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Technology tools high on NFMS wish lists

Agriculture.com Staff 02/15/2007 @ 7:00pm

Among the more than 800 exhibitors, ag technology tools like GPS and precision equipment seemed high on attending farmers' lists Thursday at the 2007 National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Kentucky.

While big-ticket items like the latest combines, large tractors and sprayers drew large crowds of curious farmers, many seemed intrigued by the future of ag technology tools and how they can improve production and efficiency in their fields.

Tom Reed, regional manager for Tee-Jet, who introduced a new ISOBUS guidance unit that's interchangeable between different implements and tractors, says the marketplace for ag technology tools like this new unit is changing as the industry advances.

Some growers are seeking units to do it all, while others are looking for lower-cost tools for specific purposes. The ag technology marketplace is now better able to cater to each type of grower's needs.

"This is a step toward compatibility. These universal units are starting to get more widespread," Reed says of the ISOBUS unit. "But, for many farmers who haven't used high-end technology in the past, the most popular are the lower-end units that may do one job, like lightbar guidance. Right now, among the farmers I've talked to, for every one who wants full precision, there may be eight guys who want one-task technology."

Richard Flatt is one farmer who's begun utilizing more ag technology tools in recent years, but is looking at expanding his capabilities with the new tools on his Dyer County, Tennessee, corn, wheat and soybean farm.

"We've been heavy into GPS but didn't have the mapping part of it," Flatt said. He added learning about field mapping tools and software was a high priority for him at this year's NFMS.

Fellow Dyer County farmer Tim Hassell said he recognizes the difficulty some growers have in adding more ag technology tools to their arsenal. For him, seeing how tools like GPS could change his in-field performance was all it took to make him a believer. "People just don't realize how much easier GPS makes things," he said. "Hey, our sprayer's been basically driving itself for two years."

Stanford, Kentucky, farmer Donnie Gooch is, like Flatt and Hassell, planning on growing more corn this year on his 900-acre corn, soybean, tobacco and beef cattle operation. He, too, sees technology like guidance systems to be the biggest addition to the National Farm Machinery Show in the last three years. And if anyone would know about changes in NFMS exhibitors, it's 55-year-old Gooch: he's been to the show every year -- except two -- since he was 13.

"Over the years, we've seen a lot more silo equipment and grain bins, but anymore, there's not as many," Gooch said. "My eighth-grade math teacher wanted to buy a boat the first year I came, and there was a boat show going on here at the same time as the machinery show. He knew I farmed, so he had me come along. The next year, we brought the whole FFA chapter."

Since then, while he admitted he enjoys seeing the new big-ticket offerings from major manufacturers, Gooch said his main priorities at the show are the smaller things that can improve his operation.

"In our country, big equipment just doesn't fit. Guidance systems, attachments and things that make my job easier are what I look for," Gooch said. "I use it to pick up some of the little stuff."

Among the more than 800 exhibitors, ag technology tools like GPS and precision equipment seemed high on attending farmers' lists Thursday at the 2007 National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Kentucky.

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