use of production data means that farmers should start collecting data now, even if they don’t know exactly how they’ll use it.

“Collect it anyway,” he said. That will also help with the mistakes people first make when beginning to collect data. It’s better to make the mistakes before the data is needed.

Griffin said at some point all farms will be “precision” farms, and that term will go out of use. Farms will all have to embrace precision productions at some point.

It’s important for farmers to assess when it makes economic sense for them and their farm to embrace it.

This article was originally published at the Western Producer.

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