What's the Payback on Precision Ag Technology?

Prairie Gleanings

Brian Watkins has seen a terrific ROI with precision ag tech on his farm. He's got the data to back it up.

Published on: July 16, 2013

Certain technologies catch on because they make life a whole lot easier.

Terry Griffin, with Cresco Ag, points out that auto-steer and GPS guidance fell into that category when they were first introduced. When you’ve gone through a spring like this one, it’s nice to have a few minutes to yourself between the end rows.

But, does all this precision ag stuff actually pay the bills? According to Kenton, Ohio farmer Brian Watkins, yeah it does.

Watkins (and Griffin) spoke at the InfoAg Conference in Springfield today. Watkins was named an Ohio Master Farmer last year. Judging by the short 20-minute presentation, it’s a well-deserved honor.

Remember when cabs were an option? Seems to reason precision ag technology will soon enter the realm of standard equipment.
Remember when cabs were an option? Seems to reason precision ag technology will soon enter the realm of standard equipment.

Watkins farms more than 7,000 acres in northwestern Ohio. He’s calculated the return on investment for precision technology on a custom-built spreadsheet. It’s broken out by crop, technology, etc.

He’s even calculated the ROI on yield gains via better seed placement due to downforce adjustments in the field. Yeah, it’s pretty in depth.

Even more impressive are the numbers. The labor and fuel savings as a result of auto-steer, reduced overlap and precision guidance amount to around $3,000 per year. The input savings comes out to $62,173 per year. The yield gains add around $83,735 per year.

As one example, Watkins notes he went from a blanket soybean seeding rate of 175,000 plants per acre down to an average of 158,400 plants/acre using variable rate technology. That reduction alone saved him $19,125 per year in soybean seed.

Precision tech has allowed him to work smarter too. He figures his crew is able to spend 10% more time in the field because of reduced driver fatigue. This amounts to around 47 man hours each year thanks to technology.

When it’s all said and done, Watkins has seen a 145% ROI with precision ag technology on his farm. Wow!

During Griffin’s presentation, he reminds folks that many years ago “mechanized” agriculture was different than agriculture. Of course, this was still when horses were a key part of most operations.

It looks like we’re headed the same way with precision agriculture. Soon, all ag will be precision agriculture.