Updated: November 1, 2018

Current Situation

Technological advances provide opportunities for farmers to maximize on-farm productivity, efficiency and sustainability, but abundant choices and the rapid pace of change in the industry have created barriers to farmers quickly adopting these advances. Key barriers to adoption include lack of information available to farmers from unbiased sources, lack of farmer knowledge about technology products and the expense of implementing new technology. According to a November 2016 Farm Journal Media survey, 76 percent of farmers want to learn more about ag technology. At the same time, 66 percent of farmers view cross-brand compatibility, using data and data’s return on investment as the top challenges or barriers in using ag technology.

Why the Checkoff Cares

The checkoff’s mission is to maximize profit opportunities for all U.S. soybean farmers. On-farm technology has shown great potential to increase farmers’ profitability. Additionally, U.S. soy end users are increasingly concerned with the sustainability of products they purchase. Many of the on-farm technologies available to farmers today play a valuable role in meeting these demands for sustainability through more precise use of inputs and targeted crop and field management. On-farm technology and data collection methods provide soybean farmers a way to demonstrate continuous improvement toward industry sustainability metrics.

Key Points

  • The availability of information technology, internet-connected equipment and management software to enhance agricultural operations is growing rapidly.
  • Knowledge and adoption of these innovations allow soybean farmers to capture opportunities for increased productivity and sustainability. Ignoring these opportunities could lead to declines in productivity and profitability.
  • Technological advances make it possible for farmers to have data on nearly every aspect of their operation unlike ever before. However, many farmers are skeptical of big data because of potential ownership rights and obligations, managing the sheer quantity of data and, to some extent, inherent privacy concerns that have created distrust across the technology landscape.
  • Rapid change in advancements and offerings of on-farm information technologies and lack of compatibility among many brands make selecting the appropriate technology mix confusing.
    The lack of independent analysis of on-farm information technologies results in U.S. soybean farmers being dependent on performance information from providers.
  • The soy checkoff is currently exploring ways to provide farmers with unbiased assessments of on-farm technology, to help them invest in technology best suited for their operation and to use the corresponding data to make continuous improvements.

Facts & Figures

  • Less than half of farmers report that they use on-farm technology (drones or equipment monitors), precision agriculture practices (using information collected from machinery or imaging to make planting or application decisions), or big data (aggregating and using data to compare your farm to other operations).
  • Seventy-six percent of farmers want to learn more about ag technology, but nearly half find that it’s difficult to keep up because there is so much to learn. An additional 28 percent don’t even know where to start. Only 22 percent of farmers feel like they have a handle on learning about new ag technology.
  • When asked about adapting to new technologies and innovations on their farm, only 12 percent of farmers say they jump on the new technology during the first growing season, 46 percent say they wait until the second or third year, and 40 percent say that they wait until it has been through enough seasons that they know they aren’t going to have any unexpected problems.
  • Twenty-five percent of farmers say that they would adopt new ag technologies and innovations faster within the first or second growing season if they heard more from other farmers. Twenty percent want clearer information on the cost, and 16 percent want cheaper products.
  • Nearly one-third of farmers say they receive information they trust about new ag technology from other farmers.
  • In the last five years, 60 percent of farmers have adapted a new technology or used an existing technology in a new way.
  • Utilizing key precision farming technologies produces a 3-18 percent boost in crop yield via targeted fertilizing, planting, spraying and irrigation.