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‘Precision agriculture will soon become mainstream’

Albert Zahalka, President, Topcon Precision Agriculture
Albert Zahalka
Topcon Precision Agriculture

Progressive farmers are seeking out new tools to meet the challenges to feed the world, feels Albert Zahalka, President of Topcon Precision Agriculture. In an exclusive interview with Geospatial World, Zahalka talks about the current trends and the future of technology in precision agriculture:

What are the major trends in the agriculture domain (especially in emerging markets) that you see as relevant to your business? Adoption of automation and machine control would be the first and most significant. This is led by GNSS-based auto steering, which reduces physical fatigue of the operator and significantly improves the productivity of the equipment. Farmers will soon start adopting some of the more sophisticated techniques like Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) which enable the equipment to work with an accuracy of 2.5 centimetres in operations ranging from tillage to harvesting. Automatic planters are also becoming popular. Using GNSS positioning to sow the right amount of seeds and applying the right quantity of fertilisers will soon become mainstream. All of this will not only benefit the crops but also help the surrounding environment.

The geospatial industry is seeing a double digit growth. How do you see this growth in the agriculture sector?
Yes, the industry is experiencing a double digit growth and our company has been fortunate enough to see growth surpassing the industry. At Topcon Precision Agriculture we are striving to make products which are easier to use, and that is why our products are becoming popular. We will continue to bring out products that rely on GNSS positioning to make the farmer’s task easier and increase productivity.

Farmers are working in varied geographic locations. They need information from multiple sources like soil, weather, etc. How is Topcon aligning its strategies to grow its market share in such a scenario?
Efficiency of equipment plays a vital role in its adoption. It has been proved in the cases of Auto Steering, Variable Rate Application, and automatic sprayers or planters. Major part of our market share comes from aligning precision technology with the equipment manufacturers. The manufacturers offer these technologies as options to farmers who purchase new equipment.

How is Topcon aligning its strategies to grow its market share in emerging markets where we see small farms and where precision farming is not so common?
Both the developed and developing worlds are beginning to adopt precision agriculture to improve yields and reduce costs. It can be as simple as improved water management through the use of laser technology for land levelling or auto steering to improve productivity of the equipment or variable rate application of seeds/fertilisers to improve crop health and yield. Precision agriculture is realising adoption across a wide range of farm sizes and economies.

What is Topcon’s next technology innovation in terms of agricultural solutions? Are you moving to mobile platforms and providing real-time information to farmers?
We can collect data in real-time from the equipment. The industry is beginning to shift from equipment efficiency to valuing the data and more importantly the information that can be obtained during the operational processes of planting and growing the crop. This Information is valued by different decision markers across the farm operation; from equipment supervisors to agronomists. The need for data is a hot topic in precision agriculture and Topcon is working to meet those needs with new and innovative products.

Do you think there is a lack of awareness about the use of geospatial technology in the emerging market? What is Topcon’s strategy to create more awareness?
Progressive farmers are seeking out new tools to meet the challenges to feed the world. The next generation of farmers is much more comfortable in trusting the technology. There is a considerable effort not just by technology companies, but also by the manufacturers of tractors, sprayers, combines and other equipments to both educate the farmers and also integrate these technologies into the equipments so that they become part of the new tools which are more productive and efficient.