Dr. John Fulton Reviews Progress and Challenges in Digital Ag

Precision Ag

Dr. John Fulton Reviews Progress and Challenges in Digital Ag

By AgGateway Marketing Communications Director Susan Ruland

Agriculture has made enormous digital strides in the past 5-10 years with real benefits to farmers, but challenges still remain, according to Dr. John Fulton with the Precision Ag Program at The Ohio State University. Fulton gave his review of digital ag trends in a general session presentation during AgGateway’s virtual Mid-Year Meeting in July. He examined what technologies are being used and what is still needed for in-field technology and grower-facing applications.

The “connected” farm is becoming more real each year, Fulton noted, adding that AgGateway is “one of the principal facilitators in helping us move into this more digital realm.” Fulton marveled at the advances made in planting, scouting, autonomous equipment and other areas over just the past few years. He noted that more than 90% of farmers report that they carry a digital device.

Challenges still remain, however. “One of our big challenges in the U.S. is having access to rural broadband. There are still spots where we only have 3G,” he noted, dismissing the promise of 5G anytime soon for some rural areas. And while there have been tremendous advances in precision farm operations, “all this requires connectivity, timely analysis and timely information back to the farmer.”

Fulton’s group did an analysis of one typical farmer’s growing season and found that the grower had to navigate 39 different file types (most with proprietary software), and almost 2,500 different data layers (files). The researchers learned that only 25% of the data collected was readily accessible by the farm manager and consultants. And in the end, the farmer only considered 11% of the data valuable to the operation. However, when asked if some of the other data would have been valuable if it were more readily available, the farm manager answered “yes”.

“The point is, there’s a tremendous amount of data. The farmer wants to make timely decisions – the grower is trying to manage all that data, but it is so complex. It is still a challenge to turn data into value,” Fulton said.

Fulton further noted that proprietary precision ag offerings continue to grow, and there are now about 170 different types of precision digital tools. The number of tools that impact sustainability and traceability have also grown.

“Data sharing with trusted advisors is increasing,” Fulton noted, “but there remains complexity and issues to implementation. Data privacy and integrity are also becoming more important.”

Want to hear Dr. Fulton’s presentation? Mid-Year Meeting registrants can access the taped session with Dr. Fulton by using their meeting credentials. If you didn’t register for the Mid-Year Meeting, feel free to register now at the Mid-Year Meeting webpage to access the recorded sessions