Minnesota Farmer


Modern Tech, Do we buy in?

Farming is not as simple as it once was.  In my fathers youth all you needed was a strong back and a willingness to work.  When I started farming I brought a college education and an understanding of the more technical side of farming.  We became money and work managers.

Still today you have to manage your money on the farm.  We’ve been through some bad years when we barely scrapped by.  Our frugality was one of the things that kept us in farming.  Now I’m starting to wonder if I should be investing in more of the modern technology I see in farm equipment.

Let’s take our farm operation back a few years.  Unknown

In the early 1980’s it was a big deal when we got our first personal computer to help with the record keeping.  It wasn’t much, but it really changed what information we were able to process on the farm rather than having to send our information to a “big” computer at a bank or university.

Raven spray control

Raven spray control

Our next step was to move to a computerized spray controller.  This really simplified our life by being able to make “on the move” changes in how we used herbicides.  Waste and over-spraying went way down.  This was both a money saver and an ecologically friendly move.UnknownThen came the day we bought a used combine that had a built-in yield monitor.   We felt like we were really moving up in the world, even though the technology was already years old.  The ability to understand how our crops were yielding and to get “on the spot” crop moisture reports was a big plus.

These were easy changes.  The upcoming changes will be a bit harder.  Some of it has to do with the age of our equipment.  We tend to buy used.  Our older machines have served us well and as long as they are in good shape, we keep using them.  Our age, I’m 60 and my dad 83, also is against us.  It is easier to grab hold of new tech when you are younger and looking at many years of farming.  We are looking at retirement, not expansion.

1310_field_crop_762x458Then you see fields like these where not a seed is wasted.  You hear people talking about spray controllers that control each row rather than a section of the sprayer.  I have watched the neighbors work their fields and skip a pass and then come back to fill those gaps with arrow straight rows.  The efficiency and the better use of resources draws you, but is the cost worth it?

r4d019817_3000_210x139Embracing the new tech is more than just putting a GPS receiver on the top of your machinery.SF1_SF2_0079946_210x139There is more to it than just allowing you to drive your equipment in a straight line.  Many of these changes are not going to fit well with older equipment.  Every year the tech gets better, when do you jump on board?  Are the efficiencies going to pay for themselves?  There are so many questions, and the answers are not always ones we can understand.  Glen08-gps1Still the possibility of more computers in our equipment goes up every year.  The question is when, which piece of equipment and at what cost?  Not simple questions, and not simple answers.

Michael

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