Agriculture is the backbone of Montana’s economy and during the recent MATE Show in Billings, farmers could see some of the latest agricultural equipment and precision agriculture technology.
“You don’t need to see anymore," Travis Anderson, Precision Ag consultant with Yellowstone County Implement in Billings, said. "The tractor does the seeing for you with the map and auto steer."
The ultimate goal is to make farmers more efficient and profitable.
“Initially precision ag was autosteer but now we have a machine like this where taking the autosteer out of it really isn’t an option," Anderson said. "It just comes this way from the factory.”
But the definition has changed over the past 10 to 15 years.
“Today, precision ag is more around the information that you get from the components in the machine," Anderson said. "What information does the display collect? What options on the implement can it control?"
Technology has become an indispensable part of business for farmers and it shouldn’t be too surprising that more and more farmers are adopting precision agriculture.
"Compared to the eastern markets, adoption is a little slower out here but as far as the nuts and bolts, the autosteer and stuff like that, adoption has been pretty universal," Anderson said.
With lower commodity prices and tighter operating margins, tracking input costs is very important.
“The display that comes with this tractor, whatever you punch into it, whether you’re putting down map, seed variety or anything like that, can track inputs back to our website," Anderson said. "And that allows you to kind of do your own little agronomy trials on your farm. Try something different in this field versus this one and track it to see which one made you more money."
And as other industries toy with the idea of self-driving vehicles, agriculture is leading the way.
“In the news you have Google and Uber talking about autonomous vehicles, farmers technically have an autonomous vehicle right here," Anderson said. "You still have to sit in the seat but if you set it up right, it will turn around on the ends for you, lift the implement out of the ground, put it back down and turn things on and off. They’ve been using that for the past 10 years.”
As growers continue to adopt precision agriculture, new technologies continue to emerge including the increasing use of drones.