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Checking-off the value of precision agriculture technologies

Research into maximising returns from precision agriculture is underway with GRDC investments.
Photo: Arthur Mostead

Growers given 10-Point Checklist to help put a value on adoption of technology.

Precision agriculture (PA) has seen a range of advances in technology. It provides exciting avenues for many grain growers, with autosteer, yield mapping and controlled traffic farming (CTF) becoming common.

It is advised to objectively analyse these technologies and tools, and their impact, before going ahead and investing in PA systems, as some options have a high capital cost with significant upfront investment.

To help with planning for PA adoption, a '10-Point Checklist' has emerged from GRDCs investment in boosting the integration of technical data and profit drivers in decision-making.

The checklist includes (but is not restricted to):

  • Have I fully exhausted the internal opportunities to increase gross margin and net profit?
  • At what stage of the development cycle is the PA product and application?
  • Does the technology influence long-term average crop yield?
  • Is the PA technology the most cost effective mechanism to achieve the outcome that I am striving for?
  • Have I undertaken a robust economic assessment of the opportunity to apply the technology?
  • Has this analysis demonstrated a positive net benefit?

Simon Vogt, of Rural Directions Pty Ltd,  hasreported several findings as part of this PA project investment, including that the net economic benefits being derived on-farm from PA technologies are highly situational.

He says when conducting a robust economic analysis for adoption of PA technologies, it is advised to consider:

  • Initial purchase costs
  • Repairs and maintenance/ongoing support fees
  • Additional labour
  • Finance costs
  • Depreciation costs
  • A rigorous analysis of the benefits over a variety of seasonal conditions and prices. Examples are:
  • Yield increases
  • Grain quality increases
  • Cost savings
  • More targeted application of inputs according to yield potential
  • Overcoming a constraint
  • Enhancing operator performance or implementation.

In addition to a supportive economic analysis, Mr Vogt says intangible benefits are worth noting.

"Working with PA can increase interest in and commitment to agriculture," he says.

"Technology that motivates a grower to look closely at unique soil types and production zones across a property and assess how they can optimise the productivity of each land class is valuable."

GRDC Research Code: RDP00013

More information: Simon Vogt, Rural Directions Pty Ltd, 0407 959 836,

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