30 Days on a Prairie Farm: Technology

My Generation

Day 12: Why we're willing to learn and spend more on technology that (theoretically) makes our business run smoothly and (definitely) makes us safer.

Published on: November 12, 2012

We spent time over the weekend with some of my husband's great college friends and their families. No surprise, many of them are farmers and there was much conversation about farming, equipment, land and such. I was talking with one of the guys at the football game (hey, it was Illini football after all) and he was telling about the trouble he had getting his yield data in and out of his computer system. "Yeah, I came home from school and he had FOUR laptops sitting on the counter and iPads in each hand!" laughed his teenage daughter. Kinda like NASA. Or something.

Anyway, through the course of computers that wouldn't read his card, update that couldn't be downloaded through their slow Internet connection, CDs that had to be mailed and waited on for a week, crop insurance guys who really needed those individual field yield numbers, our friend was about to pull his hair out. In the end, he used his wife's laptop and it all worked beautifully - less than five minutes, and his days (weeks?) of frustrations were over.

Checking the grain dryer? Never been easier!
Checking the grain dryer? Never been easier!

If only it were always so easy! Or not.

The point is, farmers use a lot of technology. We have tractors that steer themselves using autosteer, reducing so-called "operator fatigue." This is a real phenomenon and I use quotes not to discredit such fatigue, but to point out that when your husband is less "fatigued," he simply runs later at night. Time was, operations shut down in the early evening or when it got dark, depending on the particular fieldwork at hand. Now? He just runs later at night. But, the efficiency!

Now we're looking at auger wagons that can be controlled by the combine operator, making it easier to dump grain "on the go." (Which is to say, the combine keeps rolling and the tractor and wagon pull up beside to let the combine unload.)  This is all very cool. Expensive, but amazing and in many cases, very useful.

Farmers like technology, for the most part. At the very least, they like the efficiency they can gain from it. Within the industry, we used to call it precision farming, because it really was: using GPS to precisely pinpoint how much an exact acre yielded, how much fertilizer that exact acre needed, and then applying it as such. You could know exactly how much yield that wet spot was costing you, and know exactly how quickly it would pay off to tile the field. Today, that's just part of our mode of operations.

I've written before about our little brush with farm un-safety and how technology has made my husband's life easier during harvest. Because that's the thing: farm technology isn't just some cool little toy. It helps our bottom line, it makes us better farmers, it helps us better care for the land and it makes us safer.

Those are lots of good reasons to invest.

 

The archives: 30 Days on a Prairie Farm

Kickoff: 30 Days on a Prairie Farm

Day 1: Working Kids

Day 2: Biotechnology

Day 3: Harvest Eats

Day 4: Church

Day 5: Biotechnology, Again

Day 6: Long Haul

Day 7: Hormones

Day 8: Weather

Day 9: Milk

Day 10: County Fairs

Day 11: Harvest

Day 12: Technology

 

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