In a down farm economy, upgrades are often overlooked, as the mentality is to cut costs and keep doing what you have been doing – after all, it works, right? Sometimes it is easy to overlook some very affordable upgrades that can save you money in the long run. Here is a run-down of 10 ways you can upgrade technology in your operation for less than $5000 each, and how the investment in technology will pay you dividends.

1. Trade your display for the most current model

This might seem like an unnecessary expense, but the latest model display (from Ag Leader, at least) offers many new features, allowing you to better understand how your planter is performing with individual row mapping, allows for better data management through cloud syncing, and a host of other features, not to mention, faster processor, more memory, and a better quality touch screen. Also, if you have a display that is one generation old, there is still a viable used market, so selling or trading your old display can offset some of the upgrade cost. Keeping with a current display keeps your options open to adapt to the latest technology, like electric drives or active hydraulic down force systems also.

2. Add auto steer to your operation

That’s right, if you already have a display and GPS, it is possible to add auto steer for less than $5000. Of course each situation is different, and it depends on what you want to accomplish, but the assisted steering systems like Ag Leader’s Ontrac 3 can usually be added to most vehicles and ran through your current display. The benefits of auto steer are numerous, including reduced overlap, which leads to less fuel consumption and fewer tach hours on your machine, for starters.

3. Upgrade to RTK

If you are running a subscription based signal such as TerraStar and covered by a statewide RTK network , an upgrade to RTK could actually save you money. Not only do you get a higher accuracy signal and faster convergence times, many of the state-ran networks like the Iowa Real Time Network don’t have any subscription fees, so your only annual cost is getting an internet connection in the cab with a cell modem.

4. Teach your display new tricks

Ok, so you have the latest display, running auto steer, and RTK, now what? Well, are you using all of the functionality that your display offers? A couple of things that come to mind for me are wireless data transfer with Ag Leader’s AgFiniti cloud, and DisplayCast, which offers the ability for multiple displays to share information nearly real-time. This has many functions besides the obvious of two machines running in the same field at the same time, sharing maps. It can also be utilized for a combine and grain cart, so each operator knows where the other one is.

5. Add automated fan control to your grain monitoring system

There is no doubt that a grain temp and moisture monitoring system is a valuable tool to know what is happening in your bins. As on-farm grain storage bins have grown in size, it has become a whole different ball game to manage the grain in them. No longer can you simply climb the bin and do a “sniff test” to watch for grain spoilage. Adding automated fan control ups your game, with a 40% – 80% reduction in fan run times, and the entire bin of grain coming out at your desired moisture without over-drying the bottom of the bin, automatic fan control is a no-brainer.

6. Add a drone to your crop scouting plan

Drones have become very affordable in recent years, and there is simply no better way to get a look at the field than from the air. Even in muddy conditions, you can get to the back corners of the fields to check on emergence, weed pressure, and a host of other things with a low cost drone. Don’t worry about how difficult they are to operate – advances in technology have made them very user friendly and with a small amount of guidance you will be a pro at flying in no time.

7. Give your drone an upgrade

Already have a drone? Advances in software have significantly enhanced the functionality of what is possible with a drone on the farm. Utilizing DroneDeploy software, you can pre-program a field, have it automatically flown and images captured, then upload the images to the DroneDeploy website, where they will stitch them all together and make one high resolution map of your field. Add apps from the DroneDeploy app market like Agremo to do stand counts, or SkyMatics, which can identify and measure areas of damaged crop, and you just enabled a whole new level of data that your drone can collect for you.

8. Add cameras to your equipment

Cameras can help you see things otherwise not possible, improving safety and saving time by not having to get out and look. They can be a life saver in tight situations trying to maneuver large equipment. You can likely get some to hook up to your existing precision ag display, or get a stand alone system if you don’t want to give up precious screen space on your existing display.

9. Add a cellular signal booster to your shop, pickup, or tractors

We have all had that unfortunate situation, where we are trying to make or receive an important phone call and don’t have signal where we are. Wilson Electronics makes several different models of cell phone signal boosters, allowing you to have signal in your house, shop, pickup, or tractor.

10. Add a second display with guidance to another piece of machinery

Guidance and steering has proven over and over again how valuable it can be, but it doesn’t have to be limited to one machine. Short windows of time make it hard to move displays back and forth between tractors, so when it’s go time you may not have the display with guidance on your tillage tractor, fertilizer spreader, or sprayer when you need it. You can put a low cost, guidance only display like the Compass from Ag Leader in your secondary machine, and it’s ready to go when you are.

Well, there is the top ten list of technology investments that can put money back in your pocket when it matters most. By no means is this a complete list, but just a sampling of ideas, showing that for $5000 or less (several of these are much less) you can make improvements in your farming operation. As always, you can contact HTS Ag for information or advice on implementing these strategies.