On the cusp of spring planting in many areas, dealerships are reminded of the measurable and intangible value that an experienced precision farming team brings to the field for customers.

But the skillset possessed by a really good precision ag technology specialist is hard to find. They are in high demand and thus expensive, and they take extensive training to develop. 

So why waste your rock star precision people’s truly valuable time dealing with the basics? This question led to Owen Palm, CEO of 21st Century Equipment’s initiative to broaden and deepen the pool of precision problem-solvers throughout the 16-store John Deere dealership.

With so many ag technologies becoming mainstream, Palm has the same expectation for how they should be installed, updated and repaired. Spreading the precision workload across multiple departments with defined responsibilities for each is the core of 21st Century’s effort to mainstream its precision business. 

A couple of years ago when we really started getting serious about mainstreaming our basic precision ag technology products, we made a portion of our salespeoples’ commissions at risk if they did not pass a basic proficiency exam that tested their knowledge of basic precision ag practices and equipment. Today, we have set an expectation that every salesperson can log in and walk a customer through the ops center and be conversational about its capabilities with this tool. We also have an expectation that every one of our parts specialists, salespeople, service technicians and even our support center staff know their way around a display and can set an AB line.

“Our goal is to have every employee be at least a conversational level and understand the basic difference between things like RTK vs. SF1 guidance. What does a customer mean when he talks about concepts like variable-rate or setting field boundaries? Being conversational in the fundamentals of precision ag keeps our employees relevant with their customers.”

Palm adds that the biggest reason for mainstreaming basic precision ag products to the other departments is it allows experienced ag specialists to proactively prepare for implementing advanced technologies, such as robotics, artificial intelligence and autonomy.