If you're in the early stages of adopting precision farming technology, don't start out with the most sophisticated, most complicated, most expensive units you can find. Instead, start simple with equipment that will return you obvious benefits. However, the overriding number one factor in guiding what you purchase should be compatibility and flexibility of any piece of equipment you buy for the future.
"Can you add to it or upgrade it without having to scrap it and start over?" asks Matt Darr, a specialist in precision farming systems at Iowa State University. His number one piece of advice for farmers early in the conversion to precision farming is to make sure that items they purchase can grow as they grow in understanding of precision farming. The biggest thing, he notes, is that as you decide to upgrade to more accurate differential correction services, or as you decide to use the GPS technology for more things around the farm, that the equipment you spend money on to get into the game can flex and grow with you in the future.
Most companies in precision farming are now making relatively inexpensive beginning equipment, either for guidance or other functions, that can be upgraded or added to over time so that the unit can be used for other functions. There may be a fee associated with the upgrade in accuracy or change in what you sue the unit for, if you're adding another use to what it can do, but it should be much cheaper than buying a low end, simple product now that doesn't have the capability for you to expand what it does later, and then starting over when you realize there are more things you want to do with precision farming technology.
He believes that farmers who are farther along in the system and have pretty much converted their operation into using GPS equipment will now turn to making use of the data they have collected through the years. He puts premium value on yield data, collected and perhaps stored as yield maps, and other data that has been gleaned by using precision farming tools over the years. The next step for many farmers in the advanced stage of precision farming will to perfect how to use that information collected in the past to make current farm management decisions, he concludes.