ISU economist says cost an issue in high-tech farming

AMES — An Iowa State University extension economist says high-tech farming methods aren’t something most farmers are trying.

Alejandro Plastina says the issue is getting enough payback to make the investment. “Typically the investment required to be able to use those practices might be higher than traditional practices. They claim to be able to recover that investment cost and actually be more efficient and have lower costs,” Plastina says.

He says those costs have held back its widespread use. “So far, precision agriculture is not a widespread as it could be — because mostly the initial investment required to use it,” he says.

Plastina, who specializes in figuring the cost of production for farmers, says GPS tracking and other technology can give farmers a lot of information.  “I don’t think currently — especially mid-sized commercial farmers — are benefiting from all that extra big data information on Iowa fields,” Plastina says.

He says farmers that get the data need to know how to use it. Other farmers can benefit by using the old-fashioned data they gather and putting that to use as they prepare for planting. “Look for opportunities to be more efficient in production –but also more efficient in marketing grains,” Plastina says. “In order to be a good marketer — you need to start with a good feeling for what the break-even price is for a particular operation.”

Plastina says you can find a lot of information to help you make those calculations on the ISU Extension website.