Farming in the digital age means farmers must make decisions beyond which seed variety to plant or what row spacing is the best and are more frequently looking at topics like what autosteer system is most accurate or at what point variable rate spray application will pay off for their operation. While farmers can research product pricing and talk to a sales representative about functionality, when it comes to real on farm use and experience it is hard to find unbiased information.
The Ohio Soybean Council (OSC) and soybean checkoff program recently took notice of this gap in information and partnered with Heartland GIS to launch Precision Ag Reviews, a website dedicated to farmer reviews of precision agriculture products with a forum for users to further discuss their experiences and ask questions of fellow farmers.
“The idea originated during strategic planning around farm critical infrastructure,” said Barry McGraw, OSC’s Director of Product Development and Commercialization. “Precision ag is growing, but there was no complete or independent resource available for farmers to research products and decide what will bring value to their operation.”
To make the concept a reality, project leaders began research and development with farm visits that included a diverse group of farmers – taking into consideration age of farmers and diversity of operations. They discussed features to include, how to organize the ratings and information, what areas would be most helpful and what keeps them coming back to a website.
“Looking at commodity prices, there’s not a lot of room for farmers to make mistakes with these big-ticket purchases. Furthermore, many of these decisions will have a cascading effect as to what additional technologies are additionally available,” said Todd Tucky of Heartland GIS who serves as project manager for Precision Ag Reviews. “This site intends to be a one stop shop for farmers to get reviews, seek expert advice and keep an eye on the horizon for new agricultural technologies.”
Today’s consumers place a high importance on consumer reviews made popular with business models like Amazon. In addition to listening to a sales pitch or reading a brochure they want to know how people who paid for a product feel about the purchase.
Precision Ag Reviews allows users to rank products based on cost, ease of use, technical support, customer service and overall value. They can also provide a paragraph on their experience with the product and whether it added value to their farm, or if it wasn’t a good fit for their number of acres or crop practices and how they feel about the return on investment.
“As profit margins continue to narrow, farmers are very aware of each area of expense for their operation. We hope this site will help them separate the technology or products that would be nice to have from those that will truly make a difference for their specific farm or situation,” said Terry McClure, Chairman of OSC Board of Trustees. “The key to its success depends on farmer participation; we encourage those farmers who have invested in technology to review products on the site and those who are considering purchases to use the forum to ask questions of fellow farmers.”
The site is pre-populated with common products, but also allows users to add products that aren’t listed. Reviews can be posted without registering on the site, while users must sign up to be a part of the forums. Registering also offers the option to opt-in to receive email updates on specific areas of technology that they choose. Administrators are also focused on user privacy and keeping information solely for use of the site with no third-party distribution.
Precision Ag Reviews also features an area for expert advice which will be a curated mix of the best information that is already available alongside new easy to digest videos and articles on precision ag practices and emerging technologies. The site also has a calendar that will include events such as Farm Science Review and other field days where farmers can see technology in action.
The site is monitored to prevent vendors from boosting their own products and forums will be moderated for appropriateness, but the goal is for users to have honest and open discussions. As an OSC project, the focus is on Ohio, but there is potential for it to grow as a nationwide resource and an online portal where farmers are helping farmers.
Explore the new website on your desktop, tablet or mobile device at www.precisionagreviews.com