GRDC Releases Case Study Report on Adoption of Variable Rate Technology


The GRDC has recently released a report outlining the benefits Western WA growers have captured through their use of variable rate technology, “Variable Rate Technology – Is It For Me?”. 
 
The Emmetts PA department and Agree have been helping growers to utilise their technology, and move through the adoption process of Precision Agriculture. By analysing mapping layers including elevation, yield and imagery (NDVI satellite and UAV) in conjunction with sampling data, creation of variable rate prescription maps is possible to target inputs for optimisation of yield and margins. 

The GRDC report is unbiased in relation to the barriers faced when adopting technology. As stated in the report, ‘Precision Agriculture and the use of Variable Rate Technology seems to be the next progressive step growers are looking at,  to improve their profitability.’  Some barriers outlined are ‘the expense of getting new machinery, paying for expert support,  difficulty understanding the technology, access to technical support and the amount of time needed to learn and implement the technology.’
Although all legitimate barriers, Emmetts are dedicated to supporting growers in overcoming these common barriers through the implementation of Agree and its consultants
 

Photo sourced from: https://au.pinterest.com/pin/316448311289440608/

Photo sourced from: https://au.pinterest.com/pin/316448311289440608/

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) is the software that stores, manages, and allows you to manipulate spacial and temporal data, for use in future decisions. This is the common link between your machines and data enabling utilisation and a positive return on capital investment. Many operators choose to have a range of machines with different brands and ages. The major technology issue here, is many of these brands do not run the same in cab software or hardware to collect and use data, resulting in operator confusion and systems that are in effect incompatible within the direct methods of transferring  and optimising data. This is where the utilisation of third party GIS software such as SST and Farm Sat to effectively become a hub for data management has become a key link in precision farming. The next major stumbling block comes in obtaining a common system across all machines on the farm to ease operator utilisation and training. John Deere have a platform that is compatible across most brands of farm equipment enabling familiarisation for operators and ease of data management for managers.

There is a great deal of data in the form of yield collected over a number of years out on farms, which to date has had no real benefit to the property in both management decisions and financial returns. Much of it is inaccurate due to set up issues at harvest or corruption through software, resulting in its use being limited for decision making particularly in management zone creation. This inaccurate data has lead to a reduced confidence in its use which is where Agree can help to restore this confidence.

A great suggestion offered in the GRDC report, is for first time adopters to try new equipment out when applying top dressing mid year, to get a handle on the operation of it, when time is not an issue.  Running it for the first time at sowing without a support team, may add a significant level of pressure.

The report "Variable Rate Technology - Is It For Me?"  can be found at, https://grdc.com.au/resources-and-publications/all-publications/publications/2017/03/variable-rate-technology-maximising-returns-for-western-australian-grain-production

The case studies are great and highlight various levels of adoption, machinery used, and issues encountered.