The other day the daughter of one of our customers said something that made so much sense that it bears repeating.
“Wouldn’t it be great if there was actually a Jitterbug monitor for precision ag,” she said. “This stuff needs to be simpler so people like my granddad can use it.”
For those who don’t know what a “Jitterbug” is – it is a cell phone made specifically for those who are “technologically adverse” or simply were a generation ahead of the “personal computer revolution.” In other words – a simple cell phone – with an emphasis on being a phone and double emphasis on being simple. No smart phone apps or complex data plans – simply a nice phone with big buttons, large display and robust volume. You know – the important things you might want in phone!
These comments reveal a persistent problem that plagues precision agriculture. It’s still too complicated! The hardware is too hard to run! And sometimes you truly may need to be a rocket scientist in order to operate this stuff.
For a segment of the agricultural industry that is nearly two decades old – precision agriculture should be simpler and offer a better user experience than it currently does. When the most complex task most operators of the hardware can achieve is simply pushing a button marked “A” and another button marked “B” so that you can drive straight – that is not what I would call fulfilling the promises of precision ag.
A $25,000 autosteer system should be able to do more than just drive a straight line. It should be a management tool that is like your own personal assistant that you take to the field with you recording exactly what you’re doing agronomically on your farm. It should be easier than it is to record the varieties you plant, the number of seeds you plant, the herbicides you spray and the number of bushels you harvest.
But those tasks are still hard to do because iron and hardware companies remain clueless or too hardheaded on how to easily collect the most basic, yet most important agronomic details regarding crop production. In order to outdo each other these precision ag companies continue to awe us with their latest bells and whistles. Meanwhile, the basics and the agronomic promises of precision ag have been left behind in the dust.
So it my contention that whoever comes up with the “Jitterbug” or the “Easy Button” of precision hardware will win the game. Technology can only truly fulfill its promise when it becomes transparent. Because it is not the hardware that should be the focus of precision agriculture it is the agronomy. And if we’re too confused about which button to press we’ll never get there.
That’s why Prime Meridian has worked very hard putting together BASIC multi-year precision plans called “Prime Packages” that focus solely on getting good data to and from the field. It would be a lot easier if the hardware companies would jump on the precision agronomic bandwagon but until then we’ll keep fighting the good fight and continue delivering SIMPLE to our customers.