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"Probably the biggest change would be the computerization of agriculture. It probably started in the mid-80s and has been accelerating to this point. From anything like just a personal computer to actually grain dryers that are controlled by computers. Or monitors in combines. Just a lot of – [From] where you actually had to just turn the dial and set the machine to the computer helping you set it and helping you manage that asset…
     "When I first came back in the early 90s, they could diagnose some problems. The service technicians could come out and say – You know, you had a problem, and they could plug the computer in to it and diagnosis the issue, kind of like you do with a car today. And right now, you've got the auto steer functions to where a tractor actually steers through the field and then variable rates all your input as you go…
     "They haven't made lives any simpler in some areas, but they definitely take some of the strain off when you're actually in the field. You can put bigger days in when you're not physically having to drive and worry about the dust and driving at night. It just takes some of the stress of the day off. But there's other problems associated with it. Making sure the satellite is running, [for example]. And when things do go down, it's a whole different ballgame.
     "There's several levels of GPS that go from just a satellite-based WA [wide-area] system. And it gets you within three or four feet of accuracy pass-to-pass basis. And then there's a satellite subscription where you can get to a sub-foot. And then there's an RGK version which is real time which will get you sub-inch. And we're currently on the sub-inch. We're on the RGK system right now. Which, pass-to-pass, if you're planting 30-inch [rows] you're within 29 to 31 in the next pass. And it's fairly accurate. Then as you go through the field you can regulate your fertilizer, your plant populations on seed, any of a number of inputs. If you want to plant 20,000 seeds on a certain soil type and 30,000 on the next, it just recognizes where you are in space and allows for that."

Troy Otte – Computers on the Farm

   

Excerpts from Troy Otte’s Interview:

Logic of Large Farms
Starting Up in the 80s
Why be a Farmer?
Who Runs Rural Communities?
Investing in Ethanol
Fertilizer Efficiency
Genetic Engineering
Are Pivots Worth the Cost?