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Planning for Tomorrow Means Adopting Precision Ag Tech Today

When Lora Howell suddenly found herself leading the family’s Ohio farm three years ago, she was faced with some pretty difficult decisions.

“My husband, Dave, and I purchased our 500-acre farm more than 25 years ago and built it from the ground up,” Howell says.

Through the years, it has evolved into a diversified operation. The Howells grow corn, soybeans, wheat, and alfalfa, and raise a variety of livestock. 

“We were living our dream,” she says. “When he passed away, I had to decide what I was going to do with the farm.”

Howell also had to consider what that meant for their children, Linsey and Justin, ages 25 and 13 at the time, who had never called any other place home. 

“Whether we were riding on the tractor or checking fields, every single day was about agriculture,” recalls Linsey.

paying it forward

The farm had also become a place where the couple shared their passion for land and livestock with other young people.

“Dave was a very patient guy who was a good teacher,” says Sam Yoder, who began helping on the Howell farm when he was 13. “I learned a lot from him through the years.”  

From baling hay to building fence, the pair spent countless hours working together. Now 29, Yoder credits Dave for not only nurturing his love of agriculture but also encouraging him to pursue a career as a custom applicator.

Walking away from the operation, Howell realized, was not an option. She also recognized that going forward meant changes would have to be made. “In order for our small operation to survive, we needed more advanced technology to be competitive,” she says.

Howell also thought it would be a good way to keep their children, who had grown up with technology, interested in the farm.

Allocating the funds to make the investment, however, wouldn’t be easy. The Tech My Farm Contest, launched by Ag Leader Technology for farmers with little to no precision ag technology, opened up an opportunity for Howell to offset that cost. Chosen from 11 video submissions, she received $25,000 in Ag Leader equipment.

consulting a specialist

assisted-steering
To help her select technology that would give her the best return on investment, Howell turned to Evan Watson for guidance. Working to give her the biggest bang for her buck, the ag technology specialist with Precision AgriServices, Inc., recommended the following pieces of technology.  

1. ontrac 3 assisted steering

Although Howell had never owned an automated or assisted steering system, she was open to technology that would better guide machines through the field.  

“OnTrac3 will help ease operator fatigue and eliminate some of Lora’s stress so she can focus on how her implements are performing,” explains Watson. “With this system, she can also save time, fuel, and possibly other input costs by eliminating gaps and overlaps.”

incommand-display
Since this device easily transfers between machines, Howell can use assisted steering in both the planting tractor and the combine at harvesttime.

2. Incommand 1200 display

Due to all of its features and capabilities, Howell chose the InCommand 1200 display. When planting, the 12.1-inch touch screen has split-screen abilities so she can view her guidance lines on one side and her planter performance (e.g., spacing, singulation, and population) on the other. 

The display also enables Howell to automatically track what she has planted. This allows her to see how different seed varieties perform and to potentially take advantage of early order discounts for the next season.  

For harvest, Howell added the combine kit for yield monitoring. It’s one of Justin’s favorite pieces. “I like being able to see all of the stats as they’re coming in during harvest,” he says. 

Those statistics will provide a priceless report card at the end of each season on Howell’s crops. “This will allow her to keep historical records of yields and make changes to seed traits, fertility programs, etc., moving forward,” says Watson. “We all find things that may have helped or hurt a crop during the growing season, but the yield monitor can really bring it into perspective.”

“We can learn and progress from the data coming out of the yield monitor,” adds Justin.

planter-clutches
By pairing the display with AgFiniti Mobile, Howell can also seamlessly take her maps with her on the iPad. “This gives Lora the ability to make decisions on-the-go,” says Watson. “She can do just about anything with this one display.”

3. planter clutches and seed monitoring

While Watson says the SureStop electric clutches and Advanced Seed Monitoring may not be the newest pieces of technology, they still have a big impact on planting. 

“With SureStop, Lora can shut off rows as she comes into an area that has already been applied, which saves time and seed,” explains Watson. “It also increases yield potential by eliminating point rows and overapplication in headland passes.”

Because the InCommand 1200 has AutoSwath capability, Howell doesn’t have to worry about turning off rows as she goes through the field or stopping to raise the planter at just the right time when she comes to the end of a pass.

With Advanced Seed Monitoring, she is better able to manage planter performance. “Lora’s previous monitor only told her what ‘X’ rows were planting and the population it was trying to achieve,” notes Watson. “Now that she can see singulation and spacing, adjustments can be made to the row meter.”

Those added details, he adds, will help Howell better maintain her planter while catching yield-robbing issues. “With this technology, she can be more confident that her planter is performing the way it should,” Watson says.

ag-leader-gps
4. GPS 6500

The GPS 6500 was chosen for its reliability and the consistent number of satellites it pulls in. It is also unlocked for GLONASS, which allows the receiver to utilize the signal from Russian satellites.  

“On average, we see 14-plus satellites with the GPS 6500,” Watson explains. “This receiver will really help with uptime and consistency of maintaining a signal in the hilly terrain and wooded areas of her northeast Ohio farm.”

If Howell should temporarily lose the signal, the StableLoc feature maintains accurate steering by seamlessly transitioning to the next available signal. When the signal is restored, the system will transition back to the higher accuracy source. 

ag-tech-adoption-2

from left to right: Linsey Howell, Justin Howell, Evan Watson, and Lora Howell.

a progressive operation

By adopting new precision ag tools, Howell is not only meeting the specific needs of her farm today, buy also building a progressive operation for the future. “I want to pass that legacy on to our children,” she says.

“The next generation coming into agriculture is going to be dependent on technology,” says Linsey. “The more we can get them interested in agriculture and invested in the farm, the better we continue the legacy of the small family farm and strengthen the future of rural America.” 

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