Sometimes I just get lucky.
Like a couple of weeks ago when I boarded a 5 A.M. bus for the Denver airport. Whodathunk that the nice pleasant lady who sat next to me would want to talk GPS tractors for the hour?
Imagine my surprise when she told me she was headed to China and Malaysia to discuss GPS use on heavy equipment. Imagine her surprise when she found out she was sitting next to another lady very interested in that!
My seatmate was a fellow Boulderite who was a University of Colorado graduate in electrical engineering. She now works for the company Trimble, giving expert advice to those interested in adopting their GPS technology around the world. She explained to me that Trimble is one of the world’s leading companies which adds or incorporates GPS to heavy machinery used in farming and construction.
When I told her of my concern about the escalating energy costs and inputs of industrial agriculture, my new friend told me that Trimble allows farmers to save 30-50 percent on fuel and energy through precision agriculture. She said it costs 30 to 50 thousand dollars to set up a system. Trimble works with Deere and Caterpillar and it is the biggest of five GPS system companies for machinery, according to her.
Probably the most insightful part of our conversation was this… she told me that their biggest problem is finding qualified people who can run the GPS farming systems. I told her my demographic knowledge of farm regions in the Midwestern U.S. and how much they have changed over the past half-century. We both agreed that this aspect of the high tech farming future is a very large challenge indeed, especially as farms continue to trend larger as they adopt these systems.
Which makes the situation rather ironic. One of the big reasons to use precision agriculture, besides saving input costs, is reducing labor. But the large scale farms necessary to use the systems efficiently make that niche labor in these rural regions all the harder to find and retain. Let’s call it the human side of the equation.
Though there is a lot of interest elsewhere, Trimble’s main agricultural markets are currently North and South America and Europe. (Let me add that the long-term potential for growth in this arena is huge, however, since the BRICS nations are industrializing production rapidly and some scientists expect that another 2.5 billion global acres may be converted to farmland by the year 2050.)
In China, she said there is a huge wealth and cultural divide. She went on to say that the newly wealthy younger generation has a great interest in buying farmland, but large scale farming is still uncommon over there although it is a goal currently aimed for. Because now, she said, if they buy farmland, what are they going to do with it?
A big part of Trimble’s business is in construction and surveying, as their technology makes competitive bidding more precise. Roads can be laid using precise applications of materials through GPS and laser leveling plus there is great value in being able to quickly relocate expensive tools that are often misplaced during the processes.
HERE is a link to the company Trimble’s website.
HERE is a link to view Trimble’s informative agricultural videos over at youtube.
Please note that this post is not intended to offer investment advice and I do not own any investment in this company.