The Journal Gazette
Sunday, June 16, 2019 1:00 am

Farming technology a growing field

Agriculture evolving with advancements

Sara Fiedelholtz | Fort Wayne Magazine

For farmers, agricultural retailers and agronomists, technology has become an indispensable part of doing business.

Farming is land and labor-intensive, and farmers are driven to find all the possible ways to increase efficiency and manage costs.

Starting in the 1990s, farmers began focusing on precision agriculture and farming technology that allowed for the use of wireless data communication, connectivity and internet solutions to reduce spoilage, monitor irrigation, manage soil, collect data from weather stations and easily track goods and assets.

According to a recent study by Hexa Reports, precision agriculture is set to grow to $43.4 billion by 2025.

Today's farming technological advancements include daily GPS-guided satellite imagery, field monitoring on auto-drive tractors for more cost-effective seed planting, fertilizing and nutrient application and accurately managing field variations to grow more while using fewer resources and reducing production costs.

Redline Equipment and Case IH Agriculture is making sure it is keeping up with farming advancements and capabilities it offers to its clients by establishing its own precision farming test plot to try precision farming technologies. The company is a full-service agriculture equipment solutions provider serving Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.

Redline Equipment's goal is to find ways to make growing crops more accurate and controlled. Key components of its farm management testing program include the use of information technology and methods such as GPS guidance, control systems, sensors, robotics, drones, autonomous vehicles, variable rate technology, GPS-based soil sampling, automated hardware, telematics, and software.

Under the direction of Redline's Precision Farming manager Arik Witker, in 2018, the precision farming team created a 5-acre test farm. The farm site provided the opportunity to establish nine trials for planting and growing corn using only precision planting and farming technologies.

To allow farmers to be involved and see the entire farming process from land preparation through harvest, Witker and his team kept video diaries.

“We used secret seeds, fertilizer and nutrients, so as not to brand the plot,” Witker said. “All phases of farming utilized precision farming equipment from field mapping to auto-drive planters.”

On its test farm, Redline used equipment automation, drone-based nutrient application and hybrid or electric machinery. According to a recent study conducted by consulting company Roland Berger, these types of technological advances and farming capabilities are trending toward more widespread use by farmers.

Witker, who spent 17 years in the National Guard working with satellites and radio communications, continues to focus on deploying current precision farming technologies and preparing ways to test new and upcoming innovations.

“What we tried to do is provide farmers and growers with the opportunity to see how precision farming works and the technology's practical implications,” said Redline CEO Zach Hetterick, who has more than 20 years' experience working with equipment manufacturer Case IH Agriculture, a division of Redline Equipment.

One of Case IH's newest products is the Advanced Farming Systems Connect software, a farm management system that provides total real-time access and control on any device for farmers and growers to their equipment – location, diagnostics, fuel and engine stats.

“A single Case IH AFS display serves as the control center for equipment and works seamlessly across all of our product lines. The software allows for viewing, managing and analyzing all of a farm's precision farming data,” Hetterick said.

Redline also offers an innovative precision farming support program system, AgriSync, a third-party application that helps simplify communication between Redline's advisers and their customers. This mobile agricultural support platform allows the advisers to see, track and problem solve.

“We now have the capability from our smartphones to video conference with the growers. This allows our advisers to see what the growers are seeing in real-time and provide immediate solutions,” Hetterick said.

As technology continues to connect the moving parts – precision farming, satellite agriculture and/or site-specific crop management that allow for observing, measuring and responding to variabilities in crops will continue to move farming's future forward.

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