Vet new tech before you invest

Farmer Iron: Farm shows offer unique look at what’s headed your way in the next few years.

Mindy Ward, Editor, Missouri Ruralist

July 18, 2023

3 Min Read
Attendees at the Farm Progress Show talk with exhibitors and fellow farmers about latest ag technology
TALK IT OVER: Technology continues to advance in the agriculture industry. The one place to talk with company designers, engineers and even fellow farmers about how it will impact your farm is at a show — such as the Farm Progress Show in Illinois this year or Husker Harvest Days in Nebraska. Mindy Ward

“If you ain’t first, you’re last.” Whoa there, Ricky Bobby. When it comes to adopting the latest technology on the farm, I may not be first in line, but I’m definitely not last. I dub myself middle of the pack.

Perhaps you’re like me, I like a few miles on my truck before buying it. I can only financially justify a tractor with a little more hours on it. We won’t even get started on how old my iPhone is. But there will come a day to replace or upgrade equipment, and I need to be prepared. The same is true for you.

With any new tech, you don't need to be the first to use it, but you do need to see it in action — because you'll likely adopt it soon enough.

Look to the future

Matt Jungmann, Farm Progress national events director, was at the 1995 Farm Progress Show in Terre Haute, Ind., when autosteer technology made its debut.

“That was cutting-edge, Star Wars, science-fiction-type technology,” he says. “It was something you couldn’t imagine if you didn’t witness it firsthand.”

The innovation moved from being bolt-on to built-in technology. Today, autosteer systems guide tractors and other machinery along straight or curved lines across fields to improve accuracy of planting, tillage, fertilizing and harvest. Many can’t farm without it.

“If autosteer goes down on our farm, we stop running,” Jungmann quips. “But if you would’ve told them that back then, they would’ve laughed at you and said, ‘You can’t drive a tractor without a computer telling you how to do it?’”

Jungmann says there is a curve to adopting new technology. “Not everyone is comfortable with the latest equipment or perhaps can afford it,” he adds. “But we all need to know what is available to push our farms forward.”

Enter farm shows

Jungmann manages the Farm Progress Show, which this year is in Decatur, Ill., Aug. 29-31, and Husker Harvest Days in Grand Island, Neb., set for Sept. 12-14.

In a time where supply is tight in the ag space, Jungmann says companies look to farm shows as a place to bring the latest in tractors, software and everything in between.

“Dealers don’t stock inventory like they used to,” he explains. “You can’t go to your dealer and see the brand-new smart sprayer technology. Because if dealers get one in, they’re going to prep it and deliver it to the person who purchased it. But you can see it at our shows.”

Here’s a few highlights this year:

  • smart sprayers

  • electric vehicles

  • UAVs

  • autonomous machines

  • new offerings from Case IH, New Holland, Polaris, Kawasaki, Raven and many more.

But it is more than looking at the technology, farm shows offer a place to interact.

“You get to stand next to maybe the engineer that designed it and the people from corporate that understand it,” Jungmann says. “The experience inspires questions that may not trigger looking at it on a computer screen or on your phone screen. You can ask and get answers.”

For me, it is about kicking the tires, sitting in the driver’s seat and navigating the controls. That is when technology truly comes alive.

And while I may not have it on my farm yet, I know what is coming and more importantly how to use it. Shoot, I may even find the one piece of tech to move up in pole position — to the front of the technology pack.

About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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