I get tagged sometimes as being too optimistic about what the technology can do for you. I realize the vagaries of a good Web connection on the farm can bring down a lot of new tools. I understand that grease, dirt and the "actual reality" of your world is not something Apple. Lenovo or most tech makers planned on (remember they like shorts, flip-flops and the occasional Diet Coke).
Yet we all know that in the end this technology thing is around for the long haul. And it's impacting both the buyer and seller. Just look at what the CME Group has done to the grain markets that undergird your risk management plan. Now open 21 hours a day, and with that combined 2 p.m. close (with the pit) they're using a little math to figure the final settlement price. Technology is ruling your life in new ways.
Writing about farm technology from the comfort of my suburban office doesn't mean I've lost touch. Instead I'm as frustrated as you about support people who know little more than how to turn a system on, satellite services that mysteriously go "dark" just as you pull a planter into a field and real-time data from three sources that doesn't match up when you sit down and do the figuring on paper.
We're challenged to feed 9 billion people by 2050. I'm confident we'll get there - we haven't missed the challenge yet despite those Malthusian warnings (I'm more a fan of Julian Simon the economist who understands that the ultimate resource is us). And we have more tools for doing this than ever before from precision crop protection products to high-tech seed that performs best in your area.
We have the farm knowledge about plant population, seed depth, fertility, postemergence weed control and even harvest to pull together a potent mix of tech and results. Yet, we bump into challenges. Weather will always be a challenge - as it appears to be in 2012. You can manage some of that risk by knowing your potential crop yields - a factor you can measure ahead of time.
Essentially what I'm saying is that as we move forward in agriculture it appears that we have a superb challenge ahead, but it's not daunting and you're not alone. The Extension resources are there, the agronomy resources are there and the companies and university people you have trusted are working hard to make this a reality.
Whoa, it's a little lofty on this soap box. As I step down, be aware of one thing. You are in control of the technology you deploy on your farm. Understanding it and putting it to work are important. Writers like me can help, if we know the questions you want answered. That's our job and the Web with its always-on nature offers us a way to respond more readily than ever before.
So if there are questions and tech challenges you face, I may not know all the answers, but I have the resources and time to hunt them down. So use this blog, post a question or drop me an email. I'll respond as fast as I can with information you can use. If you email me, I'll respond to you quickly too.
We're all in this together.