From computer-equipped combines to Web-based grain marketing systems, technology is revolutionizing the corn industry. Growers across the country are using new devices and information systems to enhance the production process, improve efficiency and increase profits.
One of those tech-savvy farmers is Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) member Bob Swedberg, who farms near Owatonna, Minn. In early March, Swedberg sold the millionth bushel of corn on Farms Technology's Dynamic Pricing Program (DPP), a popular online grain trading system.
Swedberg, whose corn was purchased by Jennie-O Turkey Store, says Internet-based systems give producers more control in the marketing process. He says these marketing tools give growers direct real-time access to the current Board of Trade values and the flexibility to change bids at any time.
"Look at how volatile the markets have been," he says. "Corn might be up seven (cents) then close down three, but if I've set the price it hits in the system, it's sold. I don't have to worry about things as much. If I had the chance, I'd sell all my grain online."
Jason Tatge, CEO of Farms Technology, says the dot-com crash of the late 1990s made many in the farming industry wary of using Web-based agri-marketing services. But the use of Internet-based tools and other technology in the agriculture sector has increased dramatically over the past few years, he says. In a year's time, the number of farmer's using the DPP system has grown from about 45 to nearly 300, Tatge says.
"We have people call us up who have never used a computer before and they want to learn how to place a bid online," Tatge says. "Just in the last six months, it seems like there's more willingness to try new technologies. We've seen dramatic growth in the number of producers and corporate entities who are interested in this type of system."
Swedberg says online systems allow growers to market their grain at any time of the day. "I can put my offers on the Internet when it works best with my schedule," says Swedberg, who received a gift certificate from Farms Technology for selling the millionth bushel on the DPP system. "It's the simplicity. I'm on my computer two or three times a day, every day. I'll check the bids and decide what I want to do â€“ it's very direct and very quick. I'm not wasting time tracking prices down."
Other growers are using computerized farm equipment in what is being called "precision farming." Implements are outfitted with global positioning systems and mini-computers to take some of the guesswork out of the farming business. These tools help growers monitor soil moisture, determine coverage areas for pesticides, check yields and gather other key information.
As these technologies continue to develop, and grower acceptance increases, Tatge says producers will become more efficient and more profitable. "We're seeing a new attitude about technology," he says. "Because of the dot-com failures, a lot of growers were not too excited about technology a few years ago. But it appears as if everyone is getting over that and they're willing to give new technology a try."