Precision Tech: Lessons From Portugal

Ten Minute Tech

Europeans have opportunity to learn from our data collection mistakes

Published on: May 10, 2013

I was lucky enough to spend the last several days touring Portugal and assessing where they stand on technology and precision agriculture. It was quickly apparent that precision technology has not impacted their market like it has in most of the U.S. That is not to say they are not using the latest in ag techniques. They are very interested in pursuing the best agronomic management practices. This was obvious in the number of center pivot irrigation systems I observed. In addition, our host farm was using a zone tillage system to maximize efficiency.

However, their adoption of the electronic tools of precision Ag is really just beginning.

Easy sales

Technology companies have the luxury to be able to sell the easy things for the next couple of years. What are the easy things? They are section control, auto steer and machine monitoring. The average

Portuguese farmers are just now becoming aware of the cost savings that can come with owning and operating technology to more precisely monitor and control input applications.

The opportunity for the Portuguese, and probably most of Europe, is not to make the mistakes that we have in relation to data collection. Where we have been using the technology for high accuracy GPS guidance and auto-steer, generally, we have not been rigorous in our archiving of this data.

It is not until now that we are beginning to explore the value of this information as we are attempting to assess historical field operations. In this pursuit we have realized there are many holes in our datasets. Usually this is because the data never made it from the display to the computer.

Companies that train their customers to get field records into a repository will be a step ahead in a few years when their Portuguese customers come to them asking for assistance with data management. There is also an opportunity to sell desktop software for data archiving.

The one thing that struck me as a difficulty to overcome is the lack of farmers who own their own combine equipment. Many Portuguese farms rely on custom harvest crews to collect their crops in the fall. This is a major gap in their data collection pursuits. Without quality yield information it is impossible to evaluate in-field variability or the result of adjustments in management practices.

My time spent in Portugal opened my eyes to a different sector of agriculture and while I'm excited to continue opportunities there, I'm even more excited to continue to enhance and advance precision ag on American soil.