“Basically, it boils down to this: How do we take all this agronomic data and process it and, by gaining knowledge from it, make more informed farming decisions?” Fulton asks.

“Right now, data management is the challenge — about the biggest one we face.”

While acquiring the big picture has always been the implicit goal of precision technology adoption, Fulton says that there has been a tendency for producers to lose sight of this fact.

“For our part, I think we have done a good job helping our producers adopt the right technologies for their operations,” Fulton says. “Likewise, I think we’ve done a really good job helping them understand how they grow with this technology over time to maximize benefits.”

Now comes the challenge of showing producers how to integrate all of this technology seamlessly into a larger picture, he says.

“Hopefully, what we learn from all of this is that everything is interrelated and that a single farming decision doesn’t take place in a vacuum but affects the whole operation.”

This systems approach to farming made possible by precision farming adoption is a skill that farmers no longer can discount, especially considering that a number of economic factors are forcing producers to expand or increase production to stay profitable.

“Both statewide and nationwide, farmers are trying to get bigger in order to cover input costs,” says Brandon Dillard, an Alabama Extension regional agent in southeast Alabama.

“This technology provides them with the ability to get bigger without a lot more people and equipment.”

Despite the promise this seamless approach offers, Fulton says cultivating this mindset is proving a challenge for some farmers who have always valued their autonomy.

Data generation and management are the bread and butter in the future of crop production, and under some licensing agreements, farmers are using this technology in exchange for allowing equipment companies open access to the farm data collected on ag machinery.

“That’s a hurdle for many producers,” Fulton says. “They don’t like the idea of turning over all their data to a company.

“There’s always been a strong tradition of freedom of choice in farming.  They’re not only worried about how all this data will be used, but also how it will affect their control over their operations and their identities as producers.”

Even so, in this highly charged global farming economy, producers have no alternative, Mask says.

He cites Brazil and other emerging agricultural powerhouses as the reason why precision farming adoption on a wide scale will be inevitable.

“Unless we learn to use every input in the most efficient way possible, we will no longer be equipped to provide products at the least cost. It’s really that simple.”