Not just for the young: Precision tech zooms through halls of Buffalo Bill Farm & Ranch Expo
A phrase wove itself throughout the signage and business models of vendors lining the aisles of Buffalo Bill Farm and Ranch Expo Feb. 4 in North Platte, Neb.
“Precision ag” isn’t just for the young or those new to the industry. Agricultual indusries across the board are increasingly interested in making the business more precise. Vendors gathered to sell data, products, plans and more to make agricultural work more precise, and they braved a storm to do so.
Despite receiving about 11.4 inches of snow, according to The Weather Channel, vendors and attendees alike made it to the expo.
Kathy Swain, membership director of the North Platte Area Chamber of Commerce and Development Corporation, considered the expo a success.
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“A lot of our vendors have done great business,” Swain said. “Next year the numbers will be up.”
Usually, 5,000-7,000 people attend, Swain said. Since the storm hit, about 800 attendees braved the weather Wednesday and 1,500-2,000 made it out Thursday.
What shape is precision ag taking? From aerial technology to seed placeement to water efficiency, companies market precision as a lifeline.
“We make recommendations based on the data we gather,” Cassell Spicknall, with ServiTech said. “We help reallocate resources to most efficiently harness the environment.”
ServiTech offers services such as grid sampling, data management, aerial imagery and variable rate seeding.
“To stay competitive in our industry, we make this service available to customers who are interested,” Spicknall said. “It’s the next agricultural revolution.”
Spicknall said that with increasing pressure from the EPA and pressure to be better stewards, precision ag helps farmers and ranchers to be more conscious.
“Precision equipment is taking off online,” said Booker Boyer, 29, with Big Iron. “It’s been a big deal. This is the first time we’ve had a specified categorty for precision equipment.”
Big Iron is an online auction site. Employees photograph equipment for sale and then list the equipment online. Farmers no longer have to wait for the weekend to see what’s available.
“Farmers can be sitting on a tractor using their smart phone and making a bid” Boyer said.
David Gleason, 37, Precision Ag manager for Simplot, said Simplot is based on a full precision ag platform. This includes irrigation, seed placement, fertilizer and more. They have a sprayer clinic for applicators to figure out what nozzle types create the least drift, Gleason said.
“We’ve got a limited area we can grow now,” Gleason said. “That’s what’s driving precision ag. Take any aspect of agriculture and you can find a way to brand it precision ag because everyone wants to do things more efficiently.”
Jake Conley, 25, also works for Simplot.
“Our generation has to figure out how to feed more people than ever before,” Conley said. “Calculating the data helps us make recommendations.”
Mark Smith, 55, works with AirScout.
Smith focuses on saving water with precisely controlled valve systems that reduce wasted water.
Other Airscout technology allows farmers and ranchers to monitor fields by air with thermal technology. Farmers and ranchers can then identify problems early so they don’t become larger issues.
Why is this important?
“For every dollar you put in, you have to turn a profit or you’re out of business,” Smith said.
Floyd Holt, 74, has been working for T-L since 1979.
“Precision ag is the coming thing,” Holt said. “Every year there’s a little more. Our goal is to get the right amount of water in the right place.
T-L water valves are hydraulic driven — they intend to save water by tailoring the amount to soil requirements.
“We’ve got to keep up,” Holt said. “Competition makes you keep up.”
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