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“Riding shotgun” is a term that was coined during the days when stagecoaches were the fastest means of transportation across rural North America. If the cargo being carried was valuable, then a security person would be assigned to sit next to the driver with a shotgun and protect the stagecoach during its journey. So a shotgun rider is a protector, armed and stationed to deter trouble.

In today’s fast-paced world, agricultural technology is changing extremely quickly. The adoption of auto-steer took a bit less than a decade to reach full market penetration in the 1990s, and tech adoptions speed up, so today new technologies are reaching full market penetration in less than five years. That’s fast! Couple that with the corporate consolidation moves being made (our company was recently purchased by Trimble Navigation, so I’m very familiar with this trend), and you have the recipe for change.

All of this change has created the need for a trusted advisor who focuses on technology. Most farms have trusted advisors for agronomy, financial issues, large equipment and more, but when it comes to new technology, it can be harder to find the right person to “ride shotgun.” In some cases, your equipment dealer or agronomist can take on this role—and if that is the situation you find yourself in today, then you’re a lucky farmer! Many farmers are actively searching for the right person to fill the role of trusted advisor for technology, so here is a checklist of attributes you’ll want this person to have:

  • They get excited about new technology
    This means they carry a newer cellphone, and have probably even tried out a smart watch. They enjoy tech and play with new tech toys all the time.
  • They understand agriculture
    You don’t have to explain to them what each piece of equipment does, or why you would use it. They get farming. Period.
  • They know multiple equipment colours and monitor brands
    You want someone that has struggled to get different pieces of hardware to talk to each other.
  • They know how to get the data out of the equipment
    It’s one thing to have monitors recording activities, but that data isn’t useful until you get it out of the monitor and into a computer that can help you analyze it and make decisions.
  • They will be around for years
    Once you find a good trusted advisor, you want to hang on to them!

Similar principles should guide your selection of which companies to work with as you step into more and more technology. Venture-capital-funded startups are riskier than well-established companies. Firms with a long history of working with farmers and supporting their needs are preferable to companies that are new to the ag market. And companies that are known to bring new technology to market are safer than companies that are new to technology products.

Technology on your farm is becoming more important, more expensive and more difficult to manage. You could just wait around until adopting a new piece of technology becomes really easy, but in most cases that means that you will miss out on the key benefits and fall behind your competition. So look for help, and build a relationship that will last in this key area of your operation.

When you can connect satellite weather data to agronomy software that will generate variable-rate prescriptions that your equipment can execute throughout the year, you know you are doing it right. When you can track every action and every expense, and tie that information to yield outcomes, then you will be making decisions based on actual data that is specific to your farm. And all of this will be managed and delivered to your phone, no matter where you may roam.

You still drive, but having the right “shotgun rider” help you with technology choices will get you home safe and sound.


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